“before my biographer had come to glorify me” [MUSG]
When the Sherlock Holmes short stories first appeared in The Strand Magazine in 1891, the public was greeted with one story per month for a year until mid-1892. Then there was a pause until December and then another dozen stories appeared through the end of 1893.
When the stories were collected in book form, the first dozen became The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in October 1892. The second set of stories was published in England in December 1893 and in the United States in September 1894 as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
But there was a distinct difference between these two first editions: the British version omitted the story "The Cardboard Box." Subsequent American editions also omitted it. The story later appeared in the collection called His Last Bow in 1917.
It's not entirely clear why it was omitted, although it was seemingly done at the request of Arthur Conan Doyle. According to Christopher Roden, BSI ("Sir Henry Baskerville") in the introduction to The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes in The Oxford Sherlock Holmes edition:
"ACD himself appears to have offered differing excuses: that it was out of place in a collection designed for boys; that it was more sensational than he cared for; and that it was a weak story. Whether one can conisder a collection of stories which had appeared in the Strand as being intended for boys' consumption is open to debate...'The Carboard Box' is clearly not a weak story, and Conan Doyle's own regard for its opening paragraphs, which he transposed into 'The Resident Patient,' seems to refute his statement. One is led to the conclusion, therefore, that something of which we are unaware, or can only speculate upon, happened in Conan Doyle's life between the time the story appeared in the Strand and the time the collection was published in book form."
Adultery and murder, both at the center of "The Cardboard Box," are motives that other Sherlock Holmes stories already contained. But there's an additional element here: alcoholism.
There is a history of alcohol abuse in Conan Doyle's own family: his father Charles Altamont Doyle was a chronic alcoholic. Perhaps the connection between alcohol and violence in the story was a bit too much for the Doyle family.
For more on this topic, listen to Trifles Episode 335: Alcoholism.
Meanwhile, at Baker Street Elementary the boys grapple with the prospect of their own memoirs...
Baker Street Elementary follows the original adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, as they and their friends work through the issues of elementary school in Victorian London. An archive of all previous episodes can be viewed at www.bakerstreetelementary.org.