The Hound of the Baskervilles: Novel Summary: Chapter 11 - 15


Summary: Watson questions Laura Lyons, who reluctantly tells him that she wrote to Sir Charles on the day of his death. Persecuted by her husband and her father (Frankland), she was seeking further assistance toward her financial independence (she has also been receiving help from Stapleton). Mrs. Lyons insists, however, that she never went to Baskerville Hall that day; she claims to have received help from elsewhere, and planned to commence divorce proceedings against her husband, a claim Watson intends to verify—although he must admit to himself that her story hangs together. He still intuits, however, that she may be hiding some truth from him. The doctor then turns his attention to seeking the man he saw on the Black Tor; he receives unexpected help from Frankland, who claims to have seen the messenger boy who takes Selden his food. Watson knows the truth: the boy is supplying food to the unknown man upon the moor, and not to Selden (who has been supplied by the Barrymores). Frankland shows Watson the boy through his telescope, as he is delivering one of his bundles. Watson goes to the same old stone hut as the boy. It is empty at the moment but shows signs of being recently inhabited, chief among them a surprising note: “Dr. Watson has gone to Coombe Tracey.” Watson fears that this stranger is pursuing him rather than Sir Henry until the hut’s inhabitant returns, revealing himself to be none other than Sherlock Holmes.

Analysis: Poor Dr. Watson—his efforts are admirable, but he will never be able to outshine Holmes! Which is, of course, only as it should be: having Watson as an affable foil to the often abrasive but indisputably brilliant Holmes is the chief way in which Conan Doyle characterizes his most famous character. We see Holmes through Watson’s admiring eyes, and thus come to admire him ourselves. Thus we can forgive the master detective his dramatic entrance, in which he has some fun at Watson’s expense. Holmes’ arrival even has a slight air of justice about it, for Watson has earlier speculated, “It would indeed be a triumph for me if I could run [the man on the tor] to earth where my master had failed” (p. 132). Were Watson to best Holmes, things would be even more out of joint than they already are! Conan Doyle’s use of “master” language may seem odd, smacking as it does of Victorian British class structure; it implies that Holmes and Watson are not equals. While they are equal in a socio-economic sense (they do, after all, share the flat at Baker Street), they are not equal in their deductive ability. And so we also likely feel some of Watson’s relief that Holmes has, at last, arrived—for Watson has been effectively stymied in his own detecting work: “Once again,” he laments after his interview with Laura Lyons, “I had reached that dead wall which seemed to be built across every path by which I tried to get at the object of my mission” (p. 131). For all these reasons, then, readers may fairly anticipate that Holmes’ arrival on the scene marks the beginning of a “re-ordering” of the disordered social world of the novel.

The marital status of Laura Lyons reflects some of the social disorder with which Victorian society was grappling. As Klinger points out, “Victorian society had little regard for divorced (or separated) women” (p. 538), and so both Watson’s and the reader’s sympathies for Laura Lyons are to be assumed as she faces the predicament of dealing with an abusive father on the one hand and an abusive husband on the other. Nonetheless, Mortimer has previously stated that he does not believe Mrs. Lyons to be completely blameless, and so some prejudice toward her has already been injected into the narrative. Certainly, Watson’s suspicions about her are not completely allayed after his interview with her. In the original manuscript of this chapter (Chapter 11 is the only portion of the work, aside from single pages, still known to exist in manuscript form), Watson’s suspicions are voiced somewhat more strongly: “Either she was an accomplished actor and a deep conspirator, or Barrymore had misread the letter, or the letter was a forgery…” (p. 539). As the text stands, however, we are left with Watson’s grudging conclusion that Mrs. Lyons’ “story hung coherently together, and all my questions were unable to shake it” (p. 131). (For his own part, Conan Doyle proved an advocate of divorce law reformation, seeking to improve the ease with which women could be granted a divorce, not just a separation.)

