Jody Baker: Cut Out The Poetry, Watson

Saturday, July 5, 2014 - 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 Retired Colourman episode, as I recall. In that adventure since Holmes was preoccupied with a case involving two Coptic Patriarchs, he dispatched Watson to go on ahead with the new client, Josiah Amberly the colourman, to take evidence at Amberly'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 and colorful language the details of Josiah Amberly's house 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...."  [RETI, Doubleday One Vol   p.1114]

Holmes was okay on poetry, so long as it was his poetry, e.g., the reverie on a moss rose [NAVA] And the board-schools as beacons of the future, hundreds of bright seeds out of which will spring the wiser better England [NAVA].

But Holmes had little patience for the poetry of others.

Interrupting Watson's beautiful description, Holmes charged at Watson like an enraged bull, he and gored him with: "Cut out the poetry, Watson. -- I note that it was a high wall." [RETI Doub. p.1114]

"Well, enough is enough, " thought Watson.  "That's the last piece of poetry you'll ever get in a report from me."

And 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 a part of 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 exquisite 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." [COPP, Doub.p.322]

Is there a lovelier description in all of literature than this?

Respectfully,
Insp. Baynes


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


Why Is Congress So Bad?

As of April 11th, according to Gallup polling, Congressional approval stood at twenty percent.  Let's think about that. Eighty percent of Americans disapproved of the way the United States Congress operates! Then, at the next election, we send the same people back expecting a different outcome.  Why?   We seem to vote for folks who say they want to work ... (click for more)

Fake Science Of Man-Made Beliefs - And Response

In Chattanooga last Saturday approximately 1,000 people joined a faith-based group calling itself "March for Science - Chattanooga" who demanded that you and me pay for their special beliefs in fake science.  Their sincere, deeply held beliefs are found on their Facebook page.  And, they are not alone.  Thousands of other people of similar faith marched in various ... (click for more)

Erlanger Has Surge In Revenue; Admissions Up Over 12%

Erlanger Health System reported substantial growth in revenue and effective cost management for the third quarter. Net income from operations of $8.5 million exceeded prior year by $7 million and also exceeded budget by $1.3 million.    The health system had an 8.8 percent increase in total net revenue. Officials said the quarter generated strong EBITDA (e arnings ... (click for more)

Trenton, Ga., Woman Gets Workhouse Time, Lengthy Supervised Probation In Hit-And-Run Death Of Man On Moped

A Trenton, Ga. woman was given a four-year sentence following a lengthy hearing in the December 2012 hit-and-run death of a man in St. Elmo. Betty Mundy will serve 11 months and 29 days of the sentence in the workhouse and then be under a lengthy supervised probation, Judge Barry Steelman said.  She was charged in the death of 56-year-old David Joe Bruce. She pleaded ... (click for more)

Defense, Pitching Sparkle In Owls' 4-0 Win Vs. Mustangs

Strong defense meant more for Ooltewah than any other aspect of Monday’s key District 5-3A prep baseball game against Walker Valley at A.C. “Bud” Ball Field. ** Owls center fielder Jake Sullivan made an ESPN-worthy diving catch in left-center that probably saved two runs in the first inning. ** Pitcher Daniel Willie picked off a Mustangs runner at first base in the ... (click for more)

Lee Women, Men Second At Gulf South Conference Championship

The Lee women's golf team slipped from first to second after 36 holes of play at the Gulf South Conference Tournament on Monday from Callaway Gardens Golf Club. The 13th-ranked Lady Flames dipped to 313 after an opening round score of 303 for a 617 total. No. 16 West Georgia fired a 298 in round two (604 total) and will carry a 13-shot lead over the Lady Flames heading into ... (click for more)