Stitching a Story
In Arthur Conan Doyle’s story The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, a resourceful young woman seeks help from Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Violet Hunter has recently been employed by the portly Mr Rucastle as governess in a remote country house. The job is well-paid, but has its own strange drawbacks: Violet has to cut off her long coppery hair and to sit in the drawing-room window, wearing a blue dress.
This, she discovers, is done to reassure an onlooker in the road below. He is the suitor of Rucastle’s step-daughter Alice, who is being kept prisoner in a distant attic. Her hair (cropped because of a fever) and her appearance closely resemble Violet’s. If Alice marries, Rucastle will forfeit part of his fortune and, to prevent her escape, a vicious mastiff dog is let loose in the beechwoods at night.
When Holmes and Watson join Violet to try to free Alice, they discover that she has already escaped, helped by her loyal suitor with a ladder. Enraged, Rucastle dashes to unleash the dog, which savagely turns upon him under the trees…
One of the copper beeches from the story has been embroidered in traditional style by members of Ogroshor, a Bengali women’s group (whose name means ‘Moving Forward’). The story’s title and the group’s name are written in Bengali, decorated by a Bangladeshi flag.
Translations of Sherlock Holmes stories in Bengali accompany the display, with others in Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam. Such is their popularity that Conan Doyle’s detective stories have been translated into almost every language in the world including those of Africa, Irish Celtic, Esperanto – and even Pitman’s shorthand.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Edited with an introduction by RLG. Oxford: Oxford University Press World's Classics.
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Images of 'Moving Forward', a Bengali women's group creating the Ogroshor quilt of a copper beech,
Images of the 'Stitch a Story' exhibition at Portsmouth Central Library.
Collection of Sherlock Holmes books in other langauges, including Malayalam, Hindi and Bengali
Illustration of Violet from 'The Adventure of the Copper Beeches', published in 1892.
Close up details of the completed quilt of a copper beech, created by 'Moving Forward'.
Close up of the completed quilt of a copper beech, created by 'Moving Forward'.