Bertram Fletcher Robinson (1870-1907)

Staff at oneindia.com wrote on September 14, 2008:

“Claims that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, helped murder a journalist have finally been laid to rest – by a church court. The Exeter Diocese Consistory Court has blocked a bid to exhume the remains of Devon journalist and writer Bertram Fletcher-Robinson who died on January 21, 1907, reports the Scotsman. At the time of his death, it was recorded that Fletcher-Robinson died at the age of 36 from typhoid fever and peritonitis following a visit to Paris. However, claims had been made that Fletcher-Robinson had been murdered by an overdose of laudanum administered by his wife Gladys, who was engaged in an affair with Conan Doyle and to hide the fact that the author stole the plot of the Hound of the Baskervilles from the journalist. The accusations were the results of research carried out by former driving instructor Rodger Garrick-Steele who wanted to exhume the corpse from its place of rest at Ipplepen near Newton Abbot and test it for traces of poison. Now, Sir Andrew McFarlane, the chancellor of the ecclesiastical court, has ridiculed Garrick- Steele’s research.

McFarlane blocked Garrick- Steele’s bid and ruled that the body must not be disturbed.”

From Wikipedia:

Bertram Fletcher Robinson (affectionately referred to as either ‘Bobbles’ or ‘Bertie’) was born on 22 August 1870 at 80 Rose Lane, Mossley Hill, Liverpool. In early 1882, he relocated with his family to Park Hill House at Ipplepen in Devon. His father, Joseph Fletcher Robinson (1827–1903), was the founder of a general merchant business in Liverpool (c. 1867). Around 1850, Joseph travelled to South America and was befriended by Giuseppe Garibaldi. Thereafter, he fought in the Guerra Grande alongside Garibaldi and the Uruguayans against the Argentine dictator, Juan Manuel de Rosas.

Robinson became a barrister in June 1896 but he never practised that profession.

On 3 June 1902, 31‑year‑old Robinson married 22-year-old Gladys Hill Morris at St. Barnabas Church, Kensington, London. Gladys was a self-proclaimed ‘actress’ and a daughter of the noted Victorian artist Philip Richard Morris (1833–1902). The couple had no children of their own.

Between 1893 and 1907, Robinson wrote or coauthored at least nine satirical playlets (including four with his friend, PG Wodehouse), fifty-four short stories (including seven with his friend, Sir Malcolm Fraser, 1st Baronet), four lyrics, forty-four articles (for fifteen different periodicals), one hundred and twenty-eight newspaper reports, twenty-four poems and eight books. He also edited eight books about various sports and pastimes for The Isthmian Library (1897–1901).

In July 1900, Robinson and the creator of Sherlock Holmes, (Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘cemented’ their friendship while aboard a passenger ship that was travelling to Southampton from Cape Town. The following year, Robinson told Doyle legends of ghostly hounds, recounted the supernatural tale of Squire Richard Cabell III and showed him around grimly atmospheric Dartmoor. The pair had previously agreed to co-author a Devon-based story but in the end, their collaboration led only to Doyle’s celebrated novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Robinson also contributed an idea to the plot of a Sherlock Holmes short-story entitled “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”, which was first published in Collier’s Weekly on 31 October 1903.

Doyle is sometimes seen as downplaying the importance of Robinson’s contribution to The Hound of the Baskervilles. The literary scholar and critic, Professor William Wallace Robson wrote that it is ‘impossible to determine’ the precise extent of Robinson’s role, but in all probability he merely acted as a ‘creative trigger’. He adds that once the element of Sherlock Holmes was added to the original idea, the novel evolved beyond the joint project that was originally posited. Robinson himself conceded that his part in the collaboration was restricted to that of an ‘assistant plot producer’.

Bertram Fletcher Robinson died aged just 36 years and 153 days on 21 January 1907, at 44 Eaton Terrace, Belgravia, London. The official cause of his death is recorded as ‘enteric fever (3 weeks) and peritonitis (24 hours)’. Others with a bent for the occult attributed his death to a curse linked with an Egyptian artefact called the Unlucky Mummy. Robinson was buried beside his parents at St. Andrew’s Church, Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot in Devon.

At 4pm on Thursday 24 January 1907, The Reverend Septimus Pennington conducted a memorial service for Robinson at St. Clement Danes, Strand, London. According to a report in the Daily Express newspaper (Saturday 26 January 1907), the congregation included the following notable figures: Arthur Hammond Marshall, Owen Seaman, Max Pemberton, Cyril Arthur Pearson, Percy Everett, Alfred Harmsworth, Joseph Lawrence, Sir Felix Sermon, Sir William Bell, Anthony Hope, Clement King Shorter, Gerald Fitzgerald Campbell, Leslie Ward (‘Spy’), Thomas Anstey Guthrie, Evelyn Wrench and Henry Hamilton Fyfe.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was unable to attend either the funeral or the memorial service because he was at that time, busily campaigning for the release from prison of one George Edalji. He did however send a floral tribute to the funeral service in Ipplepen with a message that read “In loving memory of an old and valued friend from Arthur Conan Doyle”.

In 1909, Gladys Robinson sold both Park Hill House and 44 Eaton Terrace and she then appears to have moved to continental Europe. During World War I, Gladys met Major William John Frederick Halliday (Distinguished Service Order), a Royal Artillery officer born in London in 1882 and affectionately referred to as “Fred”. The couple got married at the British Diplomatic mission in Paris on 7 January 1918 and thereafter, they relocated to Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.

In January 2009, Ipplepen Parish Council gave permission for a commemorative bench and plaque to be situated outside Caunters Close in Ipplepen. The inscription on the plaque reads as follows: ‘Bertram Fletcher Robinson (1870–1907). Journalist, Editor, Author and former resident of Ipplepen. He assisted Arthur Conan Doyle with The Hound of the Baskervilles’.”

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