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The Terror of the Yellow Face

By NP Sercombe

‘The Adventure of the Yellow Face.’

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Dr. Watson was the chronicler of every Sherlock Holmes adventure published in The Strand magazine between 1887 and 1927. He wrote them with fastidious accuracy and honesty, so frank in their detailed expression of true human behaviour that they were too risqué for the public morals of the late Victorian era. George Newnes, the editor of The Strand magazine, spent many sleepless nights expurgating each story before its publication. Newnes also discarded Watson’s colourful pictures portraying lively action scenes throughout each submission; they were replaced with more innocuous monochrome illustrations.

Newnes’s editing process removed references to Sherlock Holmes’s background and ancestry. The same goes for all of the leading characters. Maybe Newnes thought that accounts of individual backgrounds distracted the reader from the exposition of each story? We do not know.

In these recently discovered unexpurgated accounts, we meet Holmes’s family and learn about his heritage. Being the narrator, Dr. Watson reveals his inner self in intimate detail, followed closely by “the master detective” himself. We find out about Mrs Hudson and how she came to own 221B Baker Street, and how Professor Moriarty became the master criminal of the Victorian underworld. Some of this new material is quite shocking, even by today’s standards, let alone those of 19th century England.

By way of an example, here is the original and unexpurgated version of ‘The Adventure of the Yellow Face.’

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