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The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a crime novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialized in the British Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it is set mainly on Dartmoor in Devon in England's West Country. Conan Doyle wrote this story shortly after returning from South Africa where he had worked as a Volunteer Physician at The Langman Field Hospital in Bloemfontein. He was assisted with the plot by a 30 year-old Daily Express journalist called Bertram Fletcher Robinson (1870-1907). Conan Doyle's former school, Stonyhurst College is thought to have provided the inspiration for the description of Baskerville Hall. In the novel, Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson are called to investigate a curse which is alleged to hang over the house of the Baskervilles.

Plot summary

The rich landowner Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead in the park of his manor surrounded by the grim moor of Dartmoor, in the county of Devon. His death seems to have been caused by a heart attack, but the victim's best friend, Dr. Mortimer, is convinced that the strike was due to a supernatural creature, which haunts the moor in the shape of an enormous hound, with blazing eyes and jaws. In order to protect Baskerville's heir, Sir Henry, who's arriving to London from Canada, Dr. Mortimer asks for Sherlock Holmes' help, telling him also of the so-called Baskervilles' curse, according to which a monstrous hound has been haunting and killing the family males for centuries, in revenge for the misdeeds of one Sir Hugo Baskerville, who lived at the time of Oliver Cromwell. The doctor also reveals that he actually found the footprints of a gigantic hound near Sir Charles' dead body, but did not speak of them with the police, because he knew they would disregard the whole story as a product of his institution.

As the story progresses, it is revealed that Sir Charles appeared to be waiting for someone, though he was an elderly man; that his footprints showed he had been running away from the house; and that his heart was not strong, so that he was to leave for London the next day. Though Holmes does not believe in the curse himself, he is intrigued by the case and agrees to meet the next day to discuss it.

Sir Henry, the Baskerville heir, comes from Canada and is visibly shaken. A note warning him to stay away from the moor was delivered at his hotel, where no one had known he would be staying. Holmes recognizes the cut-out letters from the previous day’s Times; being pressed for time, the sender had not been able to find the word “moor” and had handwritten it. The poor quality of the pen shows that it was written from a hotel, and the scent of perfume on the note points to a woman (this latter piece of evidence Holmes keeps to himself until the end). Sir Henry has also had a new boot stolen.

Once Sir Henry has been filled in, they make plans to meet again at the hotel later that day once he has had time to think, but it is clear that he will insist on going to Baskerville Hall. Holmes and Watson trail Sir Henry and Dr. Mortimer on their way back to the hotel, and discover that a man with a black beard (likely a fake) is following the pair in a cab. The cab drives off when the man discovers Holmes has spotted him, but the detective is able to get the cab number. Holmes then stops in at the messenger office and employs Cartwright to go around to the hotels, bribe the employees, and look through the wastepaper in search of a cut-up copy of the Times.

By the time they return to the hotel, Sir Henry has had another boot stolen, an old one now. When the first missing boot is discovered before the meeting is over, Holmes begins to realize they must be dealing with a real hound (hence the emphasis on the scent of the used boot). When conversation turns to the man in the cab, Dr. Mortimer says that Barrymore, the servant at Baskerville Hall, has a beard, and a telegram is sent to check on his whereabouts. The inheritance is also discussedwhile it is a sizable amount, the next in line is James Desmond, an older man with few interests in wealth.

At the end of the meeting, it is decided that, Holmes being tied up in London with other cases, Watson will accompany Sir Henry to the Hall and report back in detail. Later that evening, telegrams from Cartwright (who was unable to find the newspaper) and Baskerville Hall (where Barrymore apparently is) bring an end to those leads. Also, a visit from John Clayton, who was driving the cab with the black-bearded man, is of little help. He does say that the man told him that he was the detective Holmes, much to the surprise and amusement of the actual Holmes.

Dr. Mortimer, Watson, and Sir Henry set off for Baskerville Hall the next day. The baronet is excited to see it and his connection with the land is clear, but the mood is soon dampened. Soldiers are about the area, on the lookout for the escaped convict Selden. Barrymore and his wife tell the baronet that they want to depart from the area as soon as is convenient, and the Hall is, in general, a somber place. Watson has trouble sleeping that night, and hears a woman crying, though the next morning Barrymore denies that could have happened.

