“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” was published in June of 1892 and takes place, according to Baring-Gould (he’s a rebel this time except I’m totally with him on this one!), Friday, April 5 to Saturday, April 20, 1889 (one of their longer cases so far). In the spirit of full disclosure, he tells us that ‘virtually all other commentators except Christ and Walter, who date the adventure 1891, believe that it took place in the spring of 1890. All choronologists except [Baring-Gould] would seem to agree that Watson was married at the time of this adventure. This presents them with a difficulty, since Watson is here completely silent about a wife or professional duties and appears to be living at Baker Street, not for a few days only, but for the entire fortnight covered by the adventure. In [his] view, the adventure was the last shared by the doctor and the detective before Watson’s marriage to Mary Morstan’ (BG, 115).
I’ll be honest with you, most of the notes for this one concern Violet Hunter and whether she is either setting her cap for Holmes or is Holmes’ half-sister (wow, those Holmesians can be a pervy bunch!). There is, however, a small faction (Lee Shackleford and H.W. Bell) who thinks she’s after Watson. Dorothy Sayers ‘refutes this suggestion in detail. First, she explains, this argument makes the “heartless and abominable suggestion that, at the very moment when his wife lay stricken with a mortal illness, Watson was endeavouring to get up an intrigue with another women…”‘ (NA, 356). I agree with her outcome, but not her reasoning here – all this proves is that Watson wouldn’t have pursued anything with Violet, not that Violet wasn’t necessarily going to give it the old college try. However, my biggest problem with Dorothy’s statement is that, if Watson’s wife (Mary Morstan, I assume, though I’m in a hurry and can’t be bothered to check where in Watson’s timeline of various wives we are) is mortally ill, WHY IS HE OBVIOUSLY LIVING AT BAKER STREET?! It makes, to quote Eddie, no sense.
Speaking of pervy Holmesians, Leslie is starting to show his true colors here (not that I’m complaining)! When Violet first comes to visit them at Baker Street, it’s 10:30 in the morning, but when she takes her leave, she bids them goodnight, leading Leslie to wonder ‘what has been going on for seven or eight hours?’ (NA, 361). He goes further! Taking this note into consideration, Leslie finds Violet’s later statement to Holmes – ‘I found myself lying on my bed trembling…I thought of you’ – to be highly suggestive (NA, 374). 😉
However, the camp that are for Violet as a half-sister (and thus conveniently unavailable – I see what you’re doing there, Holmesians!), base their theories on Holmes’ statement, upon hearing Violet’s description of the governess position, that ‘it is not the situation which I should like to see a sister of mine apply for’ (BG, 119). I think it’s likely that Holmes had a sister or sister – this statement, combined with his protectiveness of what’s-her-name from “A Case of Identity” is fairly strong evidence of a sister. I mean, not that a man has to have a sister to have a chivalrous attitude toward women, but that he twice remarks about sibling duty, it seems like a good enough theory to me!
There’s a weird note in Baring-Gould that I can only imagine is a sort of veiled response to someone else’s theory – though why he wouldn’t just come out and say it makes me all the more intrigued by the Holmesian’s interior politics. In response to Holmes’ statement ‘Data! data! data!…I can’t make bricks without clay!’ (BG, 120) [O hai, 2009!Holmes, you said that, too, didn’t you?!], Baring-Gould writes that ‘in the adventure of “The Crooked Man” Holmes admits that his Biblical knowledge is a little rusty. But here he is probably not misquoting Exous, 5:7: “Ye shall no more give the people straw to make bricks.” Bricks are made from Clay; Holmes was merely stating a fact’ (BG, 120). See what I mean? It’s a little weird and out of nowhere, right? He must have been directing at someone in particular…
Regarding which train Holmes and Watson took to meet Violet at Winchester, Lord Dongegall (okay, whose spelling is correct here, Baring-Gould, yours or Leslie’s?) ‘once noted, “Watson does not record what Holmes said to him when they found themselves on a 9:30 a.m. train by which they could not reach Winchester until 52 minutes after they were supposed to meet Miss Hunter at the Black Swan. On the other hand, Watson may have had a second look at Bradshaw’s, in time to get an un-breakfasted, infuriated Holmes on the 7:50, arriving at Winchester at 10:09 a.m. Had this been the case, however, Miss Hunter would hardly have been ‘waiting for us'”‘ (BG, 121). In Watson’s defense, Baring-Gould includes the relevant page from Bradshaw’s Guide and it is indecipherable to me! Completely understandable that he could misread it. Though I have to say that Don(g)egall made me laugh – I can totally picture Watson dragging a grumpy, sleepy Holmes out of bed and to the train station!
A very interesting side note that Leslie inexplicably leaves out, is that Conan Doyle, by this time, was already longing to ‘rid himself of his creation “forever”‘ (BG, 132). Baring-Gould notes that it was ACD’s mother, who gave Holmes a stay of execution by sending him the idea for ‘a Holmes story that should concern a girl with “beautiful golden hair: who kidnapped and her hair shorn should be made to imersonate some other girl for a villainous purpose”‘ (BG, 132). Well done, Mother Doyle! But still, I had no idea that ACD tired of Holmes quite so quickly – poor chap had a lot further to go with him…
My miscellaneous thoughts! [Let me show you them!]
- ‘Ray Betzner, in “Whatever Happened to Baby Rucastle?,” suggests that Edward Rucastle (he of the abnormally large head) and Carlo (he of the projecting bones) were the same person, a boy werewolf. In fact, after the shooting of Carlo, it is as if Edward had vanished…’ (NA, 379) [OMG, Holmesians, I seriously heart you so hard! Also, speaking of Carlo, what in the world made Rucastle think going for the vicious dog himself, when he’d already said that Toller was the only person who could control it, was a good idea?!]
- Despite not winning over Holmes (to Watson’s apparent disappointment), Miss Hunter finds a happy ending. Watson records that she eventually became the head of a private school at Walsall, but according to Leslie, ‘Lord Donegall is of the view that Violet Hunter, upon Holmes’ recommendation, became a special agent, with her position as “head of a private school” serving as a mere cover provided by an operative such as Holmes’ brother, Mycroft. “It would also explain,” Lord Donegall posits, “why we hear no more of this gifted young lady’s remarkable skills; not forgetting her French and German”‘ (NA, 383). [Ooh, I do like this – and although it’s a bit of conjecture, it does sort of make sense and seem in character with Holmes. He may not have wanted to marry Violet Hunter, but he did seem impressed with her resourcefulness so perhaps he decided to help her along a bit.]
- In the discussion of Violet as Holmes’ sister, a Mr. H.B. Williams wrote an essay called ‘Half-Sister; Half Mystery’ in response to which Mr. Robert Schutz wrote ‘Half-Sister; No Mystery’ (BG, 119). [OMG, the Holmesians are beyond adorable!]
And that’s it for “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” AND The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes! So time to switch to The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes for next week when I’ll be typing about “Silver Blaze.”
*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.