Vol.  xxii                                  August, 1901                         No. 128

The Hound of the Baskervilles.


                                                                                                          By Conan Doyle

     The frontispiece of The Hound of The Baskervilles promises the reader that this will be no Victorian drawing room tale.  In heavy hues of black, Sidney Paget  establishes the dreary setting of the moors that give this tale its unique character among the other adventures.  Leaping to the edge of the drawing is the steed which carries the 18th century highwayman, Sir Hugo in his lustful race to claim back the maiden he had "come to love."   The Hound himself is at the heels of the horseman.  Colored in black and etched in black, the Hound is pictured as the phantasm of legend that it represents.  A shepherd who is the first to report the "hound of hell"  stands front and center against the dimly starred sky.  What little light there is in this drawing is found in grayish hues in this troubled sky and in the breeches and flared waistcoat of the soon to be ravaged Sir Hugo.

     Two death scene bookends this first installment.  The first shows the death of the wild despoiler of the Baskerville name,  Sir Hugo.  His hat and crop lie above him, his waistcoat flared at his side.  SP has included just a hint of darkness at the throat to indicate the ravaging done by  " the thing (that) tore at his throat."  Nearby lies the maiden, bathed in the whiteness of the "moon... shining bright upon the clearing."  The reader wishes to trust  Doyle  when he reports her death was due to "fear and fatigue";  Paget does not allow this small comfort. She lies on her side, one arm tucked under her and the other cast behind her, in the pose of a violent death consistent with being ridden down by a hound from her own hell.

     The hound  looks up from his kill,  tail arched and back bowed; the Hound stands squarely betwixt the two bodies and stares at the just arrived riders.

     The "three dare-devil roysters," inspect the scene from a distance, hunched over horse necks and shielding their eyes from the brightness of the moonscape and the horror of its scene.  To their left,  Paget has placed two reminders of the mystic past of the shire that gives credibility to such stories of  a hound "larger than any hound that ever mortal eye has rested on." Two stones of the many henges that dot the island kingdom stand as silent sentinels and witness to the beginning of the legend of the hound.

 The following image brings us to the Victorian present, to the demise of the man who had been restoring the Baskerville name and manor.  The death scene reflects the hues of the first, but not the mysticism.  Barrymore holds aloft a lantern that cuts the gloom surrounding his master's body.  Little detail is added, and there is no illustration to accompany the most dramatic line of the tale, "they were the footprints of a gigantic hound."

     The images of the fantastic are balanced by the typical calm and steadfast routine of London. Holmes and Watson spend two pages on the characteristics of the missed visitor, and the stick on which they base their speculations is featured in the first two images.  Both scenes show the propriety of London life - a noted contrast to the horrors depicted at Baskerville Hall.  Dressed in the rigid formality of the day, the three men sort out the details of the past and present.  The silver serving pieces  and the clock on the mantle subtly illustrating both temes.

     The last image returns to Baskerville  Hall where that same rigid propriety is drawn.  The Dr. Mortimer, looking like the undertaker Baskerville's fatalism expects, stand outside the  arched antiquity of the current Baskerville Hall.  But Sir Hugo is looking to the past and outside of Paget's drawing he is seeing the Hound of Hell that ended his ancestor's life.  His fixed gaze and unsteady reach show depict a man who knows his fate and sees no escape.

 In the first installment of The Hound of the Baskervilles , Paget has presented well the contradictions between past and present,  reality and legend, brutality and innocence,  that will be the  hallmarks of this, the hallmark story of a remarkable collection.

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