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Updated - Without Undershaw etc

I state up front that I am big supporter of the Save Undershaw campaign (as most people know) but I must take issue (again) with a line that keeps getting put about in connection with the house.

It goes as follows:
"remember, without Undershaw, there would be no Sherlock Holmes……".
Sorry but this is nonsense and it does the campaign no good to keep saying it. Sherlock Holmes had two novels and two sets of short stories by 1893 when The Final Problem was published. So his existence as a character clearly was in no way dependent on the existence of Doyle's house in Surrey (built during 1896 and 1897).


A more plausible statement would be to say that without Undershaw there may not have been a resurrection of Sherlock Holmes. It was the monumental bills that Doyle ran up taking his sick wife from country to country for her health and, later, for the construction of Undershaw that led to him penning a Sherlock Holmes play that would later be rewritten and successfully staged by William Gillette.

The financial success of the play clearly reminded Doyle (if it was necessary) of the pulling power of Holmes and it was therefore not a big leap in 1901 for him to insert Sherlock Holmes into The Hound of the Baskervilles  and thus turn it from a thin supernatural tale (to be written in partnership with Bertram Fletcher Robinson) into a crime novel with a pseudo-supernatural plot (with Fletcher Robinson as "assistant plot producer").

In 1903 Doyle was sufficiently aware of the financial power of Holmes that when he was pursued by Norman Hapgood to write further adventures he was less hostile to the idea than he had been immediately post-1893.

Now, had Undershaw never been built there is every chance that Holmes could have been resurrected in some form but it seems pretty clear to me that the cost of erecting the house sped the process up. However, to keep saying that the house is essentially responsible for Holmes existing at all is just daft when it plainly isn't correct.

Update - Here's an interesting thought. Had Sherlock Holmes never been resurrected he may not have become quite the legend that he is today but, at the same time, the present copyright tussles in the US would not even exist as the stories written up to 1893 are firmly in the public domain.


Written by Alistair Duncan
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