The Hound of the Baskervilles: Novel Summary: Chapter 6 - 10

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Summary: Holmes urges Watson to report any even possibly relevant fact about the situation at the Baskerville estate back to him. After eliminating the elderly clergyman Desmond, Holmes enumerates those who live at and around Baskerville Hall whom he does consider suspects in Sir Charles’ death: the Barrymores, Dr. Mortimer and his wife, the naturalist Stapleton and his sister, Mr. Frankland of Lafter Hall and a few other neighbors.” Watson takes a revolver with him. At the platform, Mortimer avers that he and Sir Henry have not been followed again. He says he and the baronet remained together during the previous two days, save for the time Mortimer spent at the Museum of the College of Surgeons and Sir Henry spent in a park (probably Hyde Park, according to Klinger, 462). Sir Henry reports that he never got his other boot back. Holmes urges Sir Henry not to travel the moors alone or at night. The train arrives in Devonshire after only a few hours’ time, and Sir Henry is quite moved by the impressive and imposing sight of Baskerville Hall and its lands, which he has never visited. The company learns that a convict has escaped from the nearby prison at Princetown; armed soldiers keep watch, but the fugitive—the notorious (and possibly insane) Notting Hill murderer, named Selden—has not yet been spotted. Barrymore the butler greets Sir Henry and the others at the Hall, but does announce that he and his wife plan to leave once the Hall’s new master is settled; he says they were greatly devoted to Sir Charles, and cannot stay on comfortably as a result of his death. As Watson tries to sleep that night, he hears the muffled sobbing of a sorrowful woman.

Analysis: This chapter largely serves an atmospheric purpose, further establishing the ominous tone and sense of foreboding that hang over Baskerville Hall and its ill-fated residents as we see the familial estate for the first time, through the eyes of our narrator, Dr. Watson. “My word, it isn’t a very cheerful place,” says Sir Henry, in a masterful understatement (p. 72). Indeed, Baskerville Hall and its environs seem to be, in the topography of Conan Doyle’s novel, the one blemish on an otherwise pleasant stretch of the British countryside. “I never saw a Devonshire man who did not swear by his own country,” remarks Watson (p. 66)—but surely very few, and certainly none who did not hail from the Baskerville line, would swear by this estate! We see it first in “fading light” (p. 70)—a symbolic description, also, of the faded glory of the Baskerville line. Watson’s description of the Hall and its setting—evocative of similar literary houses in decay such as Poe’s House of Usher—not only sets a tone of dread and danger, therefore, but also establishes Baskerville Hall as a liminal location—a “thin place” (as ancient Celts termed them), in “limbo” between two worlds or two realities.

In fantasy, the presence of liminal beings in liminal locations often serves to signal that a protagonist will learn a lesson that could not be taught otherwise. In his book How to Read Literature Like a Professor (Quill, 2003), Thomas C. Foster argues that every trip in a work of fiction is really a quest, and that “the real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge” (Foster, p. 3). It is not immediately clear that such is the case in Conan Doyle’s novel, although the hypothesis is not without merit. One might argue, perhaps, that Sir Henry is in a sense “coming of age” as he comes into his own as squire of Baskerville Hall (e.g., “I was a boy in my teens at the time of my father’s death and had never seen the Hall,” p. 66), and is thus recapitulating in some small sense “the hero’s quest.” Watson certainly provides a heroic description of the baronet in this chapter: “as I looked at his dark and expressive face I felt more than ever how true a descendant he was of that long line of high-blooded, fiery, and masterful men” (p. 67; see also his comment in the next chapter that it is Sir Henry’s way to live in “the place of danger,” p. 86). And the good doctor himself might be considered a potential candidate for liminal instruction, although Conan Doyle’s intent with the character seems to have been never much more than to provide an accessible narrator with whom readers could identify as, together, narrator and audience marvel at the deductive prowess of Sherlock Holmes! (It is no small testament to Conan Doyle’s skill, therefore, that The Hound of the Baskervilles—“another adventure of Sherlock Holmes” in which Holmes himself is absent for such a long stretch of the narrative—continually ranks among readers’ favorites in the Sherlockian “canon.”)


