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IMPORTANT QUOTATIONS - QUOTES - The Hound of the Baskervilles
From the Aladdin Classics June 2000 edition
1. “‘Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill. What does Dr. James Mortimer, the man of science, ask of Sherlock Holmes, the specialist in crime? Come in!’” (p. 7, Holmes, to Watson, before Dr. Mortimer enters).
This marks the moment of the beginning of the case, as well as hinting at a relationship between science and crime (one of the minor themes).
2. “‘To that Providence, my sons, I hereby commend you, and I counsel you by
way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the
powers of evil are exalted.’” (p.17, read by Dr. Mortimer from a manuscript
by Hugo Baskerville).
The legend sets up the book, giving Stapleton a basis for his crimes. Sir Charles listens to the warning and is only persuaded out to his death by Mrs. Lyons’s note. It is repeated to Sir Henry several times, until Holmes is ready to solve the case.
3. “‘The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.’” (p. 36, Holmes, to Watson) Holmes then “‘balance[s] probabilities and choose[s] the most likely’” (p. 47).
Dr. Mortimer later objects that it seems like guesswork, but Holmes argues that the clues that he has observed provide a reliable basis.
4. “‘The devil’s agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not?’” (p. 37-38, Holmes to Watson)
Dr. Mortimer, supposedly a grounded man with his scientific background, seems inclined to believe that the hound is supernatural. Even Watson sometimes speculates sometimes that it could be so. But Holmes, a practical man always, will only consider that as a last resort.
5. “‘Snap goes our third thread, and we end where we began....I tell you, Watson, this time we have got a foeman who is worthy of our steel.’” (p. 73, Holmes to Watson, after his ideas fail to yield results in London).
Aside from the mythological reference to the Fates (see Chapter Five notes), the quote also shows the difficulty of the case.
6. “I can still remember your complete indifference as to whether the sun moved round the earth or the earth round the sun.” (p. 109, Watson, in his report to Holmes)
This line, first appearing in A Study in Scarlet, demonstrates the extreme practicality of Holmes. As a detective, he knows his area of expertise thoroughly, but his knowledge of subjects beyond is limited.
7. “‘They say it is the cry of the Hound of the Baskervilles.’” (p.138, Holmes, to Sir Henry after hearing the sound).
Stapleton, though he can hide the hound, cannot muffle its sound and the peasants in the area have heard it a number of times. It strikes fear in those who hear it and adds credit to the family legend.
8. “I swear that another day shall not have passed before I have done all that man can do to reach the heart of the mystery.” (p. 159, Watson in his diary entry)
Watson’s ability and persistence which help make him so useful to Holmes show through here. He gets his interview with Mrs. Lyons and discovers the detective’s hiding place, something Holmes had not anticipated.
9. “‘But now we have to prove the connection between the man and the beast.’” (p.190, Holmes to Watson).
Up to this point, they still have no case against Stapleton, even though most of his plan has been discovered. It also refers to the need to prove that the naturalist and the family murderer are the same person (see Chapter Twelve notes).
10. “‘I said it in London, Watson, and I say it again now, that never yet have we helped to hunt down a more dangerous man than he who is lying yonder’- he swept his long arm towards the huge mottled expanse of green-splotched bog which stretched away until it merged into the russet slopes of the moor.” (p. 230, Holmes to Watson, at the end of the case and with Stapleton dead).
The imagery of the moor is appropriate to the atmosphere of the crime and the fate of the man well here; the “devil’s agent” has been banished to a world matching his own dark nature. Aside from emphasizing the cruelty of the crime, the quote also marks the end of the difficult case.