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.)


Let Teachers Teach

Despite what you hear, everything about public education is not bad. I realize that there are concerns, especially when students from the United States are globally compared to other students from industrialized countries. But when you compare the United States to 50 years ago, there is definitely an improvement. The US Department of Education reports that the country has reached ... (click for more)

Protecting Water Strengthens American Economy

Water is crucial to the U.S. economy, specifically in areas like tourism, manufacturing, energy, recreation and agriculture.  In 2011, $30 billion was spent right here in the southeastern United States by both residents and non-residents of our region who enjoyed getting outdoors to fish, hunt, or simply watch wildlife in our rich and varied streams, forests and estuaries. ... (click for more)

Teen, 17, Charged With Aggravated Rape In Attack On 69-Year-Old North Chattanooga Runner

A 17-year-old has been charged with aggravated rape in connection with an attack on a 69-year-old runner in North Chattanooga on Monday morning. The teen was identified by Juvenile Court officials as Diontae Smartt. Authorities said he has given a confession. Smartt has a detention hearing Thursday at 12:30. The incident happened at approximately 7:30 a.m. ... (click for more)

Berke Implements New Pay Plan For Chattanooga Fire Department

Mayor Andy Berke joined the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and leadership of the Chattanooga Fire Department to unveil the department’s new pay plan Wednesday afternoon. At a press conference at Fire Hall #1 on Main Street, Mayor Berke and IAFF Local 820 President Jack Thompson signed a memorandum of understanding which sets forth regular raises for fire ... (click for more)

East Hamilton Personnel Losses Boost Other 5-AAA Hoop Teams

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – East Hamilton’s loss has been solid gains for two other basketball teams in District 5-AAA and Ringgold, Ga. One of the Hurricanes’ top players, Kenny Bunton, left the program two days after Rodney English replaced fired Michael Stone and transferred to Walker Valley where he will play for coach Bob Williams’ Mustangs. “I took the job in March and two days ... (click for more)

John Shearer: Memories Of Watching 38 Baylor-McCallie Games

Back in the fall of 1971 when I was in the sixth grade at Bright School, I listened on the radio to the exciting football game between Baylor and McCallie schools, the first since the series had been discontinued after 1940. I was hoping to attend Baylor School as a student the next year, so I was quite excited that Baylor won, 9-7.  And the next year as a seventh-grader, ... (click for more)