The Copper Beeches - autobiographical or not?

The Adventure of The Copper Beeches has always been of interest to me as it should have been the end of Holmes. Conan Doyle had originally intended to bring Holmes to an end at the conclusion of the first set of short-stories and had written as much to his mother. Mary Doyle convinced her son not to kill Holmes off and, according to him, suggested a plot involving the discovery of some cut hair.

Conan Doyle gave way and wrote The Copper Beeches instead. The story appears to me to contain some auto-biographical references or parallels. Were these conscious on the part of Conan Doyle or am I just reading too much into a coincidence?

Let’s see….

Violet Hunter is offered a large wage by Rucastle that is well above the going rate for a governess in order to tempt her to accept. Is this a parallel with the above-average money that Conan Doyle was being paid by The Strand to produce Holmes adventures. Was Rucastle, in some senses at least, a character representing The Strand Magazine and its management?

The idea that Violet Hunter must sacrifice her hair, which she holds dear, in order to secure the high salary, has a parallel with Conan Doyle. He was also making a sacrifice for money. In his case the sacrifice was the chance to escape Holmes and concentrate on the historical novels that he felt was his true calling.

At the end of the story Violet Hunter is removed or ‘saved’ from the Copper Beeches and goes on to considerable success as the head of a girls’ school. Was this Conan Doyle suggesting that he would go onto considerable success when he eventually freed himself of Holmes? I accept that this is quite tenuous.

Towards the end of the story when Holmes feels that his involvement in matters has come to an end he says to Watson:

“…it seems to me that our locus standi now is rather a questionable one.”

Now locus standi refers to the right in law to appear and be heard. Holmes was clearly using it to refer to their continued presence at the Copper Beeches. However, it could also be seen as Holmes referring to his position in the eyes of his creator. Conan Doyle’s interest in Holmes being seen or heard was clearly running out.

So is all the above a sign of conscious intent on the part of Conan Doyle or mere coincidence?

For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

The Norwood Author is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Waterstones UK, Amazon UK,  Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon Kindle, iBooks for the iPad/iPhone, Kobo Books, Nook.

Close to Holmes is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USABarnes and NobleAmazon UKWaterstones UKAmazon KindleKoboNook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

Eliminate the Impossible is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

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