Inspiration for the hound of the baskervillesPresentation Transcript
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Have you ever wondered what is the inspiration behind an author’s work? Before writing his famous detective stories, Doyle served as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to Dr. Joseph Bell . Dr. Bell served as personal surgeon to Queen Victoria, and he is the brilliant doctor who inspired the creation by Doyle of the brilliant detective, Sherlock Holmes. When Doyle attended medical school, he was astonished by Bell’s spectacular gifts of observation , analysis , and inference in identifying the cause of a patient’s illness in making a diagnosis. To illustrate his ability, Dr. Bell would often choose a stranger and, by observing him, deduce his occupation and recent activities. Dr. Bell was a pioneer in forensic science in a time when science was not often used in the investigations of crimes. Dr. Joseph Bell Sherlock Holmes
The Origins of Doctor House One interesting side note here is the current TV character Doctor Gregory House played by actor Hugh Laurie. Doctor House is seen by many as “ medicine’s most brilliant mind .” Doctor House arose reportedly from the fictitious detective Sherlock Holmes who is based upon Dr. Joseph Bell. Doctor Bell is the originator of the phrase “elementary.” Doctor House’s side-kick is Wilson, Sherlock’s is Watson. In fact, Hugh Laurie and his stage partner, Stephen Fry, tried for years to play Holmes and Watson. Hugh Laurie as Doctor Gregory House
Inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles
Let’s step back to the year 1893 in Sir Conan Doyle’s life. Doyle had gained world wide recognition with his creation of his famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. After two years of churning out Sherlock Holmes stories, Doyle had decided to have Holmes killed off with his story, The Adventure of the Final Problem . However, his reading public was not prepared to let go of their favorite detective. Many wore black armbands as a public protest, and there were even death threats against Doyle. His fans had to wait though until 1901 to once again enjoy a novel featuring Holmes. This is where the inspiration for the story about a giant hound comes into play. The question becomes the following:
What caused Doyle to create a story about a giant hound which prowled about on the desolate moors of Devonshire?
Recuperating from Typhoid fever, Conan Doyle vacationed in 1901 in Norfolk, England with his friend, Bertram Fletcher Robinson. While playing golf one day, Doyle’s friend told him about growing up in Devon and about the local legends. What caught Doyle’s imagination the most were the legends about ghostly hounds that roamed Dartmoor . He knew that the ghostly hound would make for a good story. He wanted a strong central character but was not ready to bring back Holmes. Thus he decided to write a novel about an earlier time in Holmes’ life. Doyle paired the sinister landscape of the Dartmoor bogs with the supernatural roamings of a demon dog to create the Hound of the Baskervilles. His reading public went wild over his new story.
Dartmoor Demon Beasts of Dartmoor The Hound
Many legends around Dartmoor include a black hound on the moor. Included in some of these legends is one which involves a local squire by the name of Richard Cabell . Cabell apparently had an evil reputation, and it was rumored that he had sold his soul to the devil before he died in 1677. It was even said that he had murdered his wife for he was “ a monstrously evil man .”
On the night of Cabell’s internment (burial), it was said that a phantom pack of black hunting dogs breathing fire raced across Dartmoor. They stopped finally at Cabell’s tomb to take his promised soul to the devil. According to the legend, demonic hounds have roamed the moor ever since.
On the anniversary of Cabell’s death, legend says that he can be seen leading the prowling pack of hounds across the moor. Out of fear, the townspeople placed a huge slab of granite on the grave in hopes of keeping the ghost of the squire from escaping. Even now there have been sightings of a strange red glow emanating from the iron bars of his tomb.
HOUND SIGHTINGS Sightings have been reported all over England since the early 1500’s up until the present day. Sighting the black hound was suppose to be an omen of death . Christopher Marlowe , the dramatist and contemporary of Shakespeare, supposedly saw a “demon dog” in the 1600’s near the Stiffkey marshes. Marlowe died soon afterwards under mysterious circumstances. Most sightings of the “ ghost dogs ” were points that acted like boundaries such as gates, fences, hedges ( the yew alley ) , bridges, roads, paths, and burial grounds. Black hounds traveled along “ leylines ,” paths that the spirits supposedly traveled. There was an incident of a “ hell hound ” tearing into St. Mary’s Church on August 7, 1577 in southern England. Legend has it that it left scorched marks upon the old, oak doors of the church. In 1933 the doors were cleaned revealing burned marks.
Inspiration for the Setting The mythic moor around Dartmoor also enhanced the creepy setting for the story. The soil there is poor, and the weather is harsh. Fox Tor Mire is a bog with swampy land lying beneath much of it. It is especially treacherous after heavy rains. It became for Doyle the Grimpen Mire of his novel.