Thomas Foster also rhetorically asks, “What… does geography mean to a work of literature? Would everything be too much?... Geography in literature can… be revelatory of virtually any element in the work” (Foster, p. 164, 166). This thesis holds true for The Hound of the Baskervilles. The physical setting of Baskerville Hall does more than establish a mood or tone; it also establishes thematic material. Readers can clearly see this dynamic at work as Watson writes of Selden, the escaped murderer who is believed to be running loose among the moors: “Somewhere there, on that desolate plain, was lurking this fiendish man, hiding in a burrow like a wild beast, his heart full of malignancy against the whole race which had cast him out” (p. 68). To judge from Watson’s words, Selden sounds the equal of such famous, outcast literary monsters as Grendel and Frankenstein’s Creature!

There may yet be hope for the Baskerville house, both the estate and the lineage: Facing the black and forbidding manor house “is a new building, half constructed, the first fruit of Sir Charles’s South African gold” (p. 69). The half-completed new building reperesents all the good that Sir Charles was doing with his wealth, and the good works that Sir Henry has announced his intention to continue. The new and the old are almost in conflict at Baskerville Hall—e.g., the “twin towers, ancient, crenelated, and pierced with many loopholes” are athwart “more modern wings of black granite” (p. 70); or the contrast between the old dining hall, complete with portraits of a “dim line of ancestors, in every variety of dress, from the Elizabethan knight to the buck of the Regency” and the “modern billiard-room” (p. 72)—all further evidence of the place’s liminal nature. When Sir Henry sees the house, despite the solemn atmosphere, “his dark face [lights] up with a boyish enthusiasm” as he contemplates plans for its improvement (p. 71). (Note how he proposes to bring electricity—British inventor Joseph Swan received a patent for a lightbulb in 1878, a year before Thomas Alva Edison received his patent in America—to the hall “inside of six months,” p. 69—his role, both literally and figuratively, is that of a bringer of light into darkness.) The fact that all is not lost for the Baskervilles lends a sense of urgency to the solution of the mystery. Much is at stake, not only for Sir Henry, but for the disordered, chaotic society around him.

Chapter 7: The Stapletons of Merripit House

Summary: In the morning, Watson learns that the weeping woman he heard the previous night was Mrs. Barrymore, even though her husband denied the fact. He also learns that the telegram Holmes sent from London to Mr. Barrymore was not delivered directly into the butler’s hands, meaning that Barrymore could have been in the city, after all, trailing Sir Henry and Mortimer. While Sir Henry sorts through necessary paperwork, Watson goes walking upon the moor, where he meets the naturalist Jack Stapleton, who lives nearby at Merripit House in the hamlet of Grimpen. His house is an old residence now refurbished for modern living. Mortimer is hunting butterflies, and tells Watson several curious details about the moor, including the fact that the apparently lush and fertile mire around Grimpen is actually a treacherous place, where one “false step… means death to man or beast.” Indeed, the two men watch a pony sucked down into the mire as it attempts to gallop through. The mire has encroached upon the hills over the years, essentially transforming them into highly inaccessible islands; Mortimer, however, goes to the islands to seek his rare specimens. As he is pursuing an especially unusual butterfly, his sister, Beryl Stapleton, approaches Watson and, thinking the doctor is Sir Henry, urges him to return to London as soon as possible. Jack returns and introduces the two; later, Beryl meets Watson on the road back to Baskerville Hall, asking him to forget her warning, which Watson is understandably loathe to do. Beryl tells Watson that she believes in the curse of the Hound, and cannot understand why Sir Henry wishes to place himself in danger. Watson cannot ascertain from Beryl why she could not tell him this in her brother’s hearing; she refuses to elaborate, and returns to Merripit House quickly, before she can be missed.

