The Hound of the Baskervilles
In March of 1901 Conan Doyle vacationed in Norfolk with his friend Bertram Fletcher Robinson. While the men played golf and relaxed they spoke of many things. Robinson told Conan Doyle about growing up in Devon and the local legends. Conan Doyle was especially interested in the tales of ghostly hounds that roamed Dartmoor.
Conan Doyle knew that the ghostly hound would make a good starting point for a novel. However he needed a strong central character. He decided that it made no sense to create a new character when he already had one in Sherlock Holmes. While he wasn’t ready to bring Holmes back to life, Conan Doyle decided that he would write a novel that happened in an earlier time period. A time period before the incident at Reichenbach Falls. The knowledge that the public would go wild over another Sherlock Holmes novel must have also helped Conan Doyle in his decision.
Later that month Robinson took Conan Doyle on a tour of Dartmoor. They visited Brook Manor, Grimspound, Child’s Tomb and Fox Tor Mires.
Black Shuck and the Whisht Hounds are spectral, demon dogs from British folklore. These ghostly dogs were the inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The origin of these legends springs from Norse mythology. They are derived from tales of the black Hound of Odin.
There were some initial thoughts that Robinson would actually coauthor the book. However in the end, most experts agree that the book was written by Conan Doyle. However the did dedicate the book to Robinson and probably paid him something for his troubles.
Did the Baskerville family really exist? Harry Baskerville, a driver employed by Robinson, was thought to have provided the inspiration for the name. In fact, Robinson gave Baskerville a copy ofThe Hound of the Baskervilles that was inscribed, “To Harry Baskerville, with apologies for using the name.”
Another possible source is the legend of the Cabell family of Brook Manor. In one version of the story Sir Richard Cabell made a pact with the Devil. Cabell rode a black horse through Dartmoor following a hound that was sent by their mutual master.
In another version of the story Cabell abused his wife. She tried to escape from her husband by fleeing across the moor. Cabell caught her and murdered her. He also killed her pet dog. It was said that Cabell was haunted by the ghost of the dog for the rest of his life.
The Hound of the Baskervilles was first published in The Strand magazine in August of 1901. The public was indeed ready to hear more about Sherlock Holmes. The magazine’s circulation instantly rose by thirty thousand copies.
The novel that Conan Doyle described as “a real creeper” was an instant success.