EDITORIAL & NEWS

Arthur Conan Doyle
& Cutcliffe Hyne
& “The Lizard”

by Margie Deck & Nancy Holder

Discussions concerning Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Terror of Blue John Gap” almost invariably include some acknowledgment that Doyle likely found inspiration for the story from Cutcliffe Hyne’s “The Lizard,” as Charles Prepolec does here in his discussion of the story’s place in the supernatural literature of its time, and as the Doings of Doyle podcast duo, Dr. Mark Jones and Paul M. Chapman, noted in their “The Terror of Blue John Gap” episode.

Hyne’s earlier tale is certainly similar to Doyle’s: a cave-exploring young man is willing to transverse a mysterious opening in Yorkshire, walking in near-darkness and dangerous water, to satisfy his own curiosity; he then encounters and escapes from a pre-historic creature.

“The Lizard” first appeared in The Strand Magazine in June 1898 with five illustrations by veteran Strand illustrator Paul Hardy. (Hardy had previously provided illustrations for Doyle’s “Beyond the City” in 1891.)

The Internet Speculative Fiction database suggests, “C. J. Cutliffe Hyne was famous for his Captain Kettle series, which was a regular series in Pearson's Magazine, intended to compete with the Sherlock Holmes series in The Strand. He also wrote detective fiction under the Weatherby Chesney pseudonym.”

The ISFD listing for Hyne includes a dozen Captain Kettle adventures, seven novels and more than fifty short fiction works. Editors Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin Harry Greenberg included “The Lizard” in their anthology, Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Science Fiction of the 19th Century, published by Beaufort Books in 1981.

Prepolec also notes that “The Lizard” may have provided some inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Lair of the White Worm, published in 1911. One of your editors had hopes of reading Stoker’s work and providing some comparisons but, in all honesty, found the book too tough of a go and abandoned it early on. From the brief time we spent with it, we can but agree with Leslie Klinger’s assessment of the novel, “a virtually indescribable supernatural tale of a giant worm in Yorkshire” (The New Annotated Dracula, by Bram Stroker, edited with a foreword and notes by Leslie S. Klinger, p. xxxviii).

Copyright 2022 Margie Deck & Nancy Holder


COMMENTARY & CREATIVITY

Arthur Conan Doyle & “The Terror of Blue John Gap” Influences

by Charles Prepolec

It’s a curious thing that ACD chose to write this in 1910, as it’s a very 19th century throwback sort of story in terms of both form (the lone figure caught up in some mystery in a lonely place) and content (hollow earth and lost race motifs from Swift, Verne, Haggard, Buchan, etc…) with little that could be considered even vaguely original or new in terms of the growing body of weird and proto-science fiction prevalent at the time. Clearly triggered by Doyle’s own emerging interest in paleontology, this story appears to be a warm-up for THE LOST WORLD, as Doyle has essentially just redressed Cutcliffe Hyne’s 1898 short story ‘The Lizard’ (The Strand Magazine for June 1898, which also featured Doyle’s ‘The Beetle Hunter’) with a furred extinct mammal to replace a scaly saurian.

continued . . .

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The autograph manuscript of “The Terror of Blue John Gap” reproduced above is courtesy of Dartmouth College Library, Rauner Special Collections, MS-93: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Transcription

The Terror of Blue John Gap.

A Conan Doyle.

Original MS.


The full story as it was printed in The Strand is available at
The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia.