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NA317012 - DOYLE, A.C.: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (The), Vol. 2 (Unabridged)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes II
The Scandal in Bohemia
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
The Five Orange Pips
Arthur Conan Doyle was born in 1859, in Edinburgh, a city soaked in history, which gave him a strong sense of the past, which he never lost. He was educated at Stonyhurst School, where he excelled at sport, a lifelong interest, and developed a passion for reading. The ideals he read about in his history books influenced him all his life. He trained to be a doctor at Edinburgh University, and before qualifying, signed on as ship’s surgeon aboard a whaler. The hardened crew’s tough stories of life at sea, were to have a strong influence on his own burgeoning skill as a writer. Doyle began in medical practice at Southsea, in 1882, where he met his wife Louise Hawkins, later they moved to London. His lack of success as a doctor was balanced by his growing reputation as an author. His future was assured after the creation of the scientific detective Sherlock Holmes, though Doyle was always of the opinion that his historical novels were his true life’s work. These included The White Company (1891), and The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard (1896). He also ventured into science fiction, having a great success with The Lost World (1912). His interest in history encouraged his patriotism, and at the time of the Boer War (1900), he published a pamphlet explaining the causes and true course of the war. It made him ‘the most famous man in England’. His first wife died in 1906, and he married Jean Leckie with whom he’d had a platonic relationship for some time. In his later years, Doyle developed a deep interest in Spiritualism, and espoused many minority causes. He traveled the world furthering the cause of Spiritualism, and died peacefully, convinced his spirit was eternal, in 1930. His simple philosophy of life was caught perfectly
in the epitaph on his tombstone ‘Steel true, Blade straight.’ But Conan Doyle will always be remembered as the creator of the greatest fictional detective in the world; in those works his spirit is truly immortal.
A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA
‘To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman...’ and as far as we know Irene Adler is the only woman to have touched the great detective emotionally. In fact there is a strong sense of sexual attraction throughout the whole story. The King of Bohemia seeks Holmes’ help to avert a blackmail scandal after his liaison with the woman has ended. This is the very first story in the collection entitled The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1892, and it is curious that Doyle should begin with one of Holmes rare failures. Irene Adler is an operatic diva of some reputation and proves almost a match for Sherlock Holmes, which seems to lead the great man to reassess his chauvinistic views: ‘He used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of late.’ Perhaps there is an autobiographical touch here, as Conan Doyle, though opposed to the Suffragettes, nevertheless worked hard to get the outmoded divorce laws, so biased against the interests of women, changed. In this story Holmes shows he is a master of disguise, appearing as an eccentric clergyman, which brings to Watson’s mind the real-life comic actor John Hare. He flourished in the London theater during the 1860s and 70s, creating parts in the naturalistic dramas of T.W. Robertson such as ‘Caste’. ‘Whatever part Mr. Hare undertakes we may be quite assured the utmost amount of pains will be bestowed on every detail...’ says a contemporary critic, so Watson’s comparison is the highest praise he can confer on his friend.
THE FIVE ORANGE PIPS
This is a haunting tale where the sins of the fathers have a fatal influence on the succeeding generation. Holmes himself remarks ‘...of all our cases we have had none more fantastic than this.’ Conan Doyle brilliantly catches the sense of urgency and impending doom. It was in 1889 that an inquiry from an American magazine, as to whether the author of A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story, would be interested in repeating the exercise, first heralded the success of the stories. It seems the American reading public saw the potential of a character that Conan Doyle always regarded as something of a potboiler. To gratify his many American fans, Doyle included in this story sinister elements from their recent history, the Civil War (1861-5).
The reference to sailing ships in the story brings to mind that Doyle himself whilst a young man, had been a surgeon on board a whaler. The seafaring stories of the crew taught him a great deal about how to construct a good narrative. No doubt too, he was a keen reader, like Watson at the beginning of this story, of the now largely forgotten writer of nautical adventures, William Clark Russell. He wrote over sixty tales of the sea, and had been a merchant seaman. His writings led to improvements in the merchant service, which Doyle would have approved of as an espouser of causes.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE ENGINEER’S THUMB
The gruesome beginning to this story, when Watson is aroused in the early morning to attend to an injured man, testifies to Doyle’s medical training. The detailed description of the hand minus its thumb reads as a medical textbook description, and it is ironic to think this story might never have been written if Doyle had been a successful doctor. In 1891, Doyle moved to London in an attempt to set himself up as a fashionable doctor in Bloomsbury. Within a very short time however his surgery had become a writer’s study, and in a fever of creativity Conan Doyle wrote the first six short stories about Sherlock Holmes between April and July: A testimony to his phenomenal energy, and his lack of patients.
This story appeared in the second collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes in 1894. It is one of the very best of the whole cycle. It shows Doyle getting into his stride, having set a formula, which would change little. The two companions setting out from Baker Street, to some remote part of England where the local police are baffled by singular events. The format is repeated often, but seldom restricts Doyle’s inventiveness. In this story Holmes and Watson, investigating the disappearance of the race-horse Silver Blaze, are plunged into the shady world of the Turf, with its dapper, moneyed owners, touts and less than honest trainers. The story has as many turns as a racetrack, and we should marvel at Doyle’s ability to write on a subject about which he confessed himself he knew absolutely nothing. The tale contains the famous reference to ‘…the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’ Doyle seems not to have been fond of dogs, at least in his fiction. In The Adventure of Copper Beeches he relates with relish the shooting by Watson of a ‘brute’ of a mastiff, and his anti-canine feelings reached their peak in his masterpiece The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1902. This was the book in which Holmes once more made an appearance after a gap of eight years. Doyle used the desolate and eerie background of Dartmoor as a backdrop for his tale; the same setting he had used to create the mood and atmosphere of Silver Blaze.
A familiar and versatile audio and radio voice, David Timson has also performed in modern and classic plays across Great Britain and abroad, including Wild Honey for Alan Ayckbourn, Hamlet, The Man of Mode, and The Seagull. He has been seen on TV in Nelson’s Column and Swallows and Amazons, and in the film The Russia House.
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