"Lost" Sherlock Holmes story - my thoughts

If the historian Walter Elliot, who discovered the story which he believed to be a lost Sherlock Holmes story, wanted publicity he certainly got it....

The story emerged less than a week ago yet, within hours, it was being labelled as a pastiche.

Yes Conan Doyle was in Selkirk and spoke at the events surrounding the fundraising for the bridge but his presence in no way validated the Sherlock Holmes story that later appeared in the event's companion booklet.

As has been pointed out, Conan Doyle's name appears nowhere near the story. It is not, in any way, attributed to him. Given that the purpose of the event was to fund-raise there is absolutely no way that his name would not have been attached to the story if it had certainly been written by him.

The booklet's own blurb also made it clear that contributors to the book were locals and Conan Doyle did not fall into that category.

What has been truly staggering is the press reaction with major news outlets falling over themselves to herald this new story and, seemingly, just accepting Elliot's belief that it was genuine even though he was not an expert in any way on the subject.

The Herald Scotland quoted Elliot as saying:

"The Saturday was opened by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle," he said. "He had written a wee story about Sherlock Holmes and Watson and this was in the book.
"I can't remember how much they raised (in total) but they wanted it to be a carriage bridge but they didn't get quite enough for that, but they built an iron bridge and it's still there today.
"He really must have thought enough of the town to come down and take part and contribute a story to the book. It's a great little story."
Elliot's statement is truly staggering. He presents speculation as fact which is the last thing a historian should do. The idea that Conan Doyle had some fondness for Selkirk and that this motivated him to write a story is also a tad silly. Conan Doyle was engaged in political campaigning in an effort to secure a local seat in the 1906 general election. His willingness to assist in a fundraising effort was more likely due to a desire to enhance his electoral chances rather than some fondness for Selkirk.

As experts lined up against Elliot's claims the whole story lost credibility and the press retreated. The stories casting doubt on the authorship overtook those claiming its authenticity.

Yes it is true that some of the later Sherlock Holmes stories were of poor quality but they were never this poor.

The best argument against the story can be found at

Written by Alistair Duncan
Buy my books here

1 comment:

  1. Very nicely put.

    Mr. Elliot's claims begs the question(s): In 1903 Conan Doyle was reportedly getting $2 per word for his writing, so why would he contribute a poorly written, ultimately uncredited, 1300-word / $2600 story to a booklet specifically produced to raise money, but which had a very low print run, which wasn't promoted beyond the local papers, and which was sold for only 6p? If Conan Doyle cared so much about the bridge, wouldn't it have been more generous of him to give cash? Oh, that's right, he did just that four days earlier when he donated the proceeds of his reading to the bridge fund.