Jody Baker: Watson's Painting About A Child In The Chimney

Monday, June 24, 2013 - by Jody Baker

Watson, using his pen for his brushes and words for his paints, gives us another beautiful picture:

“It was in the latter days of September, and the equinoctial gales had set in with exceptional violence. All day the wind had screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows, so that even here in the heart of great, hand-made London we were forced to raise our minds for the instant from the routine of life, and to recognize the presence of those great elemental forces which shriek at mankind through the bars of his civilization, like untamed beasts in a cage. As evening drew in, the storm grew higher and louder, and the wind cried and sobbed like a child in the chimney. Sherlock Holmes sat moodily at one side of the fireplace cross-indexing his records of crime, while I at the other was deep in one of Clark Russell’s fine sea-stories until the howl of the gale from without seemed to blend with the text, and the splash of the rain to lengthen out into the long swash of the sea waves.”

This is the famous child-in-the-chimney passage. The passage that has been so much the subject of interpretation and speculation among Sherlockians.

Just think, for a moment, how much better it would read if Watson had written: 

“…the storm grew higher and louder, and the wind in the chimney cried and sobbed like a child.”

Instead, Watson wrote: 

“…the storm grew higher and louder, and the wind cried and sobbed like a child in the chimney.”

Just think, for a moment, how much merry-making and jollity we Sherlockians would have missed if Watson had chosen the former syntax rather than the latter. It is interesting to speculate upon whether, or not, Watson occasionally tossed in a bone for the hounds to gnaw on.

Watson’s painting of a child-in-the-chimney may be a distraction. But it is compares favourably with  Edvard Munch’s *The Scream.* To some Munch is art. I call Munch’s work a clip from a horror movie. 

By the way, *The Scream* sold at Sotheby’s on 2 May 2012 for $119,922,600.  

“And Watson don’t charge us a thing to read his paintings,” said Mrs. Baynes. 

Respectfully submitted,

Inspector Baynes 

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




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