Jody Baker: "Cut Out The Poetry, Watson"

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - by Jody Baker

It was in the year 1898, if my memory serves me faithfully, that Sherlock Holmes admonished Dr. Watson to "cut out the poetry." It was in the “Adventure of the Retired Colourman,” tale as I recall. In that account Holmes was preoccupied with a case involving two Coptic Patriarchs. He dispatched Watson to go on ahead with the new client, Josiah Amberley, to take evidence at Amberley's home and to report back.

Watson dutifully did as he was told. He took evidence, and he recorded it in great detail. Watson was guided by the principia maxima of Holmes, and he adhered to the rule: "Never trust to general impressions...but concentrate yourself upon details."

It was late in the evening when Watson returned and made his report to Holmes. He set forth every particular which had been observed. Watson recited in descriptive language the details of Josiah Amberley's home and its surroundings:

"It is like some penurious patrician who has sunk into the company of his inferiors. You know that particular quarter, the monotonous brick streets, the weary suburban highways. Right in the middle of them, a little island of ancient culture and comfort, lies this old home, surrounded by a high sun-baked wall mottled with lichens and topped with moss...."

Holmes was OK on poetry, so long as it was his poetry. For example in The Naval Treaty. Holmes had no problem in rhapsodizing upon a rose as being “Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence.”

Again, in the same tale Holmes indulges himself in grandiloquent prose as he invites Watson’s attention to the campus of a board school:

“Look at those big, isolated clumps of buildings rising up above the slates, like brick islands in a lead-coloured sea.”

 *****

“Light-houses, my boy! Beacons of the future! Capsules with hundreds of bright little seeds in each, out of which will spring the wiser, better England of the future. “

Homes seemed to enjoy poetry, only when it was his own poetry. When Holmes was exposed to the poetry of others he became intolerant and intolerable. In a rude and boorish manner he interrupted Watson's description. He charged at Watson like an enraged bull. He gored Watson and inflicted pain:

"Cut out the poetry, Watson. -- I note that it was a high wall."

In the face of such treatment, Watson thought silently to himself:

"Enough is enough, That's jolly-well the last poetic writing you'll ever get in a report from me, old boy."

Never again, so far as we can tell, did Watson ever embellish his reports to Holmes with that particular beauty of expression and freedom of spirit that was so much a part of Watson.

Beauty has always been in Watson's soul, and it often found its release by rolling forth inexorably from the creative mind and the artistic pen of this remarkable man and incomparable writer. So it is that in our study of The Copper Beeches matter we again encounter the poetic spirit of Dr. Watson and the beauty of his expression:

"It was an ideal spring day. A light blue sky, flecked with little fleecy white clouds drifting across from west to east. The sun was shining brightly, and yet there was an exhilarating nip in the air which set an edge to a man's energy. All over the countryside, away to the rolling hills around Aldershot, the little red and gray roofs of the farm steadings peep out from amid the light green of the new foliage. "

I suppose there may be such beautiful  passages in the mystery stories of other authors. If so, I have overlooked them. Mrs. Baynes and I will be ever so grateful to anyone  who will point us in that direction.   

Respectfully, Insp. Baynes

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


Remembering Brave Soldiers Who Died Under The Confederate Flag

One hundred fifty-four years ago over a million men, aged 12-70, took up arms and left their homes and families to defend their way of life as they knew it.  Accurate records didn't exist back then, but as many as 500,000 would die from fighting, disease, starvation and an almost total lack of medical treatment.   Most of those who fought were farmers, blacksmiths, ... (click for more)

Time For A Bilateral Session

Congressman Jim Cooper recently called on state lawmakers to “reconsider the Insure Tennessee plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.” He said that the U.S. Supreme Court has now cleared all obstacles for the state to proceed. Medicaid expansion is a prime example of where state and federal solutions compete.   The Supreme Court’s recent decision redefining ... (click for more)

Healy Says Bass Pro Shop At East Ridge To Get Underway Next Month, New Hotel, Restaurants Planned Nearby; Sewers Are An Issue

Commercial realtor John Healy said Thursday that construction is set to start next month on the Bass Pro Shop at Exit 1 in East Ridge. He said it is due to open next May. Mr. Healy also said Wolftever Development that is carrying out the project has also bought additional land near the Bass Pro Shop site at the entrance to Camp Jordan Park. He said one purchase is America's Best ... (click for more)

Work Set To Start In October On $28 Million Retail, Office, Apartment Development At The 700 Block of Market Street

An Atlanta developer said work will start in October on a $28 million retail, office and apartment complex in the long-vacant middle of the 700 block of Market Street. Boyd Simpson of the Simpson Company said the project was made possible because his firm also owns the adjacent SunTrust Tower and can use some of its excess parking for occupants of the new building. He said ... (click for more)

Weather Prevails As Ridgeside, Red Bank Ends In A Draw

The Red Bank Gators and the Ridgeside Dolphins were supposed to swim each other for the second time in three days, but the overall winner was the weather man. The meet had not yet reached the midway point when lightning, thunder and heavy rain caused a delay with Ridgeside leading 165-156 following the medley relays. After a discussion with the respective pool reps, coaches ... (click for more)

TSWA Announces All-State Softball Teams

 The Tennessee Sports Writers Association has announced its all-state high school softball teams for 2015. Local selections include: AAA - Kayla Boseman (Fr), Ooltewah and Hallie Davis (Sr), Walker Valley; AA - Kaili Crawley (Fr) of Central; A - McKenna Morgan (Jr), Sale Creek; and, Division II-AA - Lauren Lewis (Sr), Kayla Hughes (Sr) and Cheyenne Lindsey (Fr) of Baylor.  ... (click for more)