Chapter 12: Death on the Moor

Summary: Once Watson has recovered from the shock of the detective’s self-revelation, Holmes explains that he has not, in fact, been occupied with a blackmail case in London; he has been secretly investigating the Baskerville case on his own. (The boy who has been supplying him is Cartwright, from the telegraph office in London.) Watson tells Holmes about his interview with Laura Lyons; Holmes informs Watson that the woman is intimate with Jack Stapleton, and that Beryl Stapleton is, in fact, Jack’s wife and not his sister. Holmes did not know that Lyons was planning to divorce her husband; he surmises that she planned on marring Stapleton, whom she did not know was already married. Holmes has also concluded that Jack was their mysterious, bearded pursuer in the city, and that Beryl sent Sir Henry the cut-and-paste letter of warning. Holmes and Watson hear a terrible scream; they discover a corpse with an expression of terror on its face whom they initially believe to be Sir Henry, based on its clothing, broken upon a rocky ridge. Upon closer examination, however, they discover that the dead man is Selden. Watson recalls how the Barrymores had given Sir Henry’s old clothes to Selden as part of their support for the fugitive. Holmes deduces that the hound—a real hound, not the Hound of legend—must have been trained to track Sir Henry based upon an item of his clothing (likely the boot stolen from Sir Henry at the hotel in London). Jack Stapleton approaches Holmes and Watson and expresses shock at Selden’ death. He claims to have been concerned for Sir Henry because he had invited the baronet to come to the Stapletons’ home that night, and he never arrived; when he heard the screams, he says, he grew worried.

Analysis: This chapter provides some additional insights into Holmes’ characters, showing us as it does the detective’s obvious enjoyment of having befuddled Watson with his unexpected appearance. Watson describes Holmes’ voice as “cold, incisive, [and] ironical” (p. 139), adjectives that could as easily describe the man himself as well as his manner of speaking! And yet perhaps not entirely cold: although surely Holmes is pleased with himself at having surprised the good doctor, he is also concerned (albeit to a lesser extent) with his colleague’s feelings. When Watson complains that he thinks he should “have deserved better [treatment] at [Holmes’] hands,” Holmes assures Watson that his “zeal and intelligence” while on his own have “been invaluable” (p. 141). Knowing that Watson is “rather raw over the deception” (p. 141), Holmes praises him—not, it seems, insincerely—and seems genuinely pleased to see “the shadow rise from [Watson’s] face” as a result (p. 142). Thus, while Holmes does remain primarily concerned with his own methods and the mystery at hand, readers see that he is not completely without human feeling and sensitivities. They are simply not his normal modus operandi! As he tells Stapleton at the chapter’s end, “[a]n investigator needs facts and not legends or rumours” (p. 150)—nor, it seems, undue emotional material, except insofar as it may explain the motives of those involved in a case. (For example, he does understand that Laura Lyons may be more forthcoming when she “is undeceived” of the notion that Beryl Stapleton is Jack’s sister, p. 144). The chapter also shows us that Holmes is not infallible (merely nearly so!). He makes the same mistake Watson does when finding the body upon the moor: he initially identifies it as Sir Henry simply because the corpse wears the baronet’s clothing. Nor is Holmes completely unflappable: when he and Watson hear Selden’s dying screams, Watson notes that Holmes, “the man of iron, was shaken to the soul” (p. 145).

Chapter 13: Fixing the Nets

Summary: Holmes instructs Watson to keep all knowledge of the hound that tracked Selden a secret from Sir Henry, in order that the baronet may be better prepared to face dinner with the Stapletons the next evening. Holmes has a plan that hinges upon Sir Henry’s attendance. At Baskerville Hall, Watson tells the Barrymores of Selden’s death; the husband seems relieved, but his wife, Selden’s sister, weeps with grief. While speaking with Sir Henry, Holmes takes notice of the portraits of his ancestors, including a portrait of Hugo Baskerville, who seems, to Holmes’ eyes, “a quiet, meek-mannered man enough,” and not the reprobate of legend whose exploits supposedly brought the curse of the Hound upon his line. When Sir Henry leaves, Holmes points out to Watson how much Stapleton resembles Hugo. Holmes concludes that Stapleton must be, in fact, a member of the Baskerville family, scheming to take Sir Henry’s inheritance. The next morning, Holmes announces that he and Watson will be returning to London prior to the dinner engagement with the Stapletons. Holmes insists that Sir Henry relay the message to the Stapletons that he and Watson hope to return soon, and also to drive to Merripit House but then announce his intention to walk home across the moor, alone, after dinner. Sir Henry does not understand why Holmes is reversing his previous counsel, but agrees to do so. Later, in Coombe Tracey, Holmes instructs young Cartwright to send a telegram in Holmes’ name to Sir Henry, requesting the baronet return a dropped pocketbook by registered mail to Baker Street. When Cartwright returns from the telegram office, he brings a wire from Inspector Lestrade for Holmes, indicating that the police officer is on his way with an unsigned warrant. Holmes and Watson visit Laura Lyons, telling her the truth about Stapleton and learning from her that Jack Stapleton’s dictated the letter she sent to Sir Charles, but also telling her not to keep the appointment with him (protesting that he alone wanted to give her financial assistance, that they might be married).