Analysis: Conan Doyle introduces two new characters in this chapter, Jack and Beryl Stapleton. Mentioned earlier (see Ch. 2, p. 29), Jack Stapleton is a naturalist, as were many well-educated men of means in the Victorian era: not a formally trained scientist as we understand that distinction today, but one well versed in such natural sciences as botany and zoology. Jack was formerly a teacher, but a “serious epidemic” claimed the lives of three boys in his school, causing it to close and “irretrievably swallow[ing] up” much of Jack’s investment in the institution (p. 84). He relates this history in a remarkably casual way; Conan Doyle may be attempting to plant a seed of doubt in readers’ minds, as any good mystery writer does. Part of the author’s task is to cast the gloom of suspicion upon as many characters as possible, heightening suspense and keeping readers guessing about the solution of the mystery. (Note also how, in this chapter, the butler Barrymore engages in suspicious behavior, denying that his wife was crying the night before, even though Watson sees for himself that she was. This fact causes Watson to reflect upon Barrymore’s reliability: “It was he who had been the first to discover the body of Sir Charles, and we had only his word for all the circumstances which led up to the old man’s death,” p. 75).

Jack Stapleton makes repeated references to the unusual nature of the location of Baskerville Hall. He expresses surprise that Sir Henry would “bury himself in a place of this kind” (p. 77)—a striking choice of language, given that Sir Charles has only recently been literally buried! He calls the moor a “queer” and “uncanny place altogether” (p. 81), and states—in a knowing way, which may also raise readers’ suspicions—that Watson “will find some very singular points” about it (p. 82). Yet Jack also seems to enjoy the locale in a way that his sister clearly does not. Even though the moor is “hard to know” (p. 79), Jack knows his way to and from the islands in “the great Grimpen Mire… a bad place” (p. 80). He actively dissuades Watson (who, in several of the Sherlock Holmes stories, establishes himself also as active and witty) from seeking to reach the islands himself—perhaps another point of suspicion? Why does Jack spend so much time upon the moor—solely to add to his impressive butterfly collection?  And why does he react so casually to the drowning of the pony in the mire? As Watson points out, the sight of the horse’s death “turned [him] cold with horror, but [Jack’s] nerves seemed to be stronger” (p. 80). Jack’s reaction to the dead pony is not, in fact, unlike his reaction to his three dead students: author Frederick Ryan-Brown questions how Jack could possibly have felt “simultaneously… uninterested and privileged, and suggests that, based on how the reader eventually comes to understand the character, Stapleton’s first thought is far truer than the second” (Klinger, 485). Certainly, readers may conclude there is more to Jack than meets the eye—as, indeed, is the case with the moor itself. We learn in this chapter that the moor and the Grimpen mire are places where appearances can be deceiving. The mire, for instance, looks to Watson like “a rare place for a gallop” (p. 79), but it is actually treacherous ground. What appear to be “sheep-pens” (p. 81) are actually the huts of Neolithic ancestors (another example of the moor’s liminality, “mired,” as it were, in between the past and the present; according to Klinger, “Baedeker’s Great Britain (1894) characterizes the moors as abounding in menhirs, stone circles, and ‘other relics of the ancient Brtions,” p. 482).


Altogether, the chapter compounds the mystery surrounding Baskerville Hall. Readers may feel as disoriented as Watson: “Life has become like that great Grimpen Mire, with little green patches everywhere into which one may sink and with no guide to point the track” (p. 86). To his credit, however, Watson does not shrink from the mystery in the way that Sir Henry seems to. By the light of the morning, the baronet is able to dismiss his misgivings about Baskerville Hall as the effect of being “tired with [the] journey and chilled by [the] drive,” and he dismisses the sound of Mrs. Barrymore’s weeping as a dream; Watson, in contrast, steadfastly maintains, “I heard it distinctly” (p. 74). The good doctor may be confused at the moment, but readers nevertheless have reason to believe that Sherlock Holmes’ confidence in him as his proxy has been well-placed.

Chapter 8: First Report of Dr. Watson

Summary: Watson writes a letter to Holmes, reporting that Selden, the escaped convict, is believed to have left the area entirely. He also reports that Sir Henry has begun to express an attraction to Miss Beryl Stapleton—a development that appears to cause her brother, Jack, some consternation. Watson has also now seen the yew alley, the scene of Sir Charles’ death, for himself; and has met Mr. Frankland of Lafter Hall, an elderly man who spends most of his time filing lawsuits and surveying the moor with a telescope. Sir Henry has asked Barrymore about Holmes’ test telegram from London: Barrymore confirms that the message was not delivered into his hands; he claims his wife—whom Watson thinks aloof and puritanical—brought it to him and relayed his answer. Watson concludes his letter by reporting that, around two o’clock that morning, he saw Barrymore walking stealthily through the corridors and peering out the window onto the moor, impatiently.

