Setelah berita penemuan kisah pendek Sherlock Holmes yang hilang oleh Walter Elliot menyebar di mana-mana (termasuk pada tulisan di blog ini sebelumnya), munculah sanggahan yang mengatakan bahwa kisah tersebut ternyata tidak ditulis oleh Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Hal itu disampaikan oleh Mattias Boström, penulis novel fiksi tentang sejarah kesuksesan Sherlock Holmes yang ditulisnya dalam situs http://www.ihearofsherlock.com. Menurutnya tidak adanya kejelasan yang terperinci yang menunjukkan bahwa kisah itu ditulis oleh Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Di bawah ini sedikit cuplikan penjelasan Boström tentang perihal penyanggahannya tersebut:
“The bazaar went on from 10 to 12 December 1903, and each day a prominent person opened it: Lord Polwarth (Lord Lieutenant of Selkirkshire) on the Thursday, George Rodger (Provost of Selkirk) on the Friday, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the Saturday — “the famous litterateur,” as he was called in the booklet, which also contained some information about the Saturday program for the bazaar.
Four days earlier Conan Doyle had given a recital of two extracts from Rodney Stone and three from Brigadier Gerard at the Victoria Hall in Selkirk. Conan Doyle showed his interest in the local bridge by declaring that the proceeds of the recital, at his own request, went to the fund for the new bridge.
The actual reason he was in Scotland at the time was that he was the prospective Unionist candidate for the Border Burghs, and between the two Selkirk events he made political speeches in the nearby towns of Hawick and Galashiels. So he had plenty of reasons to show himself generous.
Conan Doyle’s host, the Selkirkshire historian Mr. Thomas Craig-Brown, made a long introduction to the recital—everything he said was reported in the weekly local newspaper The Southern Reporter—but he made no mention of a new Sherlock Holmes story by Conan Doyle soon being published in the local booklet. It would really have been worth mentioning since Conan Doyle had started publishing new Holmes stories in The Strand Magazine earlier that same autumn.
“We understand that No. 1 of the Bazaar Book will be issued to-day, and will be on sale at the price of one penny. Its contents, both poetry and prose, will be found to be of a most original and attractive nature, the various articles, all more or less of a local interest, being written by our leading literary men.”
They describe the booklet as “No. 1 of the Bazaar Book,” which indicates that there was more than one. This is supported by the fact that the booklet that Walter Elliot has found includes a page with the text “To-Day’s Programme” and showing the program for 12 December. And most importantly, in the story itself “the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book” is mentioned.
To Souters at home and abroad it will form a most interesting Memento of the Town and the Movement, as its Contributors are either Natives, or Borderers who have a close interest in the Town.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was neither a Native, nor a Borderer. And the publisher George Lewis & Co. would surely have mentioned his name here, if he had been one of the Contributors. It was after all an advertisement, and advertisers were never shy of telling and selling things.
The advertisement also reveals the contents of the booklet—or rather, the combined contents of the booklets of all three bazaar days—and that gives us the best proof that the story is not by Conan Doyle. Number 6 on the list of contents is something called “Notable Interviews,” and the persons interviewed are: I. Walter Scott, II. Mungo Park, and III. Sherlock Holmes.
This explains why the Sherlock Holmes story starts like this:
“‘We’ve had enough of old romancists and men of travel,’ said the Editor, as he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. ‘We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from “Sherlock Holmes”?'”
The “romancist” was of course Sir Walter Scott, who administered justice as sheriff of Selkirkshire. Mungo Park was an 18th century explorer of the African continent, born near Selkirk. The reason why Sherlock Holmes was chosen for the third interview was probably the fact that Conan Doyle was announced to open the bazaar. Since these three “interviews” are combined as one item in the list of contents, and there is a reference to the previous two in the Holmes text, it is most likely that they were written by the same author. And at the same time it is unlikely that Conan Doyle wrote all three of them.
The conclusion is that someone local, with at least a minor literary talent, wrote these three interviews. The lost Sherlock Holmes story is definitely a pastiche. Not an especially good one, but an early one, and a good example of how Conan Doyle’s creation was used freely by other authors. For that it should be remembered, and nothing else.