Study Guide

The Hound of the Baskervilles Chapter 1

By Arthur Conan Doyle

Chapter 1

Mr. Sherlock Holmes

  • An unknown visitor has come by the house that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson share, but they weren't home to meet him. 
  • Watson inspects a walking stick that the visitor mistakenly left behind. 
  • Watson notices that it's made of nice wood and it has a band of silver under the handle dedicated "To James Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from his friends of the C.C.H.," dated 1884 (1.1).
  • Watson guesses that the stick belongs to an older country doctor, and that it was a present from the local hunting organization.
  • (Watson is talking about fox hunting, the classic British sport of the upper classes that involves hunting down foxes on horseback with a bunch of dogs—total Downton Abbey stuff.) 
  • Holmes breaks the news to Watson: he's mostly wrong.
  • But his dumb ideas have helped Holmes to get the right idea. 
  • (We're only slightly exaggerating how tactless Holmes is with Watson.)
  • Yeah, James Mortimer is a doctor ("M.R.C.S." = "Member of the Royal College of Surgeons"), and he does live in the countryside.
  • But the "H" in "C.C.H." probably means hospital rather than hunt.
  • Holmes concludes that Mortimer must be a young man who did his medical residency at the Charing Cross Hospital before moving out to the countryside to start his own practice.
  • Also, Holmes guesses from tooth marks on the stick that Dr. Mortimer owns a smallish dog.
  • According to Holmes' records, there is a Dr. James Mortimer living in Dartmoor, in a town called Grimpen. 
  • Just then, Dr. Mortimer appears at their door, and it's all as Holmes says.
  • He's young, he has a smallish dog, he left Charing Cross Hospital some time ago to set up his practice in the countryside (because he got married and settled down—that part, Holmes missed).
  • Dr. Mortimer is here because he has a most extraordinary problem (dun-da-DUN-dun).

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