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 Veterans Everyday

The United States Army was established June 14, 1775. Former Senator Max Cleland was born Aug. 24, 1942 and he served in The United States Army from 1965-1968.  Serving in Vietnam he earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star/V device (Valor) and a Purple Heart (loosing limbs). The United States Navy was established Oct. 13, 1775. Senator John Mccain was born Aug. 29, 1936. He ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Don’t Invent, Discover!’

When Randy Boyd stood in front of more than 75 black ministers in Memphis on Tuesday, the ever-dynamic “doer of deeds” told the pastors an exciting story. He talked about “First Things First” of Chattanooga because the Tennessee gubernatorial candidate is totally sold on what Julie Baumgardner and her team have proven keeps families together. Boyd then met with some representatives ... (click for more)

Donaldson Tells Jury He Shot Son-In-Law After Knife Was Pulled On Him; Medical Examiner Says Fatal Shot Was From 3 Inches Away

Glen Donaldson took the witness stand Thursday in the attempt to explain how two good friends ended up with one dead and the other facing a first-degree murder charge.   On the night of Dec. 29, 2016, he texted his son-in-law, Adam Levi, and arranged to pick up bed rails for his daughter, who had left items when she moved out of their house. After loading the rails, ... (click for more)

Motorcyclist Killed After Colliding With Car On Highway 60

A motorcyclist was killed on Highway 60 on Thursday afternoon after colliding with a car.   At approximately  4:30 p.m. , Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to the 5100 block of Highway 60 for the report of a  motor vehicle accident involving a motorcycle vs. car.  According to preliminary reports, the motorcycle ... (click for more)

Baylor Wins D-II State Baseball

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Baylor School baseball team has been on a tear these past couple of weeks as they’ve been averaging double figures in runs scored and base hits. It's become quite a winning combination. That trend continued here at MTSU’s Reese Smith Jr. Field on Thursday afternoon in Baylor’s biggest and most important game of the season. Facing the Memphis University ... (click for more)

Baylor Wins Fourth Straight State Softball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Baylor Lady Red Raiders and the GPS Bruisers have had some classic battles on the softball field in recent years, many times in the championship game of the Division II-Class AA portion of the state tournament. They met again on Thursday night on Starplex Field No. 3. Baylor won for the third time this year, but there’s really no way to adequately ... (click for more)