FEW can doubt that the eponymous Epilogue to His Last Bow was originally meant to be the final appearance of Sherlock Holmes. No better ending to the series could have been devised than Watson's characteristic misunderstanding of Holmes's 'There's an east wind coming, Watson', followed by Holmes's two-edged compliment to him as 'the one fixed point in a changing age'. The year 1914 saw the end of an era and the beginning of a new world in which they were both incongruous survivors. Yet there were to be more stories. Similarly The Tempest has often been seen as Shakespeare's farewell to the stage, but he seems to have gone on writing plays, thereby giving another example of the 'positively last appearance' common among members of his profession.
What were Conan Doyle's reasons for resuming the stories, after so emphatic a finale? No doubt there was a financial motive, and not necessarily a selfish one: he needed the money for various good causes, above all his work for Spiritualism. But the stimulus to write the Case-Book seems to have come from the films based on Sherlock Holmes made by the Stoll Company in 1921-3. (There is a full discussion of them in Michael Pointer The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes ( 1975)). The first series ( 1921), directed by Maurice Elvey ( 1887-1967) and entitled The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, consisted of fifteen episodes chosen at random from the short stories; Elvey followed it with a full-length Hound of the Baskervilles. When Elvey went to Hollywood, George Ridgwell took over the direction of the second and third series. The second series ( 1922) was called The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and again fifteen episodes were taken at random from the short stories. The third series, The Last Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ( 1923), was once again based on fifteen episodes from the short stories. Late in 1923 Elvey returned from America and produced the last of the Stoll