Analysis: This chapter is presented as a letter from Watson to Holmes. There is some irony in the fact that much of Watson’s letter is concerned with matters of the heart, as he tells Holmes of Sir Henry’s “considerable interest in our fair neighbour,” Miss Stapleton (p. 90). Readers may wonder whether Holmes would have observed this development as keenly as Watson does: the good doctor notes, “From the first moment that [Sir Henry] saw her he appeared to be strongly attracted by her, and I am much mistaken if the feeling was not mutual” (p. 91). Watson is also able to discern Jack Stapleton’s disapproval of the baronet’s romantic attentions to his sister, as well as to surmise an explanation: “He is much attached to her… and would lead a lonely life without her” (p. 91). Although readers cannot know whether Holmes would or would not have ascertained these affairs of the heart for himself, they can have no doubt that, know that he knows of them, he will take them into consideration. Holmes’ confidence in sending Watson to Baskerville Hall in his stead is thus further justified. The doctor is developing his own “theories” about the “secret business going on in this house of gloom” (pp. 96, 95); and, indeed, has devised a plan of action in cooperation with Sir Henry to test them; but he, as well as the readers, know that the ultimate solution must await Holmes’ arrival.

Only briefly introduced in this chapter, Frankland nevertheless makes a striking impression, thanks to Watson’s economical but well-chosen words of description: “he fights for the mere pleasure of fighting” (p. 92). How true such motivation seems to be behind so much litigious action, not only in Victorian Britain but also in modern America! Frankland is in Watson’s view a comic character, for his continued engagement in lawsuits seems a reckless waste of his fortune and results in equal amounts praise and disapprobation for him: Frankland “applies his knowledge sometimes in favour of the villagers of Fernworthy and sometimes against them, so that he is periodically either carried in triumph down the village street or else burned in effigy, according to his latest exploit” (p. 93). (According to Klinger, “there was no village of Fernworthy, [but] there was a substantial farming district of that name” in Dartmoor, p. 494.) Readers may also infer that Frankland will prove important for his ongoing observation of the moor, looking for the escaped convict Selden—Watson’s theory that the criminal must be far away, due to lack of food on the moor, seems overly optimistic (and Conan Doyle would not be making so much of the fact were it not to figure into the story at some future point, in some way). Readers will also note that Frankland is one of two people we see watching the moor: the other, of course, is Barrymore, whom Watson secretly spies “crouching at the window with the candle held against the glass… as he stared out into the blackness of the moor… watching intently” (p. 95). It is a suitably Gothic image for this tale of suspense and suggested supernatural mystery—as well as, of course, a potential clue in its ultimate resolution.

Chapter 9: Second Report of Dr. Watson: The Light upon the Moor

Summary: Watson and Sir Henry plan to follow Barrymore on his nocturnal walk that evening, in order to discovery why he stands at the particular window he does, the window “which commands the nearest outlook upon the moor.” In the meantime, Sir Henry asks Watson to leave him alone as he goes down to the moor to visit Miss Stapleton. Watson, torn between his desire to respect his new friend’s privacy and his promise to Holmes to not leave the baronet alone, follows from a distance. Thus he sees Sir Henry and Beryl Stapleton’s animated conversation (which he cannot hear) interrupted by Jack Stapleton, brandishing his butterfly net. After more apparently heated conversation, brother and sister leave Sir Henry. Watson reveals himself to the baronet, who tells him that he was in the midst of proposing marriage to Miss Stapleton. Her brother objected, expressing anger with both his sister and Sir Henry. The baronet cannot understand why Beryl’s brother should possibly object to the match. That afternoon, however, Jack Stapleton visits the Hall, explaining that he is simply upset at the thought of losing his sister to marriage after so many years of togetherness. He asks Sir Henry to wait three months before pursuing any more talk of marriage, in order to give him time to acclimate to the idea. Sir Henry agrees.

