Woolly Wordings 3

Many of you may not know that there are two versions of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  The manuscripts were usually handwritten by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s secretary of forty years, Major Alfred Wood, or by others including the author himself.  After the publishing of the first two novels, most of the remaining manuscripts were edited and published in either a British or American magazine.  Then the document travelled to the other country, where it was edited again and placed in a magazine there.  On occasion this led to some interesting textual departures.

One such instance involved the short story ‘Silver Blaze,’ Sherlock Holmes begins his narrative to Watson with the following sentence from the Strand Magazine: “Silver Blaze,” said he, “is from the Isonomy stock, and holds as brilliant a record as his famous ancestor.”  Isonomy was a very real and famous horse at the time in Britain, but the American editors, failing to understand the connection, used the name Somomy.

In the short story ‘The Naval Treaty.’  As Sherlock Holmes is recounting his scuffle with Joseph Harrison in the Strand Magazine, he says, “He flew at me with his knife, I had to grass him twice, and got a cut over the knuckles, before I had the upper hand of him.”  Unfortunately, the American editors of Harper’s Magazine misunderstood the term “grass,” which simply means to put on the ground, and they changed the word to the rather awkward “grasp.”

NEXT: The housekeeper


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