Sherlockology

Sherlock Holmes Collected Edition

by Arthur Conan Doyle
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, 9 volume set pp., £21.20

A Study in Scarlet

by Arthur Conan Doyle, with an introduction by Hugh Greene
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, (£1.95)

The Sign of Four

by Arthur Conan Doyle, with an introduction by Graham Greene
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, (£1.95)

The Hound of the Baskervilles

by Arthur Conan Doyle, with an introduction by John Fowles
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, (£1.95)

The Valley of Fear

by Arthur Conan Doyle, with an introduction by Len Deighton
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, (£1.95)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

by Arthur Conan Doyle, with an introduction by Eric Ambler
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, (£2.95)

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

by Arthur Conan Doyle, with an introduction by Kingsley Amis
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, (£2.95)

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

by Arthur Conan Doyle, with an introduction by Angus Wilson
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, (£2.95)

His Last Bow

by Arthur Conan Doyle, with an introduction by Julian Symons
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, (£2.50)

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

by Arthur Conan Doyle, with an introduction by C. P. Snow
Jonathan Cape and John Murray, (£2.50)

Sherlock Holmes Detected

by Ian McQueen
Drake, 226 pp., $8.95

The London of Sherlock Holmes

by Michael Harrison
Drake, 232 pp., $6.95

In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes

by Michael Harrison
Drake, 292 pp., $6.95

The Return of Moriarty

by John Gardner
Putnam’s, 366 pp., $8.95

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, MD

as edited by Nicholas Meyer
Dutton, 253 pp., $6.95

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote little about Sherlock Holmes compared with what has been written by other people since. Sherlock has always been popular, on a scale never less than worldwide, but the subsidiary literature which has steadily heaped up around him can’t be accounted for merely by referring to his universal appeal. Sherlockology—the adepts call it that, with typical whimsy—is a sort of cult, which has lately become a craze. The temptation to speculate about why this should be is one I don’t propose to resist, but first there is the task of sorting the weighty from the witless in the cairn of Sherlockiana—they say that, too—currently available. What follows is a preliminary classification, done with no claims to vocational, or even avocational, expertise. Most decidedly not: this is a field in which all credentials, and especially impeccable ones, are suspect. To give your life, or any significant part of it, to the study of Sherlock Holmes is to defy reason.

It is also to disparage Doyle, as John Fowles pointed out in his introduction to The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of the four Sherlock Holmes novels handsomely reissued in Britain early last year, each as a single volume. This is an expensive way of doing things, but the books are so good-looking it is hard to quarrel, although the childhood memory of reading all the Sherlock Holmes “long stories” in one volume (and all the short stories in another volume), well printed on thin but opaque paper, dies hard. Still, the new books look splendid all lined up, and the introductions are very interesting. Apart from Fowles, the men on the case are Hugh Greene (A Study in Scarlet), his brother Graham Greene (The Sign of Four), and Len Deighton (The Valley of Fear). What each man has to say is well worth hearing, even if not always strictly relevant to the novel it introduces. When you add to this four-volume set of the novels the five-volume reissue of the short story collections, it certainly provides a dazzling display.

To follow the order in which Doyle gave them to the world, the short story collections are The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (introduced by Eric Ambler), The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Kingsley Amis), The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Angus Wilson), His Last Bow (Julian Symons), and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (C. P. Snow). The dust-wrappers of all nine volumes are carried out in black and gold, a color combination which in Britain is supposed to put you in mind of John Player Specials, a ritzy line in cigarettes. Doing it this way, it will set you back £21.20 in English money to read the saga through.

A less crippling alternative would be to purchase the Doubleday omnibus introduced by the old-time (in fact, late) Sherlockian Christopher Morley, which reproduces the whole corpus—four novels and fifty-six short stories—on goodish paper for slightly under nine bucks, the contents being as …

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It Wasn’t Freud April 3, 1975