Jody Baker: Baynes On Holmes And Oysters

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - by Jody Baker

In The Adventure of the Dying Detective, Sherlock Holmes feigns delirium and engages Watson in a seemingly maniacal, bizarre conversation about the world being overrun by oysters. In reporting upon this conversation Watson, for dramatic effect (or more personal reasons), omitted parts.  Certain remarks made by Watson and replies and actions by Holmes were not included by Watson in his write-up. 

We know from the reported text that Holmes said to Watson, “Indeed, I cannot think why the whole bed of the ocean is not one solid mass of oysters, so prolific the creatures seem.” That was written. What follows was not.

Watson replied:  "Tweedledee." 

Holmes, picking up interest: "Don't you mean, `twaddle,' Watson, ineffable twaddle? "

Watson, sternly: "No, Holmes. I mean Tweedledee – as in Tweedledee and walruses and carpenters -- and such." 

Holmes, sitting upright in the bed with a clear eye, apparently having shaken his delirium, said forcefully, "Watson, I wish you would make sense. I'm the one here who's supposed to be delirious. What the deuce are you talking about?"

"Well, Holmes," replied Watson, "Tweedledee was telling Alice about poetry, and at Tweedledum's suggestion, he gave her the Walrus-and-the-Carpenter bit about why the whole world is not overrun by oysters: 

“O  Oysters, come and walk with us!”

The Walrus did beseech,
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
        Along the briny beech....”
                         * * * * *
... four young oysters hurried up,
        All eager for the treat
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
         Their shoes were clean and neat---
                         * * * * *
Four other oysters followed them,
         And yet another four,
             
         And more, and more, and more---"
                         * * * * *
“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
         “Is what we mainly need:
  Pepper and vinegar besides
           Are very good indeed---
  Now, if you're ready, Oysters, dear,
            We can begin to feed."
                         * * * * *
  “It seems a shame,” the Walrus said.
            “To play them such a trick.
      After we've brought them out so far,
            And made them trot so quick!'
      The Carpenter said nothing but;
            “The butter's spread too thick”
 
      “O, Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
             “You've had a pleasant run !
       Shall we be trotting home again?”
            But answer came there none---
       And this was scarcely odd, because
            They'd eaten every one."

 [(Abridged from “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” by Lewis Carroll nom de plume for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)]

This had so engaged Holmes's attention that he was excited out of his lethargy. He was giggling, sitting cross-legged in a Yoga position and was bouncing up and down on his bed with glee. Suddenly, he realized that he had been tricked out of his feigned illness. But he was so pleased with his discovery that he just repeated Watson's enigmatic expression over and over: "Tweedledee, Tweedledee, Tweedledee."   

It was after this that Holmes pronounced his salient observation on oysters. It was a scientific truth spoken by Holmes that Watson did report: “No doubt there are natural enemies which limit the  increase of the creatures.”

These were the facts of the conversation between Watson and Holmes of which Watson has given only a partial report. 

Respectfully,
Insp. Baynes


(Jody Baker is a Chattanooga attorney, who specializes in Sherlock Holmes lore. He can be reached at josiahbaker@bkhcw.com.)


Candidates Should State Facts, Not Fiction

At a recent forum for candidates for the Signal Mountain Town Council, one candidate, Mr. Chris Howley, discussed a number of issues and presented “facts” using incorrect or misleading statements.   Here are several issues that should be clarified: 1.       On the road up the mountain:   “I called TDOT.   I talked to Ken Flynn.   ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Goodbye To My Scooter

The month of August turned out to be unkind, with my dog, my favorite aunt and my magnificent mother all dying within three weeks’ time. As I finally begin to push out the three newest dents in my soul, my habit has been to write something akin to a goodbye note to those I have loved. I’m not ready for Aunt Martha and Mother yet – not by a stretch -- but I remembered Scooter with ... (click for more)

EPB Says "Close To A Wash" On City Street Light Billing

EPB President Harold DePriest denied Wednesday that EPB owes the city over $1 million on street light billing. He stated,  “EPB has never said that we owe the city $1.2 million. When all the facts are taken into account, the financial difference is close to a wash.” Mr. DePriest said, "I regret that this complicated issue has been oversimplified in some reports. As we’ve ... (click for more)

New Red Bank Zoning Ordinance Is Ready For Review

The new Red Bank zoning ordinance is ready for review, City Manager Randall Smith said Tuesday night. It can be seen on www.redbanktn.gov and the link to zoning regulations. The new ordinance will replace one that was created 30 years ago.    The plan will encompass both residential and commercial development and is intended to direct ... (click for more)

Lookouts and Minnesota Twins Sign 4-Year Agreement

In a fast-paced, high stakes game of musical chairs with the three players from Major League Baseball - Minnesota, Arizona and Colorado - vying for one chair (Chattanooga Lookouts), the Twins from Minneapolis came up the winner Wednesday. Officials from the Minnesota ball club flew to Chattanooga Tuesday and signed contract papers for a four year player development ... (click for more)

Lady Mocs Volleyball Team Set To Host Scenic City Showdown

The Chattanooga Mocs returns to action Friday and Saturday at Maclallan Gym is they host the Scenic City Showdown – Presented by Hampton Inn & Suites.  Its second three-team tournament of the season, Chattanooga welcomes UT Martin, Stetson and South Carolina State to Downtown. “This is another great opportunity for us to display our city, campus and facilities ... (click for more)