In 1893 Sherlock Holmes
his death at Reichenbach
Falls in The Adventure of the Final Problem.
His fans had to wait until 1901 to once again enjoy a novel featuring
the great detective.
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
Later that month Robinson took
Conan Doyle on a tour of Dartmoor. They visited Brook
Manor, Grimspound, Child's Tomb and Fox Tor Mires.
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 of The 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
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.