For the next two nights, he and Watson carry out their plan of tracking Barrymore to the window. On the first night, they hear no sound of the butler; on the second, however, they do follow him to the window. They watch as Barrymore holds a candle to it, and see a corresponding, answering light on the moor. When they confront Barrymore, they learn from him and his wife that Eliza Barrymore’s younger brother is none other than the escaped convict, Selden. They had taken him in and cared for him prior to Sir Henry’s arrival at Baskerville Hall; once Sir Henry returned, they arranged to signal him privately, every other night, to see if he needed food and provisions. If he answered their signal, they would set out goods for him. Watson and Sir Henry resolve to capture Selden and turn him in to the authorities. When they reach the light on the moor, however—it is a candle so set in the cleft of a tor (an outcropping of rock formed by weathering, usually located at or near a hill’s summit) that it can only be seen on a direct line-of-sight from the window at which Barrymore stood—they are not able to catch Selden, although they see (presumably) the criminal’s “evil yellow face… all seamed and scored with vile passions.” Selden outruns the two men. They hear a terrible crying sound, the sound Watson has heard once previously and which residents of the moor believe to be the baying of the Baskerville Hound; furthermore, Watson alone catches a glimpse of a man atop the tor a taller man than Selden, standing silent and still. Before Watson can point this mysterious figure out to Sir Henry, the stranger is gone. Watson again writes to Holmes, relating all these events to him and urging him to come quickly to Baskerville Hall.

Analysis: As he concludes his second epistle to Holmes, Watson confidently asserts, “We are certainly making some progress” (p. 115). Certainly, several mysteries at Baskerville Hall seem to have been explained. But readers of the detective genre in general and of Sherlock Holmes stories in particular may well intuit that Watson’s confidence in his own investigative abilities may yet prove premature. The good doctor asks Holmes to “congratulate” him, “and tell me that I have not disappointed you as agent” (p. 105). And Holmes may not “regret” sending Watson (p. 105)—yet Watson may discover, as he did in the first chapter, that Holmes values Watson for reasons other than those Watson would presume! It is unlikely, for example, that the detective will be content with Jack Stapleton’s explanation of his behavior toward Sir Henry and his sister, even though Watson and Sir Henry accept this explanation straightaway. Even so, Watson’s work will prove valuable in providing Holmes with “all the facts”—as the doctor himself realizes: he “feel[s] that it is best” that Holmes “select for [him]self those [facts] which will be of most service” (p. 115). Sir Henry’s question regarding his and Watson’s outing in pursuit of Selden—“I say, Watson… what would Holmes say to this?” (p. 111)—in some respect applies to Watson’s entire account of the matter. What would Holmes say? Readers can expect that he will see the same facts as Watson, as well as many others, and yet arrive at different and more fully correct conclusions.

Jack Stapleton’s account of his emotional state, as well as his request that Sir Henry wait three months before officially courting Beryl, rings a bit hollow (not least because, sad to say, it is an explanation Watson had already constructed as a possibility, in his first letter to Holmes-cf. p. 91). More convincing—again, in no small part because it comes as a surprise, and since they have no obvious incentive to manufacture such a tale—is the Barrymores’ revelation that Eliza is Selden’s sister. Conan Doyle has thus established two unusual brother-sister relationships in the novel: Jack and Beryl Stapleton, and John and Eliza Barrymore. These relationships, each one conflicted in some way—Jack’s displeasure at Sir Henry’s attentions to Beryl; the strain John and Eliza bear and the risk they run in supporting their brother who “dragged [their family] name in the dirt” (p. 109)—reinforce the novel’s preoccupation with the influence of family and the inescapable power of lineage, which is, after all, what Sir Henry is reckoning with, as well. The baronet, Watson reports, is sparing no expense to refurbish the Hall and thus “restore the grandeur of his family” (p. 99). Restoring family fortunes—both literal and metaphorical—are emerging as one of the novel’s major thematic concerns.

Regarding Selden’s physical appearance as described by Watson, Klinger notes, “Watson seems… to embrace the popular conception… that criminals could be identified by certain physical characteristics” (p. 515). The irony is that this prevailing medical-physiological theory of the day is no more sound than Mortimer’s devotion to phrenology—or, indeed, than the commoners’ superstitious belief in the Baskervilles’ 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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