Vol.  xxiii.                                September, 1901                         No. 129

The Hound of the Baskervilles.


                                                                                                          By Conan Doyle

    In the leisurely introduction in the first two installments of the Hound of the `Baskervilles   Sidney Paget relies on the stock drawing room scenes so often found in the introductions to these tales.  Mortimer, hands on knees sits in a straight backed chair as a counterpoint  to  Holmes who sits on the edge of his cushioned chair - knees crossed and hand on chin as he cross examines Mortimer.   Watson looks a little bored as he leans on elbow against the mantle with left hand thrust wrist deep into his pocket.     Possibly still stung by being ranked as "the second highest expert in Europe" moments before by Mortimer, yet intrigued at the possibilities of the tale, Holmes alternately berates and praises Mortimer's crime scene manner.  "You have indeed much  to answer for" is the caption Paget used for the drawing.

     The element of time is introduced again in the next image when Mortimer records the time of the next meeting on his shirt cuff.  Watson, nearly obstructed by Holmes' body, peers over the shoulder of his friend who stands with hands on hips, impatiently awaiting the departure of he who has provided the grist for the mill that will turn over the details in a smoke filled self consultation for the next few hours.   That scene is drawn in a dark background representing the "intolerable" shag smoke filled room that Watson returns to in the next image.  With one pipe hanging from his mouth and another apparently at the ready next to the  'second' silver coffee pot,  Holmes is wired with caffeine and nicotine and has made a virtual visit to Baskerville Hall; a he  shows Watson a map of the area of Baskerville Hall.  Watson, once again leaning over Holmes' shoulder, has been reduced  by Paget to a mere head floating above a detached hand that extend from the shag shadow in which he is encased by SP.

     Entering the rooms  the next day in the next drawing is the new master of Baskerville Hall.  Paget follows Doyle's description to the letter as he draws  " a small, alert, black-eyed man about thirty years of age, very sturdily built with thick black eyebrows and a pugnacious face."   Paget draws the figure standing erect with hat in a hand extended to his side and a cane stretched at an angle from the straight  legs which sustain the erect posture of the figure.  Watson comments the bearing indicated "he was a gentleman," and Paget titles the drawing as such, "Sir Henry Baskerville."

     In stark contrast to the formal morning wear of the two visitors, Holmes is dressed in a flowing dressing gown which stops just above his shoes.  Perhaps being second best allows for a bit of a dress down at initial depositions in Holmes'' high court.  He is holding the Times from which he extracts the first glimmer of a clue as to the origin - if not the intent - of the note.  Dr. Mortimer peers at the note on a singularly empty table while   Baskerville, who has probably already tweaked Holmes' vanity by identifying him as a  person who "thinks out little puzzles," sits with hands clasped  staring at Holmes with a pair of puzzled dark eyes, and wonders aloud  whether "we've gotten a bit off the trail."  With this second slight in a matter of minutes, compounded by the original denigration of status by Mortimer earlier, Holmes' aloof stance and expression are Paget's setting for the rebuff of all questions of his status, importance, and techniques by Holmes' explanations which win over Sir Henry, "Well if that isn't smart" he exclaims.

     Holmes, always available for extended sessions of adulation, then is pictured holding the paper an inch from his eyes, with one hand tied behind his back, as he searches for more clues that might allow him to solve the entire mystery from his lodging, by ordering up more shag, coffee and maps.

     But the game is afoot, and the tale finally gets to present day action as Watson follows Holmes in a bungled chase of the tail of Mortimer and Hugo.

 The frontispiece for the Strand article is the last scene of this installment, and is one of the best period  scenes of the canon.    Paget draws a richly textured street scene of Victorian England that goes to the heart of the atmosphere of that period Doyle creates in the tales.  Holmes may have bungled the action, but Paget has not in depicting the setting. The skulking spy is pictured inside a hansom with false beard firmly in place, and eyes looking directly at his own tail. Above and behind him sits the driver of this particularly endearing symbol of Victorian times.

     Holmes, who has quickly exchanged his dressing gown for a coat of tails and a top hat, strolls in attempted nonchalance with the equally attired Watson.  A pipe in Holmes' hand and a cane suitable for strutting in Watson's hand sets off the ensembles, sure to be a hit in the spring fashion shows of '01.
     Behind the hansom, is a double decker transport drawn by two fully haltered and blindered steeds stepping in unison down the thoroughfare.  This driver is perched in front of his fares who sit atop the deck enjoying what Holmes, a sometimes  reveler in the beauty of nature, recognizes as "a fine day."

     Another similar vehicle and perhaps a third occupy the street, and there is a hint of bustle in the crowded image with which Paget presents us.  The awninged store fronts and multi-storied buildings present a hurried and crowded setting that make a perfect foil for the upcoming events in the moor  :-) secluded setting of Baskerville Hall we are about to be plunged into by Sidney Paget and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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