Famous Sherlock Holmes manuscript written at north Norfolk hotel set to fetch $500,000 at American auction
- Credit: Archant
A handwritten manuscript of a famous detective story, which includes sections written during a stay in a north Norfolk hotel, is set to fetch more than $500,000 at an American auction.
The Adventure of the Dancing Men is one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous Sherlock Holmes stories.
It was written in 1903 for Strand Magazine - a decade after the author's first two detective short stories were published to rave reviews.
It is one of 13 stories published in the cycle The Return of Sherlock Holmes and one of only two in which his clients die after seeking the detective's help.
According to Randall Stock, a leading authority on Holmes, the idea for the story originated during his stay in Norfolk when he signed a woman's autograph book which contained drawings by two children, Gilbert John Cubitt and Edith Alice Cubitt.
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He used the children's surname for the detective's client in the story.
The handwritten manuscript includes amendments made by Conan Doyle as well as the original text, laying bare how the plot developed. It also includes original drawings by the author of the dancing men cipher, an idea which is central to the plot of the story and came to Conan Doyle after staying at the Hill House Inn in Happisburgh , previously called the Hill House Hotel when Conan Doyle visited.
The manuscript was last sold at auction 90 years ago after Conan Doyle donated it in 1918 to a different auction on behalf of the Red Cross. The current owner was given the manuscript by her father, a book dealer in Texas.
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The auction will take place in Dallas, Texas, next month and is expected to fetch more than $500,000 (around £353,250) when it is offered for sale by Heritage Auctions on April 18.
Sherlock Holmes is a fictional consulting detective and first appeared in 1887 in the story A Study In Scarlet, the first of four novels and 56 short stories. Many were serialised in the Strand magazine.
Conan Doyle was knighted in 1902 and died in 1930, aged 71.
- To view the lot ahead of the auction visit Heritage Auctions .
The Adventure of the Dancing Men
· The story begins in Holmes's rooms at 221B Baker Street when Hilton Cubitt of Ridling Thorpe Manor in Norfolk visits the detective and gives him a piece of paper with a mysterious sequence of stick figures.
· Cubitt explains to Holmes and Watson that he has recently married an American woman named Elsie Patrick, and before their wedding she had asked Cubitt never to ask about her past, as she had some 'very disagreeable associations' in her life.
· Their happy marriage was suddenly disrupted by the arrival of these messages, first mailed from the United States and then appearing in the garden.
· Holmes, upon examining all of the occurrences of the dancing figures, determines that it is a substitution cipher and thus cracks the code by frequency analysis.
· The last of the messages causes Holmes to fear that the Cubitts are in immediate danger and he rushes to Ridling Thorpe Manor, where he eventually cracks the case.