Analysis: This chapter’s events and revelations contribute to readers’ sense that we are approaching the dénouement, chief among them the fact that Stapleton is, in fact, a Baskerville. This identity supplies him with a motive for mischief and murder, as Watson realizes: “designs upon the succession” to Baskerville Hall (p. 156). Laura Lyons’ information, too, clarifies matters: Stapleton was arranging a way to lure Sir Charles to a secret meeting, a meeting at which he could take action against him. As Holmes says, “Our case becomes rounded off, and difficulty after difficulty thins away in front of us” (p. 162). His confidence, indeed, borders on hubris, as befits his character: “I shall soon be in the position of being able to put into a single connected narrative one of the most singular and sensational crimes of modern times” (p. 162). It only borders on that overweening pride, however, because, of course, Holmes will be proven correct (in fact, within the narrative’s world, the very existence of the story bears out his judgment—else Watson would not be reporting it!). This lesson is one that Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard has long since taken to heart. Lestrade is a recurring chacter in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes “canon.” At his initial meeting with Holmes (in the very first story, A Study in Scarlet), he did indeed express “scorn” at Holmes’ theories; now, however, he has “learned a good deal” and is “reverential” toward the detective, eager to assist him (p. 162).

One notable passage in this chapter preserves the humanity of Selden, the dead criminal, as his sister, Mrs. Barrymore, grieves for him: “To all the world”—and, indeed, to Watson, when he spotted the escaped convict on the moor—Selden “was the man of violence, half animal and half demon; but to her he always remained the little willful boy of her own girlhood, the child who had clung to her hand. Evil indeed is the man who has not one woman to mourn him” (p. 153). Watson’s words are a touching reminder of the common humanity uniting all people. (Another reminder may be seen in Holmes’ laughter, ominous though it is for such criminals! Watson remarks that Holmes’ laughter is rare, and, indeed, it seems to be so. According to Klinger [p. 27], one Sherlock Holmes enthusiast has found 65 instances of a laugh and 31 instances of a “chuckle” in all 60 Holmes stories!)

Chapter 14: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Summary: Holmes, Watson and Lestrade return to Dartmoor and walk through a fog-covered night upon the moors to Merripit House, where a concealed Watson observes Sir Henry and Jack Stapleton alone, conversing over cigars, coffee and wine after their dinner. Watson watches as Stapleton leaves the room and goes to an out-house which he enters and from which Watson hears “a curious scuffling noise.” He rejoins Sir Henry, and Watson reports what he has seen to the detective and the police inspector. The three wait, in suspense, for Sir Henry to begin his way back to Baskerville Hall. When he finally does so, they see a terrifying hound, apparently glowing with unearthly fire, chasing the baronet. Holmes and Watson fire revolvers at the beast, but not before it attacks Sir Henry, going for his throat. Empting his gun’s chamber into the hound, Holmes kills it before it can kill Sir Henry. The animal is a bred combination of bloodhound and mastiff, its mouth and eyes having been made up with phosphorous. Upon entering Merripit House, the men find Mrs. Stapleton bound and gagged; when they free her, she tells them that Jack has fled to a tin mine on an island in the middle of Grimpen Mire. The dense, rolling fog prevents Holmes and his party from giving chase. The next morning, they discover Sir Henry’s missing boot—which Stapleton used to put the hound on the baronet’s scent and then flung away as he fled, having heard Holmes’ and Watson’s pistol shots—and traces of Stapleton’s presence in the tin mine where he housed the ferocious animal, but no sign of Stapleton himself. He is presumed to have sunk deep into the miry bog.

