The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles Study Guide

The Hound of the Baskervilles was written in 1901, eight years after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had already 'killed off' Sherlock Holmes in his story, "The Final Problem." However, the novel was not a sequel - the events of The Hound of the Baskervilles take place before those of "The Final Problem."

When Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes, there was much public outrage and grief. More than twenty thousand people quit their subscription to the Strand, the magazine which had popularized the stories. After of The Hound of the Baskervilles proved such a great success, though, Doyle decided to bring the character back to life in 1903, with the story "The Adventure of the Empty House." Luckily, "The Final Problem" contained enough gaps that Doyle could plausibly claim that Sherlock Holmes had faked his own death.

The novel was published in serial form from 1901 to 1902, in the Strand. It is the third out of four novels which Doyle would write about Holmes. It continues to enjoy much success today, and is considered by some Sherlock Holmes scholars to be Doyle's best work. It has inspired over twenty film and television reinterpretations, made in places as diverse as Germany, Australia, the USSR, Canada, the United States, and of course, the United Kingdom. The most recent such reinvention of this story can be seen in the BBC series Sherlock, although this retelling very much differs from the original novel.

Doyle was inspired to write the novel after staying with his friend, Bertram Fletcher Robinson, in 1901. He named the character Sir Henry Baskerville after Robinson's gardener, named Harry Baskerville. Doyle had met Robinson on a return voyage from South Africa, and Robinson, a correspondent for the Daily Express, told him about a legend from his home region of Devon, England. Later, Doyle would write to his publisher that he felt he needed Robinson's name to appear next to his own. "I can answer for the yarn being all my own in my own style without dilution, since your readers like that. But he gave me the central idea and the local colour, and so I feel his name must appear," Doyle wrote.

Robinson showed Doyle the moor, know as Dartmooor, upon which the story is based. It is the largest open space in the southern region of England. In a letter to his mother, Mary, Doyle commented that the moor was "a great place, very sad & wild, dotted with the dwellings of prehistoric man, strange monoliths and huts and graves." The atmosphere of a place uninhabited by man is pervasive in the story, and marks a difference from many of Doyle's other Sherlock Holmes stories, insofar as it is set in the country rather than in London.