First of all, I would like to apologize for not having posted for a little while. Things have been exceptionally busy at home and elsewhere recently, and beyond that, I've been afflicted with what would be termed "blogger's block," I suppose. I simply could not think of anything to write about. It came so easily those first few weeks! Mea culpa. But now, on to today's blog post...
I've reviewed Leslie Klinger's New Annotated Sherlock Holmescollection in an earlier post, but it occurred to me that W.S. Baring-Gould's Annotated Sherlock Holmes (1967) was equally (if not more) deserving of my attention. After all, with out Baring-Gould's work, Klinger's later work may never have happened. Baring-Gould's collection is a little harder to find than Klinger's, but it can be found. I got my lightly used copy (still in its slip case) from Amazon.com. As I write this post, it is currently available through Amazon sellers, for anywhere from $15 to $320 (!)
Like many readers, I imagine, I discovered the Baring-Gould Annotated after I had discovered Klinger's modern set. Comparing the two, the older edition doesn't hold up incredibly well. Baring-Gould attempted to arrange the canon chronologically, which makes it much more difficult to find the story you're looking for, right off the bat. Thus, "The Gloria Scott" is the first adventure, and "His Last Bow" is the last. It would have been useful if the editor had included some sort of index or table of contents to aid the reader in locating individual stories. Still, despite its rather odd system of organization, there is an awful lot of good stuff here: loads of illustrations, maps, diagrams, and of course, copious notes. Another nice thing, comparing Baring-Gould to Klinger, is that this collection manages to fit everything into a 2-volume set, rather than the 3 volumes that comprise Klinger's set.
And as far as playing "the Game," Baring-Gould pretty much wrote the book on that. Other than a few pages in the introductory material, in which Arthur Conan Doyle is described as the "creator" of both Holmes and Watson, in all the notes, Watson is treated as the author of the adventures, with Doyle cast as his literary agent. Classic.
In short, I would recommend that dedicated Sherlockians consider having both Baring-Gould and Klinger's annotated collections in their libraries. (And I imagine there are many who do!) It's well worth comparing the two, to see the different ideas put forth by each editor regarding paradoxes, inconsistencies, and chronological mysteries. (For example, Klinger and Baring-Gould clearly have different ideas regarding Watson's wife/wives.) I probably refer to Klinger more often than I do Baring-Gould, but both works are quite useful to have on hand. Do yourself a favor, and locate a copy of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes on Amazon today!
I remember when I was young, and my grandfather gave me his paperback copy of W.S. Baring-Gould's biography of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. It was the first time I realized that there were Holmes fans who played what has come to be known as "the Great Game" (or the Sherlockian Game, or the Holmesian Game, or simpy the Game), wherein Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and the rest are treated as historical figures, and Arthur Conan Doyle is cast in the role of Watson's "literary agent." Playing the Game, fans attempt to reconcile ACD's numerous errors and gaps in continuity (e.g., Watson having received a bullet wound in his shoulder...or is it his leg?). It's a tremendous amount of fun to approach the stories in this manner, and Baring-Gould's Holmes bio and his monumental Annotated Sherlock Holmes, as well as Leslie Klinger's New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, are perfect examples of how detailed the Game can get.
Some fans who enjoy playing the Great Game are probably a bit disappointed by the Oxford Sherlock Holmes, as the introductions and notes in that series treat the canon as the fictional series they are in what is usually known as "the real world." However, I for one am glad that the Oxford collection exists, because the publication history of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels is fascinating in and of itself, and the Oxford series treats the works as worthwhile literature, which they certainly are. How fortunate we are to have such amazing resources, by those who play the Great Game, and by those who refuse to play it. Meanwhile, I always get a chuckle out of the little "disclaimer" immediately before the first chapter of Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street:
"No characters in this book are fictional, although the author should very much like to meet any who claim to be."
I don't exactly recall how old I was when I started reading the Sherlock Holmes stories, but it was when I was 10 or 11 years old. It started with a paperback anthology of probably twenty or so of the most popular Holmes stories, given to me by my great aunt Evelyn. As I recall, I was particularly impressed by "The Adventure of the Dancing Men." In talking with my Grandpa Schwanke, I came to find out that Arthur Conan Doyle had written 56 stories and 4 novels. A year or so after I read that first paperback collection, my parents got me an illustrated collection of the Holmes stories that had been illustrated by Sidney Paget, which included Adventures, Memoirs, and Return of Sherlock Holmes, as well as The Hound of the Baskervilles. Now I was getting closer to having all of the original stories! Grandpa, though, had a hardback copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes (shown to the left). Oh, how I coveted that book! I saved up allowance money for months, until I had enough put together to order the book from our local bookstore in town. I remember being tremendously excited when I finally added that book to my collection...I was finally able to read the stories and novels all the way through, beginning with the marvelous A Study in Scarlet, all the way to the final story in the Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman."
Since those early days of collecting Sherlock Holmes in print, I've added a few volumes to my collection.:
As handy as it is to have the complete Holmes on my Kindle, nothing compares to browsing through these printed volumes, especially the annotated editions. But I also love looking at the editions with the illustrations from the Strand Magazine, because it transports me to a time when these stories were brand new, when the world was a different place.
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN, and a longtime fan of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.