(The Society presents reviews and recommendations on books by its members on these pages. We hope you will enjoy hearing of new books furthering our Sherlockian, Holmesian and Watsonian interests. On this occasion, Harrison Hunt, JHWS “Dash,” would like to share his thoughts on a recent publication by the Baker Street Irregulars:)
Out of the Abyss, the latest entry in the Baker Street Irregulars Manuscript Series, gives a multi-faceted look at one of the most significant stories in the Canon, “The Empty House.” As with the previous volumes in the series, Abyss features a facsimile of Arthur Conan Doyle’s manuscript of the story presented with a page-by-page transcription. It also offers extensive notes about textual variations in the early printings of the tale, annotations based on up-to-the-minute scholarship and a bibliography for further study. The manuscript itself is a telling insight into ACD’s abilities as a writer: there are almost no corrections to his neatly written text. It reminded me of an exhibit I saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1970 that contrasted two of Charles Dickens’s manuscripts; that for one of his early books had extensive crossings-out and re-writes, while the one for a later book had almost none. Both Dickens and Doyle had become masters of their craft.
In addition to the manuscript, Abyss includes a fascinating series of essays examining “The Empty House” that reflect the full spectrum of the writings about the writings. These chapters range from an overview of the history of the manuscript and its conservation to a short biography of the book collector and dealer Dr. ASW Rosenbach to a short pastiche by Lyndsay Faye. Other essays examine the location of the empty house, period methods of cheating at cards, the roles of Mycroft and Colonel Moran, SH as international spy and the story’s religious symbolism. Of particular significance to members of The John H. Watson Society is Ray Betzner’s contribution, which muses about Watson and the Great Hiatus. It offers an interesting contrast to Betzner’s highly regarded talk on the subject at the 2015 BSI Annual Dinner; both items are well worth reading, and among other things uphold Emerson’s views about hobgoblins.
This is an excellent volume that should be in every serious Sherlockian’s library. The John H. Watson Society can be proud that all three editors – “Herbie”, “Duke” and “Willow” – are Charter Members.
— Harrison Hunt “Dash”
Note from Carla: You can find out more about Out of the Abyss on it’s web page HERE.