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In The Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes
Michael Harrison

  

                (1958, revised 1972)
 

e-Book, 294 pp. (Tina Rhea #38)
ISBN 978-1-55497-268-5 $10.00


A Foreword Which Is Also An Explanation

On his death, in 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left behind him exactly sixty Sherlock Holmes adventures: most of them told by Watson; one or two by Holmes himself, and one by that anonymous narrator who may have been responsible for certain narrative sequences in A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Fear. To this ‘canon’ of sixty adventures may yet be added another: The Man Who Was Wanted, which was not published until eighteen years after Sir Arthur’s death—in the (American) Cosmopolitan magazine for August 1948. ‘In the Irregular sense,’ says the eminent Sherlockian exegetist, Mr. Jay Finley Christ, ‘the Conanonicity of this incunabulum has already been questioned, and in that sense it is here designated ... as Apocrypha.’

The ten years which have passed since the publication of this adventure have brought no proof—to me as to others—that we may safely include The Man Who Was Wanted in the ‘canon’, and I have, accordingly, made no reference to it in my book.

Now, if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left behind him sixty adventures of Sherlock Holmes (with, or without, Watson’s presence), the number of learned commentaries will soon approach the number of adventures on which the commentaries are based.

Let me make myself quite clear on this point: I am aware that such commentaries exist, as I can recite the list of their distinguished authors—Miss Dorothy Sayers, Monsignor Ronald Knox, and Messrs. E. M. Wrong, S. C. Roberts, H. W. Bell, Howard Haycraft, T. S. Blakeney, Vincent Starrett, Gavin Brend, E. V. Knox, H. Douglas Thomson, Edgar W. Smith, John Dickson Carr, Vernon Rendall, Christopher Morley—and many another. But let me make it clear, too, that, of all their works, I have read only two: that part of Mr. E.M. Wrong’s introduction to Crime and Detection (Oxford University Press), dealing with Holmes, that I read on its first publication in 1926, and have not re-read; and Mr. Gavin Brend’s My Dear Holmes. A Study in Sherlock (London: George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., 1951), my deep indebtedness to which I acknowledge in the text.

But while Mr. Jay Finley Christ’s Sherlockian concordance, An Irregular Guide to Sherlock Holmes (Argus Books, New York, and The Pamphlet House, Summit, New Jersey, 1947) has been of inestimable use to me, I have deliberately refrained from reading the commentaries of other writers: I wished to make my own investigation into the origins, background and motives of Sherlock Holmes, to draw my own conclusions, and to present theories for which I—and I alone—should be held accountable.

(Now that my work is finished, I shall enjoy a hansom-driver’s holiday by ‘boning up’ on the hitherto-neglected Baker Street Higher Criticism— somewhat sadly, as I see how many of the great Critics must now have the adjective ‘the late’ prefixing their names.)

Here, then, are my own conclusions. ‘There is no branch of detective science,’ Holmes once said to Watson, right at the beginning of their association, ‘which is so important and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps.’

There was an implicit challenge here that I could not resist: but the footsteps that I have tried to trace are those of the Master Tracker himself.

Michael Harrison. Cubitt’s Yard, 1958.

Foreword to Revised Edition

A new edition of this book having been called for by its continuing popularity, I have carefully revised the text to take account of all the many changes which have occurred since this work was first published, thirteen years ago.

The most important change is, without doubt, the adoption of a decimal currency by all members of the British Commonwealth—though not, unfortunately, an uniform one. I have not ‘converted’ the pounds-shillings-and-pence ( s. d.) prices of Holmes’s day; but as the old currency, receding into the past, becomes less familiar, the reader should remember that there were 240 pence in the old pound sterling, and that there are 100 pence in the new. The old penny, then, is worth 0.24 of the new.

Michael Harrison. Parish of Bloomsbury, 1970