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.)


Bob Corker Devolves On Same-Sex Marriage

“Devolve:  to degenerate or deteriorate gradually; to change gradually for the worse; decline; deteriorate.”  Ten years ago Bob Corker, former Chattanooga mayor, was meeting with his staff and advisors to formulate a strategy that would enable him to move from local politics to one of the highest profile stages in the nation.  As Bob met with his team they discussed ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Mom’s Parting Instructions

My mother, Helen Exum, went to be with the Lord in late August of last year and, in the way folks do, I was going through some of her files last week when I ran across an envelope with my name on it. Inside was a story and written in her hand were the words, “This is a wonderful story for you to tell!” Not being one to disobey my mother and not about to waylay the wishes of the ... (click for more)

Hard Freeze Predicted In The Area For Saturday Night

Temperatures are expected to drop Saturday night to 28 degrees or less. Here is the latest report from the National Weather Service:  HARD FREEZE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT EDT /11 PM CDT/ TONIGHT TO 11 AM EDT /10 AM CDT/ SUNDAY... * EVENT... A HARD FREEZE EXPECTED WITH LOWS FROM THE TEENS NORTH TO THE UPPER 20S SOUTH LATE TONIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING. ... (click for more)

Man Charged In Shooting On Sixth Avenue Had Been Shot Himself Last Week; Police Say Incident "Part Of Gang War"

A man charged with attempted first-degree murder on Sixth Avenue Court on Thursday afternoon was shot himself earlier this month. O'Shae Kadaris Smith, 20, of 2114 E. 12th St., is also charged with reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and possessing a firearm during the commission of a crime. He was one of two people shot on Rawlings Street on March 16. Kendre Allen, ... (click for more)

Lady Vols Headed To Elite 8 With 73-69 OT Win

For the 27th time Tennessee is headed back to the Elite Eight. The second-seeded Lady Vols had an epic rally to defeat upstart #11 seed Gonzaga, playing two miles from its campus, 73-69 in overtime, at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday  night. Tennessee (30-5) will take on No. 1 seed Maryland (33-2) in the Elite Eight for a chance to reach their 19th Final ... (click for more)

Grissom Rolls Past Boyd-Buchanan For Pounder Classic Title

Virgil L. Grissom High’s baseball did accomplished exactly what it wanted to do in Chattanooga this weekend. The hard-charging Tigers rolled past Boyd-Buchanan, 9-3, Saturday night before a good – and cold -- crowd and captured the Pounder Classic baseball tournament title in impressive fashion. On a night when the wind chill factor hit 36 in the sixth inning, Grissom ... (click for more)