DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN. 1859-1930.
Autograph Manuscript Signed ("A Conan Doyle"), entitled "The Problem of Thor's Bridge" and "Continuation of 'The Problem of Thor's Bridge'," 48 pp in two parts, 8vo and 4to, Crowborough, East Sussex, c.1922, in various colored inks with revisions in ink or pencil on yellow-ruled paper, some pages clipped, some soiling, folds and marginal tears, hole in upper left corner of second part from removal of metal clasp. First part bound in near contemporary white cloth lettered in gilt, bound for Doyle or his son; second part loose in custom red cloth portfolio and box.
Provenance: offered by Lew Feldman as part of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Archives in 1971; Christie's London, Valuable Autograph Letters, April 29, 1981, Lot 174.
One of the final stories of the Sherlock Holmes canon, and much prized by Sherlockians as it mentions Dr Watson's tin dispatch box and its contents. It was first published as "The Problem of Thor Bridge" simultaneously in both The Strand Magazine and Hearst's International Magazine, February and March 1922; and reprinted in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, (London: John Murray and New York: George H. Doran Co., 1927). Sherlock Holmes is called in when the husband of a murdered woman insists that his sweet tempered governess could not be the killer although a note in her hand is found with the bloodied body and the murder weapon turns up in her wardrobe. The title of this story went through several permutations as noted at the top of the first page: "From Watson's Box" (?), "The Adventure of the Second Chip," "The Problem of Rushmere Bridge," and finally "The Problem of Thor's Bridge," when it was simplified to "The Problem of Thor Bridge." "Continuation of 'The Problem of Thor's Bridge'" was originally titled "Continuation of 'The Adventure of the Second Chip.'" Some other revisions are curious: Miss Dunbar was originally "Miss Burton," and Grace Dunbar was once named "Edith"; references to "Rushmere" were altered to "Thor's Bridge"; Maria Gibson confronted governess Miss Dunbar on the bridge with "her dark face all distorted with passion," but later "still shrieking out her curses at me"; she was originally shot in the heart rather than the head. On page 8 of the manuscript is a discussion between Holmes and Watson of the finer points of the case:
"...I had only given the matter very perfunctory attention as I should have seen how very evident is this young lady's innocence."
"Her innocence! Holmes, you are joking!"
"Is it possible that my resumé of the case has made no impression upon your mind. Suppose for a moment we visualize you, Watson, in the character of a woman who in a cold blooded premeditated fashion is about to...."
Apparently that was just too much for the great detective to imagine and Conan Doyle crossed out the passage. Elsewhere the writing proceeded clearly and efficiently without much alteration. This story is especially prized by Sherlockians because it mentions for the first time Dr Watson's tin dispatch-box, kept in the vaults of the bank of Cox & Co., at Charing Cross,
"It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine". Among its contents is mentioned specifically the case of "Mr James Phillimore who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world." This tantalizing cold case has inspired several solutions to the mysterious disappearance, most notably "The Adventure of the Highgate Miracle," written by his son, Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr. "The Problem of Thor Bridge" was twice dramatized on British TV in 1966 and 1984; it is referred to in the opening of Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), and by two TV series, Murder She Wrote in 1992, and Elementary in 2012 and 2013.
See Blau, "It is an Old Manuscript: The Adventure of the Second Chip," Baker Street Miscellanea, (Summer 1981, pp 8-10).
- This 48 page manuscript is paginated in lower right hand corners in manuscript pp. 1-43, with the addition of 5 half-page sheets unnumbered at 33a, 33b, 34a, 34b, and 39a.