Analysis: The penultimate chapter of Conan Doyle’s novel is a classic of suspense. As previously, the author here again uses his story’s setting for its fullest effect, creating an appropriately tense atmosphere: The fog “was drifting slowly in our direction… [Holmes] muttered impatiently as he watched its sluggish drift” (p. 165); “So as the fog-bank flowed onward we fell back before it… that dense white sea, with the moon silvering on its upper edge, swept slowly and inexorably on” (p. 166). Further tension is created by Sir Henry’s delay at leaving Merripit House: “the baronet looked pale and distrait. Perhaps the thought of that lonely walk across the ill-omened moor was weighing heavily upon his mind” (p. 165). Both elements create the sense that time is standing still, and this narrative delay increases the suspense to the fullest possible degree before it is resolved. Additionally, this chapter is remembered for its remarkable revelation of the hound: “A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen” (p. 167). Watson’s initial descriptions of the beast—“Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame” (p. 167)—create a kind of cognitive dissonance in the first-time reader: could this actually be the supernatural monster long feared by the Baskervilles and their neighbors on the moor? No; we soon learn that the animal has been bred for size and ferocity, and made-up with a “cunning preparation” of phosphorous material (p. 168). Nevertheless, for the moment in which the hound attacks Sir Henry, readers will have to concede that Watson (thus, of course, Conan Doyle!) has achieved the stated aim of making them “share those dark fears and vague surmises which clouded our lives so long and ended in so tragic a manner” (p. 171). The novel thus illustrates the literary principle of catharsis: a cleansing, purifying emotional release, intended to refresh the spirit. Indeed, Holmes’ words to Mrs. Stapleton (whom her abusive husband has, in cruel irony, treated no better than one of his butterfly specimens) hint at catharsis—the re-ordering a disordered world, both social and emotional—as one of the book’s concerns (a concern it has in common with much detective fiction): “If you have ever aided him in evil, help us now and so atone” (p. 171).  The novel’s social world is now set right. The mystery of the hound has been explained in a rational manner; Sir Henry’s life has been spared (indeed, we learn that after world travel the young baronet becomes again “the hale, hearty man that he had been,” p. 171); and, although Stapleton is not made to stand trial for his crime of murdering Sir Charles and Selden, and attempting to murder Sir Henry, he nonetheless faces a certain poetic justice in meeting his fate on the moor: “Somewhere in the heart of the great Grimpen Mire, down in the foul slime of the huge morass which had sucked him in, this cold and cruel-hearted man is forever buried” (p. 173). (Of course, as some Holmes enthusiasts have pointed out, it may be “premature to announce Stapleton’s death”—see Klinger, p. 600—as any good mystery fan knows, no one can safely be presumed dead without a corpse!)

Chapter 15: A Retrospection

Summary: Some time later, Watson and Holmes review the facts of the Baskerville case. The detective gives final clarification to several points. Stapleton was the son of Sir Charles Baskerville’s brother Rodger, who had fled to South America. After having embezzled public money, Stapleton moved, with his bride Beryl Garcia, to England, where, having changed his name, he established his school (the one true point of his biography that Stapleton had revealed to Watson). Changing his name for the last and final time, he and Beryl moved to Devonshire. Learning that only Sir Charles and Sir Henry stood in the way of his family fortune, he made plans to kill them, using his wife as a decoy and a hidden hound, disguised to look like the Hound of legend, as his weapon. He won the affections of Laura Lyons, whose unkept appointment (at Stapleton’s arranging) with Sir Charles gave Stapleton the chance to unleash the hound upon him. The hound ran on the grass, leaving no tracks behind and thus contributing to the suggestion of a supernatural event. Now turning his attention to Sir Henry, Stapleton took his wife to London with him—not trusting her enough to leave her alone—where he shadowed Mortimer and Sir Henry in his bearded disguise—and where Beryl sent her warning letter to the young baronet, fearing what her husband might do. Stapleton bribed the hotel staff in order to obtain an article of Sir Henry’s clothing, the boot, that the hound could use to track the heir. (While Stapleton was in the city, he left the hound in the care of Anthony, an elderly servant who had been connected with Stapleton for several years, since his stay in South America.) Holmes then conducted his secret surveillance of Stapleton, claiming a non-existent blackmailing case demanded his attention; when ready, he revealed himself to Watson, and the case entered its final phase. When Stapleton learned that Beryl knew of Selden’s death and held him responsible, he beat and bound her so that she would have no chance to warn Sir Henry. Holmes regrets having felt compelled to use Sir Henry as “bait,” but takes comfort in the fact that the baronet will recover in time. The case thus satisfactorily resolved, Holmes and Watson prepare for dinner and an evening at the opera.

