Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon: A Complete Tour Guide and Companion by Brian W Pugh, Paul R Spiring and Sadru Bhanji
|Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon: A Complete Tour Guide and Companion by Brian W Pugh, Paul R Spiring and Sadru Bhanji|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: A tour guide of Devon for those keen to retrace the steps of Arthur Conan Doyle to the places which inspired the Sherlock Holmes stories and connected him with a medical partner, a fellow writer and his publisher.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: June 2010|
|Publisher: MX Publishing|
The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the most famous mystery novels of all, and also one of the most famous English novels set in Devon. This alone would probably give more or less enough material for an entire book on connections between the story and the location which inspired it. Yet the authors have found several more links between the county, and Conan Doyle alongside those associated with him. The result has revealed much information of which even I, who have lived in the county nearly all my life, was previously unaware.
Born in Edinburgh in 1859, Conan Doyle’s west country associations began in 1882 when he became a junior medical partner to George Turnavine Budd in Plymouth. Both men had studied medicine at university at the same time. Budd’s methods as a doctor were decidedly unorthodox, and he appears to have been a devious character, perpetually in debt, succumbing to brain disease (possibly syphilitic in origin) at the age of 33. The partnership was shortlived, and Conan Doyle soon found his true, far more lucrative calling as an author.
One of the journals in which his stories regularly appeared was The Strand Magazine, founded by publisher George Newnes. The latter had two holiday homes in Devon, a winter residence in Torquay, and a summer one at Hollerday House, Lynton, in the north of the county, which he built himself partly from profits made in publishing his most famous writer, and here he died in 1910.
Having ‘killed off’ Holmes after growing tired of writing about him, Conan Doyle was persuaded by a disappointed readership and publishers alike to resuscitate him. This he did in The Hound of the Baskervilles, inspired by his friendship with Bertram Fletcher Robinson, a young journalist who had moved to Devon with his family during childhood. The tale was inspired by a visit to Dartmoor, and both men stayed at the Duchy Hotel, Princetown, while undertaking research for the story. Ever since the book was published there have been theories, apparently started by a gossipy American literary journal, that Robinson was actually the main if not sole author of the story (briefly mentioned in this volume), and that his early death in 1907 came about through Conan Doyle wishing to silence him lest he gave the game away (not mentioned). Generally believed to be absolute nonsense…
After four biographical chapters, the book takes us on a tour of Devon and the places associated with each man. We start at Plymouth and Roborough, beginning at Eliot Terrace and Durnford Street where Conan Doyle stayed and had his surgery respectively. From there we are led on a trail which takes us east and then north. The Duchy Hotel where he stayed in 1901 is now the High Moorland Visitor Centre, Princetown, which includes a display on the subject. Foxtor Mires and Dartmoor Prison, which also featured in some of his stories, are included. We are guided to St Andrew’s Church, where Bertram Fletcher Robinson was buried and his tombstone can be found, as well as stained-glass windows inside the church commemorating the family. Torquay, Paignton and Topsham likewise figure in the itinerary, though their Conan Doyle connections are restricted merely to places where he lectured or occasionally stayed. Finally we come to Lynton, with its various George Newnes connections. Sadly his home Hollerday House was severely damaged by fire three years after his death and could not be saved. The ruins were left to stand for some years, but were eventually considered dangerous and blown up in an army training exercise some forty years later.
Each location is accompanied by a photograph, map, address and postcode for satnav purposes. Full of topographical as well as biographical details, this handy little volume will be ideal for anyone wishing to retrace the steps of the above.
Our thanks to MX Publishing for sending a copy to Bookbag.
Similar ground is covered in an earlier volume from another publisher, On the Trail of Arthur Conan Doyle: An Illustrated Devon Tour by Brian W Pugh and Paul R Spiring. For a full life of the writer, see The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle by Russell Miller, or for a book in similar format covering his metropolitan connections, see Close to Holmes: A Look at the Connections Between Historical London, Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Alistair Duncan.
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