Echoes. A convict on the moors. Inevitable memories of a better story: Great Expectations. But the location of The Hound of the Baskervilles is infinitely more haunted than the marshes of London and Kent. I have walked across Dartmoor, one of my favourite places, unchanged since Doyle placed his hound there. It is not hard to conjure a fire-breathing hound, or places where prisoners of malicious intent could hide for ever.
I grew away from Doyle’s absurd Sherlock Holmes stories, and their improbable coincidences, whilst still in my pre-nage years, but it is easy to get sucked in. Enjoyable yarns, of a sort best read aloud on a winter’s night, by fireside. No plot summary is needed for The Hound of the Baskervilles, the story is known to all, regardless of whether we have read the story, or seen one of the many film adaptations. It is Dartmoor that is the true hero of Doyle’s tale.
H: ‘It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without posessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.’
He had never said as much before, and I must admit that his words gave me keen pleasure.
H: ‘I am afraid, my dear W. that most of your conclusions were erroneous.’
My own adaptation of the Holmes-Watson banter, but reminiscent of Lars Iyer’s book, Spurious.
[Read as part of Frances’s and Melville House’s The Art of the Novella Reading Challenge.]
I never read Sherlock Holmes as a kid, or even now anything other than The Hound of the Baskervilles, but you’re right that Dartmoor really makes it. I’m sure I will have a good enough time with the London stories when I pick them up someday, but the setting of this one is delicious.
Dartmoor is one of two wildernesses left in England, the other being the Durham Dales. Wilderness is thus defined as a place where you are unable to hear road noise, and without low flying aeroplanes. In a country where city and suburbs are spreading, this is pretty important.