Bertram Fletcher Robinson: A Footnote to The Hound of the Baskervilles Paperback – 17 Oct 2008
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Poor Bertram Fletcher Robinson; a talented author and journalist who died young and, if he is remembered at all, it is as the fellow who popped the idea for The Hound of the Baskervilles into the head of Arthur Conan Doyle or as the victim of Rodger Garrick-Steele s ludicrous murder conspiracy theories. So it is not before time that British Sherlockians (and members of The Sydney Passengers ) Brian Pugh and Paul Spiring have rescued Fletcher Robinson from unjust obscurity as a footnote to The Hound of the Baskervilles , where he has long languished, with a thoroughly researched biography that demonstrates what promise he held as an author before typhoid contracted during a late 1906 trip to Paris ended his life at only thirty six years of age. An exhaustive bibliography reveals just how prolific and versatile the young journalist was in his sadly truncated career. From his schooldays in Devon at Newton Abbot (a location later to appear in The Hound of the Baskervilles ) through his University days at Cambridge (where he developed his writing skills with regular articles for The Granta , the magazine for under-graduates, and was a busy man on the Rugby field) and his early success contributing articles to Cassell s Magazine , under the editorship of Max Pemberton, Pugh and Spiring have been meticulous in researching and reconstructing B.F.R. s life. A keen sportsman (he was also a cricketer) as well as a writer. It is no surprise that Robinson and the older Doyle should have found so much in common. A good deal of Sherlockian deduction has clearly been necessary to assemble a commendably thorough picture of Fletcher Robinson s short life. To their credit, the authors take care to make it clear when they are only able to speculate, but such speculation strikes this reader as soundly based. It is a pity, perhaps, that an index has not been included but, so packed with names and dates is this account, that an index would probably have been a lengthy one and one would be loathe to sacrifice the bibliography or the copious illustrations. One of the fascinations of B.F.R. s life, which Pugh and Spiring note where another biographer might not, is the number of times B.F.R. s life touched on persons and places of Doylean interest. We learn, for example, that among the young Fletcher Robinson s school contemporaries was Percy Fawcett whose later explorations in South America were to inspire Conan Doyle to write The Lost World (and who incidentally is often cited as one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones); that he contributed in 1897 to a book on Football co-written by Arthur Budd, brother of Conan Doyle s erstwhile medical colleague, Dr George Turnavine Budd; and Fletcher Robinson s uncle was on the managing committee of the Reform Club in the nineties, where he knew Conan Doyle. Indeed, Conan Doyle appears to have attended at least one dinner at the Reform Club at which B.F.R. s uncle was also present. B.F.R. s first short story in Cassell s Magazine was illustrated by F.H. Townsend, one of the artists who later succeeded Sidney Paget illustrating the Sherlock Holmes series. Of course, for the Sherlockian, a large part of the interest in Fletcher Robinson must inevitably be his role in the writing of The Hound of the Baskervilles . Pugh and Spiring devote a whole chapter to this question. It is perhaps fair to say that they have not unearthed anything new, but it is an admirably fair summary of the circumstances as far as they can be known. Pugh and Spiring do offer possible reasons why B.F.R. may not have taken a more active part in what was perhaps conceived as a true collaboration. Of greater interest is the revelation that Conan Doyle also bought from Fletcher Robinson the central fingerprinting faking idea. --The Passengers Log: The Journal of The Sydney Sherlock Holmes Society (Sydney, Australia) Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 42-43, 6th January 2009
Top Customer Reviews
Brian Pugh and Paul Spiring have gone a long way to redressing the balance. Robinson's many works are shown the light of day and we are given a much needed insight into his true level of involvement with The Hound and the reasons why he was content to limit his contribution.
This book should severely dent, if not destroy, the arguments of those people who suggest that more sinister reasons lay behind Robinson's reduced contribution to this famous novel. It also illustrates that this man is definitely worthy of being recognised as more than a mere footnote.