DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN | Autograph manuscript signed (“Conan Doyle”), titled “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter”
DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN
Autograph manuscript signed (“Conan Doyle”), titled “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter”
34 pages, numbered through the text in blue pencil, on 34 sheets of ruled paper neatly torn from a 4to notebook, marked and issued as a printer’s copy for its first publication, with several revisions, signed and inscribed at the end (“Conan Doyle | 12 Tennison Road | S. Norwood”), n.d. [but 1893]; some foxing, heavier to some leaves than others, marginal tears not affecting text, pp. 22 and 33 with pencil scribbling (presumably by a child, and likely one of Doyle’s), some light fingersoiling. Housed in custom case.
"Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms."— One of Doyle’s most enduring Sherlock tales, which introduces Mycroft Holmes and the Diogenes Club
In terms of its twists and turns, "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" is one of Holmes's more straightforward cases, which is almost certainly to do with the introduction of Mycroft, Sherlock's brilliant but comparatively sedentary brother. The tale is perhaps meant to caution against such "arm-chair detectives," as the narrative concludes with three dead men, and several unpunished murderers. Despite such seeming stylistic and thematic aberrations, "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" is a tour-de-force of deductive observation, offering a prime example of Doyle's genius, and underscoring the originality of his characters.
"The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" first appears in the Strand Magazine in September 1893, and was reprinted in Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes in 1894. It was in this collection that Doyle was compelled to finish off his hero in "The Final Problem." If, however, the author was growing weary of his creation, the present tale bears no evidence of this. With the introduction of the Diogenes Club, and a cast of memorable ruffians, "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" has endured as a high-point of the author's oeuvre, and become an essential touchstone for those seeking to adapt and update Doyle’s work.
Remarkably, nearly all Sherlock Holmes manuscripts look like “fair copies,” but, in reality, are not. These now iconic narratives flowed into Doyle, and he rarely had cause to make corrections or revision. While the present manuscript is, in some ways, a prime example of this, there are also a handful of error, emendations, or discrepancies that are worthy of note: "dilletante," "indespensible," and "venemous," all appear in this draft, a few grammatical errors were caught en route to print, and a number of minor variants appear between the manuscript and the printed version. Here, for example, Mycroft dusts snuff from his "coatfront," and in the printed version it is dusted from his "printed coat." Also, it would seem Doyle had second thoughts about the age difference between Mycroft and Sherlock, striking out “ten” in the present draft, and replacing it with “seven.” The minor corrections that are present serve as evidence of the quickness of Doyle’s mind, and his stylistic sensibilities. Take for example: “[Mycroft] will not even go out of his way to verify his own solution, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right. Again and again I have taken the problem to him, and have received an explanation which has afterwards proved to be the correct one.” This is how the text appears in the published version. In the manuscript, it is presented thus: “He will not even take the trouble to go out of his way to verify his own solutions and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right. Again and again I have taken the problem to him and have received an explanation which has afterwards proved to be the correct one.” Doyle’s apparent disregard for commas is beyond explanation—perhaps he simply couldn’t be bothered—but by striking out “take the trouble” in the first line and replacing it with “go out of his way,” he is able to use “taken the problem” in the second without the prose becoming clumsy or redundant.
Doyle himself ranked "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" seventeenth in a list of his nineteen favorite Sherlock Holmes stories. It also, as mentioned above, holds the distinction of introducing Watson and the reader alike to the Diogenes Club ("the queerest club in London"), and Mycroft ("one of the queerest men"). The club and character—along with the general themes of the narrative—have become prominent features in recent adaptations, proving to be prime points of entry into, and offer expansion of, Doyle's tales. "Art in the blood, Watson. It is liable to take the strangest forms," Sherlock Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) explains to Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) in Elementary (CBS), making direct reference to one of Holmes's assertions in this story. Another episode in the series, titled "Art in the Blood is Liable to Take the Strangest Forms," transfers many elements of the original story to the present day. And in the 24th episode of Elementary, Sherlock describes Mycroft (Rhys Ifans) as a man who "has no ambition and no energy," and who "would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right," directly quoting from the text. In an episode of Sherlock (BBC), titled "A Scandal in Belgravia", Watson (Martin Freeman) is seen drafting a blog post with the heading "The Geek Interpreter." In another, "The Empty Hearse," Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) engage in a friendly competition related to analyzing a knitted hat, which echoes a scene in this story where the brothers observe a man on the street through the window of the Diogenes Club. In “The Abominable Bride,” a Mr. Melas is also referred to as waiting to see Mycroft after he has discussed a case with Sherlock and Watson.
Of the 60 stories in Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, only about half of the original manuscripts survive. No collection or institution can boast of more than two that are complete, and only five libraries own more than one. Single manuscripts are held at Harvard, the Rosenbach Library, the British Museum, the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana Cologny Geneva, and the Huntington Library. Manuscripts from the first three books in the canon—The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892), The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894), and The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905) are exceptionally rare and particularly desirable.
Christie's London, 18 December 1964 — Acquired by Lew Feldman on behalf of the author's son, Adrian Conan Doyle, circa 1980 — Christie's London, 5 May 1982, lot 102
Condition as described in catalogue entry.
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