Watson checks with the postmaster and learns that the telegram was not actually delivered into the hands of Barrymore, so it is no longer certain that he was at the Hall, and not in London. On his way back, Watson meets Stapleton, a naturalist familiar with the moor even though he has only been in the area for two years. They hear a moan that the peasants attribute to the hound, but Stapleton attributes it to the cry of a bittern, or possibly the bog settling. He then runs off after a specimen, but Watson is not alone for long before Miss Stapleton approaches him. Mistaking him for Sir Henry, she urgently warns him to leave the area, but drops the subject when her brother returns. The three walk to Merripit House (the Stapleton’s home), and during the discussion, Watson learns that Stapleton used to run a school. Though he is offered lunch and a look at Stapleton’s collections, Watson departs for the Hall. Before he gets far along the path, Miss Stapleton overtakes him and dismisses her warning.

Sir Henry soon meets Miss Stapleton and becomes romantically interested, despite her brother’s intrusions. Watson meets another neighbor, Mr. Frankland, a harmless man whose primary focus is lawsuits. Barrymore draws increasing suspicion, as Watson sees him walk with a candle into an empty room, hold it up to the window, and then leave. Realizing that the room’s only advantage is its view out on the moor, Watson and Sir Henry are determined to figure out what is going on.

Meanwhile, during the day, Sir Henry continues to pursue Miss Stapleton until her brother runs up on them and yells angrily. He later explains to the disappointed baronet that it was not personal, he was just afraid of losing his only companion so quickly. To show there are no hard feelings, he invites Sir Henry to dine with him and his sister on Friday.

Sir Henry then becomes the person doing the surprising, when he and Watson walk in on Barrymore, catching him at night in the room with the candle. Barrymore refuses to answer their questions, since it is not his secret to tell, but Mrs. Barrymore’s. She tells them that Selden is her brother and the candle is a signal to allow him to get food. When the couple returns to their room, Sir Henry and Watson go off to find the convict, despite the poor weather and frightening sound of the hound. They see Selden by another candle, but are unable to catch him. Watson notices the outlined figure of another man standing on top of a tor with the moon behind him, but he likewise gets away.

Barrymore is upset when he finds out that they tried to capture Selden, but when an agreement is reached to allow Selden to escape out of the country, he is willing to repay the favor. He tells them about a mostly-burned letter asking Sir Charles to be at the gate at the time of his death. It was signed with the initials L.L. Dr. Mortimer tells Watson the next day that it could be Laura Lyons, Frankland’s daughter who lives in Coombe Tracey. When Watson goes to talk to her, she admits to writing the letter after Stapleton told her Sir Charles would be willing to help her, but says she never kept the appointment.

Frankland has just won two law cases and invites Watson in, as his carriage passes by, to help him celebrate. Barrymore had previously told Watson that another man lived out on the moor besides Selden, and Frankland unwittingly confirms this, when he shows Watson through his telescope the figure of a boy carrying food. Watson departs the house and goes in that direction. He finds the dwelling where the unknown man has been staying, goes in, sees a message reporting on his own activities, and waits.

Holmes turns out to be the unknown man, keeping his location a secret so that Watson would not be tempted to come out and so he would be able to appear on the scene of action at the critical moment. Watson’s reports have been of much help to him, and he then tells his friend some of the information he’s uncoveredStapleton is actually married to the woman passing as Miss Stapleton, and was also promising marriage to Laura Lyons to get her cooperation. As they bring their conversation to an end, they hear a scream and the sounds of a man being pursued by the hound.

They take off running and when they see the figure, they mistake it for Sir Henry. As their misery and regret grow, they realize it is actually Selden, dressed in the baronet’s old clothes (which had been given to Barrymore by way of further apology for distrusting him). Then Stapleton appears, and while he makes excuses for his presence, Holmes pretends to be returning to London.

Holmes and Watson return to Baskerville Hall, where over dinner, the detective realizes the similarity between Hugo Baskerville’s portrait and Stapleton. This provides the motive in the crimewith Sir Henry gone, Stapleton could claim the Baskerville fortune. When they return to Mrs. Lyons’s place, they get her to admit Stapleton’s role in the letter setup, and then they go to meet Lestrade.

