1. The Doings of Raffles Haw

The Doings of Raffles Haw is a short novel written and published in 1891. It is a little-known moral tale about a secretive alchemist and the impact his wealth has on those around him. If you want to avoid spoilers, we recommend you read the story here.

The episode can be heard here.

Raffles Haw at work
Artist: Louis Bailly (1914 French edition)
Synopsis

The Doings of Raffles Haw opens on a snowy night in the modest and cosy McIntyre household in the Midlands village of Tamfield. The McIntyres, father, son and daughter, live in genteel poverty due to the failure of McIntyre senior's once-prosperous Birmingham gun manufactory. McIntyre is a drunk, but whether this is a cause or effect of the calamity is unclear.

Old McIntyre's son, Robert, is a struggling artist of under-developed talent, whilst his daughter, Laura, keeps their home in order, or at least until she marries her childhood sweetheart, the bluff and hearty naval officer Hector Spurling, son of the local vicar.

On this opening evening, Hector, prior to a Mediterranean tour of duty, and the McIntyre siblings - their father is in the local hostelry - are discussing a mysterious new arrival in the village. Raffles Haw appears to be a very wealthy young man who has built an ostentatious mansion for himself, and Tamfield is alive with speculation as to his character, antecedents and intentions.

Robert soon has a chance encounter with the enigmatic stranger and is invited on a tour of his fantastic home, which proves to be a veritable treasure house and scientific marvel, a dream-palace from the Arabian Nights fitted out with all mod cons.

Haw takes a liking to Robert and encourages his artistic ambitions whilst also engaging him as an agent in his own philanthropic schemes. In time he comes to trust Robert so much that he reveals to him the secret of his wealth. He is an modern alchemist who has discovered an electric process whereby he can turn base metals into gold.

He feels, however, that the fruits of his discovery should be shared and embarks upon a programme of wealth redistribution. But his largesse has unfortunate consequences, not least upon the McIntyres, whose characters are re-shaped negatively by their proximity to limitless wealth. Robert becomes listless and idle. Laura throws over Hector to become engaged to Raffles Haw. Worst of all, old McIntyre's greed and selfishness reach monumental proportions, setting in train a series of events which culminate in tragedy...

Writing and publication history
First UK edition (1892)
  • Commissioned by Alfred Harmsworth for Answers in December 1890.
  • Written by Doyle between 6th and 23rd January 1891, during a study trip to Vienna (Doyle produced 30,000 words of finished story in a little over two weeks).
  • The Doings of Raffles Haw appeared in Answers between 12 December 1891 and 27 February 1892.
  • The first UK book edition was published by Cassell & Co. in March 1892.
  • In the USA, The Doings of Raffles Haw was syndicated in Autumn 1891.
  • The first American edition was published by Lovell, Coryell & Co. in August 1892 and contained two Sherlock Holmes short stories, The Red-Headed League and The Boscombe Valley Mystery, the rights to which Doyle had not granted (see below).


Alcoholism, heredity and biographical details
Old MacIntyre
Artist: Louis Bailly (1914 French edition)


Literary connections
Raffles Haw is discovered
Artist: Louis Bailly (1914 French edition)


Robert McIntyre at work
Artist: Louis Bailly (1914 French edition)
Sherlockian connections
  • Christopher Morley puts forward the idea that Raffles Haw was Raffles Holmes, a third Holmes brother, in ‘Clinical Notes by a Resident Patient’ in Baker Street Journal, Volume 2, No. 2 (old series).
  • The first American edition and the two Holmes stories are discussed by David A. Randall in ‘Biographical Notes’ in Baker Street Journal, Volume 2, No. 4 (old series).
  • For more information about the Baker Street Irregulars and The Baker Street Journal, please visit https://bakerstreetirregulars.com/

Miscellaneous

Recommended reading

Next time on Doings of Doyle...


Acknowledgements

Image credits: Thanks to Alexis Barquin at The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopaedia for permission to reproduce these images. Please support the encyclopaedia at www.arthur-conan-doyle.com.

Music credit: Sneaky Snitch Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons:  By Attribution 3.0 License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Comments

  1. Great show. I wrote a post on IHOSE on the Sherlockian connections to The Winning Shot--there are many. Looking forward to your take.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks James. We've already recorded The Winning Shot (we're trying to have a podcast "in the bank" at all times to keep to the monthly timetable) so hopefully we spotted the same things.

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