Analysis: The novel’s final chapter admirably accomplishes the purpose of detective fiction, mentioned earlier: of putting a disordered society back to order, of restoring ease to a dis-eased world. Much of the information Holmes covers is, of course, already known to careful readers by this point (although there is some new information included, such as the introduction of Stapleton’s servant Anthony, and the speculations about how Stapleton would have claimed Baskerville Hall had his plot succeeded). Nonetheless, logical and aesthetic gratification is to be found in Holmes “kindly giv[ing Watson] a sketch of the course of events” (p. 175). The summary gives the readers a final opportunity to put all the details of the case in order, to distinguish between true clues and false leads (for instance, the litigious character of Frankland emerges as largely irrelevant, save for his role in exacerbating his daughter Laura’s plight), and thus either reassuring themselves that they have successfully matched wits with Holmes (and, by extension, the author), or—more likely Conan Doyle’s intent—having one more chance to marvel at his abilities. Holmes speaks with the barest possible amount of false modesty—e.g., “That Sir Henry should have been exposed to this [trauma] is, I must confess, a reproach to my management of the case,” pp. 181-82; and, in fact, some readers have concurred: “Ian McQueen chides Holmes for not having anticipated the overwhelming possibility of sudden fog, and for taking his oversight lightly,” Klinger, p. 610); but on the whole it is clear that Holmes is satisfied with his investigation—as is evident in the fact that, by the time Watson inquires about it at the chapter’s outset, Holmes has already moved on to more pressing matters: “the case has now been so entirely cleared up that I am not aware that there is anything which has remained a secret to us” (p. 175). And although he indirectly thanks Watson again for his role (particularly the information that Stapleton used to be a headmaster), he stresses, “I had already come to the same conclusions from my own observations” (p. 181). It is thus both curious and ironic that the great detective, who so clearly views himself as self-sufficient, should be forever linked in the popular imagination with the man he once called “my Boswell” (“A Study in Scarlet”): readers cannot think of Sherlock Holmes without also thinking of the character through whose writings (ostensibly) we come to know him, Dr. John Watson. The two are an inseparable pair, and thus it is pleasing to see them planning to enjoy a night in London society together as the book draws to its close. That detail, too, reinforces the satisfactory sense of proper resolution to all things, that sense of well-being and order that is one of the enduring appeals of the Sherlock Holmes “canon.” As author and Holmes enthusiast Vincent Starrett wrote in his poem, “221B”:

Here dwell together still two men of note

Who never lived and so can never die:

How very near they seem, yet how remote

That age before the world went all awry.

But still the game’s afoot for those with ears

Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:

England is England yet, for all our fears–

Only those things the heart believes are true.

A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane

As night descends upon this fabled street:

A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,

The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.

Here, though the world explode, these two survive,

And it is always eighteen ninety-five.

elief teѢlles’ hell-hound (of which more in the next chapter). Conan Doyle’s novel thus seems to have a thematic interest, at least from a modern perspective, of the way preconceived ideas can limit our perception of reality.

Chapter 10: Extract from the Diary of Dr. Watson

Summary: At breakfast, Barrymore implores Sir Henry and Watson to pursue Selden no more, stating that Selden will shortly be leaving the country, heading to South America where he will trouble England no more. Sir Henry agrees not to inform the police of Selden’s location. In gratitude, Barrymore reveals that, the morning of his death, Sir Charles had received a letter from a woman whose initials were “L.L.” and who lived in nearby Coombe Tracey. The letter-writer asked Sir Charles to meet her at the yew-alley gate that evening, and to burn the letter; Barrymore’s wife only later discovered the charred remnant in Sir Charles’ hearth. The next day, Watson visits the tor where he spied the unknown man the night he and Sir Henry chased Selden. He encounters Mortimer, searching for a lost spaniel (whom Watson fears has been absorbed by the Grimpen Mire). Mortimer tells Watson about Laura Lyons, the daughter of the litigious Mr. Frankland. Laura married an artist who deserted her, and her father has practically disowned her—although Mortimer hints that she may not be without blame in these strained relations. He also states that Selden told him of another man on the moor. He does not know who this man is, but he doesn’t believe he is another convict, nor is he police. He knows, from Selden, that this second man has a “lad” who supplies his wants from Coombe Tracy.