Under the threat of advancing fog, Watson, Holmes, and Lestrade lie in wait outside Merripit House, where Sir Henry has been dining. When the baronet leaves and sets off across the moor, the hound is soon let loose. It really is a terrible beast, but Holmes and Watson manage to shoot it before it can hurt Sir Henry, as well as discovering that its hellish appearance was acquired by means of phosphorus. They discover the beaten Mrs. Stapleton bound and gagged in the bedroom, and when she is freed, she tells them of Stapleton’s hideout deep in the Great Grimpen Mire. When they head out the next day to look for him, they are not able to find him, and he is presumed dead. An epilogue between Holmes and Watson tells that Stapleton is a son of Roger Baskerville and with the same name as his father. After embezeling Public money in South America, Stapleton fled to England where he used the money to found a Yorkshire school; unfortunately for Stapleton the tutor he had hired died of a consumption and after a epidemic kills three students the School which went from being disreputable to infamy has to close down; forced to flee again to Dartmoor he apparently supported himself by being a burgler engaging in four large robberies and pistoling a page that had suprised him. In Holmes words: "..he has for years been a desperate and dangerous man.." His one trait he cannot control is a taste for entomology-in fact he turns the second floor of his house into a insect museum.

Adaptations

As of 2006, there are at least 24 film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Some remain very close to the text of the original book, while others are notable for differences in plot or execution. Among these are some pastiches and one parody.

Year Title Country Director Holmes Watson'''
1914 Der Hund von Baskerville, 1. Teil Germany Rudolf Meinert Alwin Neuß None
1914 Der Hund von Baskerville, 2. Teil - Das einsame Haus
1914 Der Hund von Baskerville, 3. Teil - Das unheimliche Zimmer Richard Oswald
1915 Der Hund von Baskerville, 4. Teil
1920 Das dunkle Schloß Willy Zeyn Eugen Burg None
1920 Das Haus ohne Fenster Erich Kaiser-Titz
1920 Dr. MacDonalds Sanatorium
1921 The Hound of the Baskervilles Maurice Elvey Eille Norwood Hubert Willis
1929 Der Hund von Baskerville Richard Oswald Carlyle Blackwell George Seroff
1932 The Hound of the Baskervilles
(According to IMDB, the picture has apparently been lost, but the film's soundtrack still exists on disc)
Gareth Gundrey Robert Rendel Frederick Lloyd
1936 Der Hund von Baskerville Germany Carl Lamac Bruno Güttner Fritz Odemar
1939 The Hound of the Baskervilles Sidney Lanfield Basil Rathbone Nigel Bruce
1955 Der Hund von Baskerville Fritz Umgelter Wolf Ackva Arnulf Schröder
1959 The Hound of the Baskervilles Terence Fisher Peter Cushing André Morell
1968 L'Ultimo dei Baskerville Italy Guglielmo Morandi Nando Gazzolo Gianni Bonagura
1968 The Hound of the Baskervilles Graham Evans Peter Cushing Nigel Stock
1972 The Hound of the Baskervilles Barry Crane Stewart Granger Bernard Fox
1978 The Hound of the Baskervilles Paul Morrissey Peter Cook Dudley Moore
1981 The Hound of the Baskervilles (Собака Баскервилей) Igor Maslennikov Vasilij Livanov Vitali Solomin
1982 The Hound of the Baskervilles Peter Duguid Tom Baker Terence Rigby
1983 The Hound of the Baskervilles Douglas Hickox Ian Richardson Donald Churchill
1983 Sherlock Holmes and the Baskerville Curse Ian McKenzie & Alex Nicholas Peter O'Toole (voice) unknown
1988 The Hound of the Baskervilles Brian Mills Jeremy Brett Edward Hardwicke
1998 The Hound of the Baskervilles (BBC Radio Broadcasting) Enyd Williams Clive Merrison Michael Williams
2000 The Hound of the Baskervilles Rodney Gibbons Matt Frewer Kenneth Welsh
2002 The Hound of the Baskervilles David Attwood Richard Roxburgh Ian Hart

Related works

References

External links

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