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Scholars agree that The Hound of The Baskervilles was written as a result of a collaboration between Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle and Bertram Fletcher Robinson (hereafter ACD and BFR respectively).  It is not known whether this collaboration was first suggested by BFR to ACD or visa versa.  In a sense this does not matter because the outcome was the same.  However, what is clear from the following taken from a letter written by ACD to the editor of The Strand Magazine in late April 1901, is that ACD wanted this collaboration to be an equitable one:

I must do it with my friend Robinson and his name must appear with mine.

By late May 1901, ACD had submitted the manuscript for the first installment of The Hound of the Baskervilles to the offices of The Strand Magazine (Chapters I-II of XV).  Meanwhile, BFR had already mady a preliminary visit to Dartmoor to map-out much of the fictional setting for the story.  BFR and ACD then visited the area together for about one week and explored various locations.  Yet three months later, the serialisation of the story began in The Strand Magazine under ACD's name alone.  BFR's contribution was acknowledged only as a brief footnote to this first installment.  So why did BFR seemingly withdraw from a full literary collaboration with ACD?  I believe that there are at least six reasons as follows:

1)  BFR regarded Sherlock Holmes as ACD's intellectual property alone and he withdrew from a full collaboration following the introduction of this character to the story in early May 1901.

2)   BFR was busy  writing 25,000 words of 'descriptive letter press' to accompany a gallery of forty-eight coloured prints that were subsequently published in a book entitled Sporting Pictures in 1902 (London: Cassell & Co. Ltd.).

3)   BFR was busy writing fourteen items for The Daily Express and Pearson’s Magazine during the sixteen weeks when ACD was writing the narrative for The Hound of the Baskervilles (May 1900 – September 1900). 

4)  BFR was busy with assisting his uncle, Sir John Robinson, to compile a vast library of notes for use in producing his autobiography entitled Fifty Years on Fleet Street (London: McMillan & Co. Ltd, 1904).  Throughout 1901, BFR resided with Sir John in London and he had by that time accumulated a wealth of relevant editorial experience.

5)  BFR became engaged to Gladys Morris.  Throughout their courtship, BFR’s prospective father-in-law, a retired artist called Philip Morris, was struggling to keep his young family whilst battling a chronic heart condition that contributed to his death (22 April 1902).  During 1901, BFR presumably paid many visits to his future wife's home (married 3 June 1902) in order to support both her and her family.

6)  BFR was mindful of his own father’s infirmity (died 11 August 1903) and presumably made regular visits to his parents home in Devon in order to help support them.

BFR described his own involvement with The Hound of the Baskervilles as that of 'Assistant Plot Producer'.  Nevertheless, it seems fair to say that this now famous story would not exist but for his involvement (and neither would the twenty or so related theatrical films and many more television adaptations).  Furthermore, following the publication of The Hound of the Baskervilles, ACD wrote another thirty-three short stories and one novel featuring Sherlock Holmes.  Arguably, these tales too, might not exist, had Sherlock Holmes' resurrection in The Hound of the Baskervilles, not have proved so popular.


By Paul Spiring © 2007.

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