Analysis: This chapter is replete with further examples of the “pathetic fallacy”—the use of natural setting to reflect emotional and psychological realities behind the story. Watson, indeed, makes this external-internal connection explicit when describing October 16 as a “dull and foggy day”—referring not only to the physical fog but his own mental fog and “weight of heart”, perplexed by the mystery of Baskerville Hall; cf. also Sir Henry’s “black reaction,” mirroring the gloom of the weather—“…melancholy outside and in” (p. 116). The chapter ends as it begins, with an explicit connection between setting, character, and theme: Watson watches the driving rainstorm and allows it is “a wild night [even] indoors, and what must it be in a stone hut upon the moor. What passion of hatred can it be which leads a man to lurk in such a place at such a time?” (p. 125). The confused violence of the storm reflects the confusion of Sir Henry and Watson as well as the violence of Selden and his (as yet) unknown confederate. Chaos is reigning supreme (in Western literature, from the Bible on, water and storms routinely symbolize chaos and disorder). Small wonder Watson again wishes Holmes were present (p. 121), as the detective has a way of ordering chaos. In an endearing passage in this chapter, Watson states, “I am certainly developing the wisdom of the serpent”—an allusion to Matthew 10.16, where Jesus instructs his disciples to be “as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves”—“I have not lived for years with Sherlock Holmes for nothing,” p. 123. Yet even he knows, once more, that he is no match for his friend. Watson resolves “to reach the heart of the mystery” the next day, p. 125, but he will, in the end, be well-intentioned but as “harmless as a dove”!

Watson laments—in yet another example of the pathetic fallacy—“God help those who wander into the great mire now, for even the firm uplands are becoming a morass” (p. 121): a statement not only about the physical location but also about the precarious situation of those, such as Watson, who wander into the “mire” of the Baskerville Hall mystery; and, further, who are confronted by, seemingly, the very grounds of civilized society shifting beneath their feet. This fin de siecle malaise gripped Britain (and much of the rest of Europe) as the era of Victoria ended, and the 19th century gave way to the 20th (appropriately, Queen Victoria died in the year 1900 itself). In 1895, Max Nordau, literary and social critic, described the fin de siecle thus: “The disposition of the times is curiously confused… The prevalent feeling is that of imminent perdition and extinction. Fin de siecle is at once a confession and a complaint… [M]ankind with all its institutions and creations is perishing in the midst of a dying world” (quoted in Bernard Bergonzi, The Early H.G. Wells, Manchester University Press, 1961, p. 5). Readers can find traces of this mindset permeating the pages of The Hound of the Baskervilles. As already alluded to, the once-stately, now-in-disrepair Baskerville Hall itself symbolizes this sense of decline. In this chapter, too, we find Watson evoking a classism that will not accord well with the modern era to come: to believe in the superstition of the spectral Hound, he declares with no small measure of self-congratulatory pride, “would be to descend to the level of these poor peasants…” (p. 117). And we are reminded again of the evidence of prehistoric—and, hence, pre-civilized—man around the moor: Selden’s unknown ally lives among “the stone huts where the old folk used to live” (p. 125), a powerful reminder of what many Victorians feared as the encroaching lack of civilization. Further evidence of the Victorian preoccupation with preserving what they perceived as an increasingly fragile society may be found in Watson and Sir Henry’s attitude that, so long as Selden is heading for South America, he does not need to be turned over to authorities. Klinger points out that Watson’s attitude “is reminiscent of the English penal policy of ‘transporation,’ the government program of removal of criminals from England and shipping them to America or the Australian colonies… Both Dr. Watson and the government seem to believe that so long as a criminal is removed from England, it little matters where he or she goes or whether the convict continues in his or her criminal ways” (p. 524). If so, such an attitude reflects a limited worldview of extreme self-interest, an attempt to preserve one’s own comfortable social order rather than engage in true reform of it. As Klinger goes on to point out, “Mrs. Barrymore certainly never suggested that Selden had repented or changed in any way. Sir Henry’s condonation here seems incredible” (p. 525). Less incredible, perhaps, if understood as unwittingly revelatory of fin de siècle malaise. So long as the criminal will not be “in my backyard” (to borrow a modern idiom), all will (purportedly) be well. Sir Henry and Watson are, in effect, washing their hands of the matter of Selden. Whether this decision is wise remains to be seen.

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