Baying from the shoreline

From: Rosebery – Statesman in Turmoil (2005), by Leo McKinstry:

…Twenty years later (Rosebery) was a little more friendly towards John Buchan, who was editing an anthology of his non-political essays and speeches, and allowed him some access to his private records…

As Buchan’s Miscellanies demonstrates, Rosebery was probably at his best in the lively essay rather than the full-length book…

…As well-known figures in society, he and his wife may have been the inspiration for certain fictional characters; Mrs Humphrey Ward’s Marcella, for instance, was said to be based on Hannah, while Rosebery appeared as Lord Appin in Buchan’s A Lodge in the Wilderness. Recently a not implausible case has also been made that Rosebery was the model for the ‘clean-shaven, dark-haired’ Sir Robert Chiltern in Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. But perhaps the most intriguing fictional link is between Rosebery and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a friend and occasional travelling companion of Rosebery. There was an old legend in the Primrose family that if any tragedy was coming to the laird, an unseen hound would be heard baying from the shoreline near Barnbougle.

It was said locally that on the night Hannah died, a mournful bark echoed through the November night. Knowing Conan Doyle’s fascination with the supernatural, Rosebery probably told him the myth of the Barnbougle hound, thereby providing the original inspiration for the most famous of all Sherlock Holmes’s stories, though the details and the background to the tale – such as the chilling Dartmoor setting – were the work of Doyle’s friend Fletcher Robinson. In support of this thesis there is a letter from Conan Doyle to Rosebery, dated 22nd March 1902, which reads: ‘I am so glad the hound amused you. It is its best justification.’

Rosebery himself makes the most fleeting of appearances in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine. One of the first questions put by the sceptical newspaper editor to the Time Traveller is ‘These chaps here say you have been travelling into the middle of next week! Tell us all about little Rosebery, will you?’…”.

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