Sherlock Holmes Collected Edition
A Study in Scarlet
The Sign of Four
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Valley of Fear
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
His Last Bow
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes Detected
The London of Sherlock Holmes
In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes
The Return of Moriarty
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, MD
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…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.