Martin Hewitt

Created by Arthur Morrison
(1863-1945)

“It was, of course, always a part of Martin Hewitt’s business to be thoroughly at home among any and every class of people, and to be able to interest himself intelligently, or to appear to do so, in their various pursuits.”
— the importance of the common touch, explained in “The Loss of Sammy Crockett”

The 1971 edition. Too damn cute?

Well, I just stumbled across another P.I. who’s not on your site. I guess sometimes it does pay to judge a book by its cover. I spotted this book called Martin Hewitt: Investigator on a recent book-buying spree. It’s a 1971 reprint ( the original dates back to 1894) by a publisher that’s probably long gone by now, but the cover was so damn cute that I just had to check it out.

And it turns out this guy’s pretty interesting. In the wake of the unprecedented success of Sherlock Holmes, there were a whole slew of rival detectives who popped up in the pages of the British popular magazines of the time, all hoping to cash in. One of the great shining lights — and one of the few to actually give Holmes a run for his money — was MARTIN HEWITT, who actually appeared in The Strand, the same magazine in which Holmes himself regularly appeared, just a few years earlier. The stories were even illustrated by the same guy, the great Sidney Paget.

In other ways, though, Hewitt is Holmes’s antithesis. A lawyer’s clerk turned private detective, with offices on the Strand, he is not a flamboyant eccentric but a “stoutish, clean-shaven man, of middle height, and of a cheerful, round countenance.” In total, Martin Hewitt appeared in twenty-five short stories which were collected in four volumes between 1894 and 1903.

Hewitt was a lawyer who discovered he had extraordinary deductive abilities. Like Holmes, he was knowledgeable in all sorts of obscure subjects and possessed a fierce, pragmatic intelligence. So naturally he decided to become a private detective, with offices close to the Strand, near Charing Cross Station. Hewitt was a stout, clean-shaven man of medium height and cheerful countenance, but as the 1971 dustcover says “he shrewdly solved many crimes in a manner that would have done credit to the Great Detective himself.”

The first collection of Hewitt stories, Martin Hewitt: Investigator (1894) is considered one of the important cornerstones in the development of the detective short story and even won an enviable position as such in Ellery Queen’s memorable “Queen’s Quorum,” which had this to say:

“Of Doyle’s contemporary imitators, the most durable (indeed, the only important one to survive over the ages) is the private investigator, a man of awe-inspiring technical and statistical knowledge, in Martin Hewitt, Investigator.”

In 1971, Thames Television adapted three of the Hewitt story for a mystery anthology series, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, although Hewitt’s name was changed to Jonathan Pryde in one episode, for some reason.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Arthur Morrison was born in Kent, England, and served in the civil service, before joining the staff of the National Observer in 1890. His first book, Tales From Mean Street, was a series of realistic sketches of London’s slums, soon followed by his first collection of Martin Hewiitt stories, and three subsequent volumes. He also created another early private detective, the “cheerfully unrepentant sociopath” Horace Dorrington. Morrison also wrote a number of other novels and even three plays, and assembled a fine collection of Chinese and Japanese art still on display in the British Museum.

SHORT STORIES

  • “The Lenton Croft Robberies” (March 1894, The Strand)
  • “The Loss of Sammy Crockett” (April 1894, The Strand)
  • “The Case of Mr Foggatt” (May 1894, The Strand)
  • “The Case of the Dixon Torpedo” (June 1894, The Strand)
  • “The Quinton Jewel Affair” (July 1894, The Strand)
  • “The Stanway Cameo Mystery” (July 1894, The Strand)
  • “The Affair of the Tortoise” (September 1894, The Strand)
  • “The Ivy Cottage Mystery” (January 1895, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Nicobar Bullion Case” (Febuary 1895, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Holford Will Case” (March 1895, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Case of the Missing Hand” (April 1895, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Case of Laker, Absconded” (May 1895, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Case of the Lost Foreigner” (June 1895, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Case of Mr. Geldard’s Elopement” (1896, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Case of the Flitterbat Lancers” (1896, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Case of the Late Mr. Rewse” (1896, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Case of the Ward Lane Tabernacle” (1896, The Windsor Magazine)
  • “The Adventure of Channel Marsh” (April 1902, The Harmsworthy London Magazine; also 1904, The Red Triangle)
  • “The Affair of Samuel’s Diamonds” (November 1902, The Harmsworthy London Magazine; also 1904, The Red Triangle)
  • “The Case of Mr. Jacob Mason” (December 1902, The Harmsworthy London Magazine; also 1904, The Red Triangle)
  • “The Case of the Lever Key” (January 1903, The Harmsworthy London Magazine; also 1904, The Red Triangle)
  • “The Case of the Burnt Barn” (February 1903, The Harmsworthy London Magazine; also 1904, The Red Triangle)
  • “The Case of the Admiralty Code” (March 1903, The Harmsworthy London Magazine; also 1904, The Red Triangle)
  • “The Affair of Mrs. Seton’s Child”
  • “”The Case of the Dead Skipper”

COLLECTIONS

  • Martin Hewitt: Investigator (1894)
  • The Chronicles of Martin Hewitt (1895)
  • The Adventures of Martin Hewitt (1896)
  • The Red Triangle (1904)

TELEVISION

  • THE RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
    (1971-73, ITV)
    Two seasons
    26 50-minute episodes
    Produced by Thames Television
    Starring Donald Pleasence, Donald Sinden, John Neville, Robert Stephens, Peter Vaughan, Derek Jacobi, Judy Geeson, Jean Marsh, Robin Ellis, John Thaw, Ronald Hines, Peter Barkworth, Jewremy Irons

    • SEASON ONEBuy this DVD
      “The Case of the Dixon Torpedo”
      Based on the story by Arthur Morrison
      Starring Ronald Hines as JONATHAN PRYDE
    • “The Affair of the Tortoise”
      Based on the story by Arthur Morrison
      Starring Peter Barkworth as MARTIN HEWITT
    • “The Case of Laker, Absconded”
      Based on the story by Arthur Morrison
      Starring Peter Barkworth as MARTIN HEWITT
      and Ronald Hines as JONATHAN PRYDE

RADIO

  • THE RIVALS
    (2011-15, BBC 4)
    16 30-minute episodes
    Starring Tim Pigott-Smith as Inspector Lestrade (narrator)

    • “The Stanway Cameo Mystery”
      Based on the story by Arthur Morrison
      Starring Adam James as MARTIN HEWITT

RELATED LINKS

Another scoop, respectfully submitted by Nathalie Bumpeau, with some filling in of the holes by Kevin Burton Smith.

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