Today on Project Gutenberg #20

Today on Project Gutenberg, we have…

The Strand Magazine, Vol. 27, No. 159 by various authors

The Strand! One of the most famous literary magazines of its days, mainly due to one certain author and his most enduring creation. For those not in the know, The Strand was where Arthur Conan Doyle published his Sherlock Holmes stories from 1887 to 1893. Well, he tried to stop in 1893, but the reading public would have none of that. After writing The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1901-02, Doyle caved to pressure in 1903 and wrote “The Adventure of the Empty House,” the story that officially resurrected Holmes and began the second era of his crime-solving escapades. From then on until 1927, Doyle would periodically publish new Holmes stories in The Strand. And yes, we do have one of them in this issue here.

This was the February 1904 issue of the magazine, and it opens with Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Priory School.” Summoned to the north of England by a guy named Dr. Thorneycroft Huxtable (how’s that for a name?), Holmes and Watson set out to rescue a duke’s kidnapped son. Along the way they discover murder, scandal, family secrets and rather strange behavior from some cows.

“I fancy that I see your Grace’s cheque-book upon the table,” said he. “I should be glad if you would make me out a cheque for six thousand pounds. It would be as well, perhaps, for you to cross it. The Capital and Counties Bank, Oxford Street branch, are my agents.”

His Grace sat very stern and upright in his chair, and looked stonily at my friend.

“Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for pleasantry.”

“Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my life.”

“What do you mean, then?”

“I mean that I have earned the reward. I know where your son is, and I know some, at least, of those who are holding him.”

The Duke’s beard had turned more aggressively red than ever against his ghastly white face.

“Where is he?” he gasped.

“He is, or was last night, at the Fighting Cock Inn, about two miles from your park gate.”

The Duke fell back in his chair.

“And whom do you accuse?”

Sherlock Holmes’s answer was an astounding one. He stepped swiftly forward and touched the Duke upon the shoulder.

“I accuse you,” said he. “And now, your Grace, I’ll trouble you for that cheque.”

Page 137

It’s a fun little adventure, as the Holmes stories always are. But it’s not the only cool piece of writing you’ll come across in this issue. Right after it is an article titled “Voices of Parliament, in which a fellow named Alex Grant analyzes the voices and speaking styles of several different MPs. No, really: he reviews them by pitch, range, accentuation, etc. and draws out patterns on sheet music to illustrate what he means. Project Gutenberg even went to the trouble of turning said patterns into audio files, so you can actually listen to them. It’s a very strange little experiment, but it’s also pretty cool.

Other non-fiction articles include “Our Grandmothers’ Fashion-Plates” (featuring a collection of late 18th/early 19th-century women’s fashion) and “The Forbidden City of Lhassa” (detailing a Russian explorer’s journey to the capital of Tibet). But my favorite of them is “Wonders of the World,” which appears to be a general “weird news” section. Its first subject of interest is something called the Salto Monocycle Track, a daring circus attraction and one of the most deathtrappy things I’ve ever seen in my life.

This sensational act consists in the artist being rolled in a wheel, measuring six and a half feet in diameter and eighteen inches wide, along a track in the form of a loop. Our first two illustrations give a clearer idea than can be given in words.

Mr. Eclair—the artist’s name—has had his track made by Mr. A. Klose, Schiffbauerdamm, and practised in the so-called training-wheel for the past fifteen weeks before he undertook his first journey. In this training-wheel he accustomed himself to the revolutions of the wheel. This was all the more necessary, as he found on practising that, in consequence of the rapid revolutions, the small veins and other blood-vessels in the neck and head became swollen—so much so that a journey in the “loop” without previous experience would certainly, in his opinion, have been fatal.

After the perfect construction of the track had been ascertained by thorough tests—amongst which heavy waggon-wheels were caused to be rolled along the track—Mr. Eclair at length took his first ride. It was a ride for life or death. Nobody could foresee what the result would be. Luck favoured the venturesome artist, and his success was acclaimed with joy and satisfaction by all the interested beholders, so smoothly and faultlessly did the performance end. Such was the birth of a new sensational circus feat! And a second ride which Mr. Eclair soon afterwards took turned out equally successful.

Page 212

In addition to the stuff that will have you shaking your head in wondrous horror, there are some other fiction stories as well. There’s “Mr. Donah,” about a precocious boy who invites some heavily accented robbers into his rich father’s house, and an adventure story titled “Golden Bars: A Story of the African Treasure.” But the discovery that took me by surprise was a chapter of E. Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet, one of several children’s fantasy novels published by that author. I remember having her books read to me when I was a kid, and I didn’t know that they were published in The Strand.

If you’re looking for something light to help you pass the time (and who isn’t these days?), then I would recommend taking a look at this. It’s a good combination of vintage oddities and fun classic literature. I hadn’t actually looked at an issue of The Strand before, but now I want to track down some others and see what other stories I can find.

And that’s what we found today on Project Gutenberg! See you next time!

— Dana

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