The Adventure of the Wooden Spoon
May 19, 2004 2:36 PM   Subscribe

"If this was Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, there would be a national outcry". Thousands of personal papers belonging to Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, fetched $1.7 million at an auction Wednesday, with many items sold to private U.S. collectors. The auction was a great disappointment to scholars who had hoped the papers would be donated to a public institution. The archive also became entwined in a mystery worthy of Conan Doyle's fictional detective: the bizarre death of a leading Holmes scholar. Lancelyn Green, 50, was found dead in his bed on March 27, garroted with a shoelace tightened by a wooden spoon, and surrounded by stuffed toys. (more inside)
posted by matteo (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The famous "In Memoriam Sherlock Holmes" by Christopher Morley is here. Morley, one of the forgotten greats of Americal letters and a huge Conan Doyle fan, was the founder of "The Baker Street Irregulars"
posted by matteo at 2:40 PM on May 19, 2004

It's rather naive to assume something worth nearly two million dollars should just be donated. If you found this chest in your new house and knew the value, would you pass on the cash?
posted by smackfu at 2:42 PM on May 19, 2004

matteo, I haven't sorted through all this yet (that should take me what's left of the afternoon), but I just wanted to tell you -- awesome, great, fantastic post. Thank you for pulling all this together!
posted by anastasiav at 2:44 PM on May 19, 2004

Ginsberg sold his papers while he was still alive (to a University) - that's smart. As for the death, suppose that autoerotic strangulation suggests itself as a theory. See, after we eliminate the impossible...
posted by crunchburger at 2:46 PM on May 19, 2004

Slightly OT, but I know there are some Neil Gaiman fans here. His Hugo nominated Sherlock Holmes vs H.P.Lovecraft story is now available here.

Great collection of links there matteo. Thanks.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:58 PM on May 19, 2004

not to mention, we have Conan Doyle fans here on MeFi as well.

the problem is public institutions should have an option when archives of this historical relevance are going to be put up for sale -- you just can't split them. you know, museums (and universities) have money for acquisitions. me, I think that Britain -- and British culture -- became poorer today. we're talking 1.7 million dollars -- I know the war effort is expensive, but one assumes that Downing Street could have spared the cash, after all (chump change for a national -- or even big city -- government, after all).
LBJ, after all, told the University of Texas library people, "go and buy everything in the friggin' world".
unless one thinks that Conan Doyle, as a "mystery" writer, is by definition second-class and not worth the honor. and the money. again, if this was Austen, there would be a national outcry. poor mr Holmes.

I think so often about the dumb way rich people burn their money. I mean, 1.7 million dollars -- rich people spend that at the casino, or at the jeweler's -- in a single day. with that money one could have the Conan Doyle in one's house. but maybe I'm wrong, and 1,000 dollars omelettes are the sane, tasteful way to spend your hard-earned money. bah.
/class warfare

posted by matteo at 2:59 PM on May 19, 2004

"one could have the Conan Doyle papers in one's house"

my bad
posted by matteo at 3:01 PM on May 19, 2004

nice set o' links matteo, and thanks for the Lovecraft-in-Baker-Street link, thatwhichfalls. The story's excellent.
posted by BT at 7:57 PM on May 19, 2004

smackfu:It's rather naive to assume something worth nearly two million dollars should just be donated. If you found this chest in your new house and knew the value, would you pass on the cash?

Nope. But first I'd at least scan every page and toss the scans in the public domain. No reason for culturally significant collections like these to be squirrelled away in safe deposit boxes so Mrs. Jones can be one up on Mrs. Smith.
posted by Mitheral at 7:24 AM on May 20, 2004

This is what happens when you fuck public institutions in the ass. They don't have the cash to outbid private investors, subsequently many of humanity's most precious treasures are sitting in some asshat's living room. I can personally understand the desire for the very wealthy to have... it's the underlying vice in every collector's passion, from comic books to stamps to books. Don't begrudge them their vices.

Of course, anyone possessing such rareities should offer them up for study whenever a university comes a-callin'. You can still own it (<daffy duck>mine! all mine!</daffy>) but at least share it with the world. Let the universities come with their hi-res scanners, show the world what a nice guy you are.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:27 AM on May 20, 2004

matteo: I think that Britain -- and British culture -- became poorer today.

Agreed. At times the British have a very shortsighted attitude to their heritage. It's not as if there aren't plenty of people and institutions to whom a couple of million would have been peanuts. As you say, they'll piss away that kind of money on all manner of garbage, then let an opportunity like this go past. There was the similarly criminal breakup of Potter's Museum of Curiosities, as mentioned in this earlier thread.
posted by raygirvan at 11:54 AM on May 20, 2004

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