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.)


Outrageous To Give Vehicles To Nation Of Islam Neighborhood Patrol

Chief of Police Fred Fletcher of the Chattanooga Police Department has recently decided to give two surplus patrol vehicles to the Nation of Islam Neighborhood Patrol. This is an insult to the life and memory of PO Philip Cardillo who lost his life in April 1972 at the hand of the members of the Nation of Islam Mosque No.7 in Harlem and his fellow officers who were savagely beaten ... (click for more)

Joe Smith Will Make An Incredible Difference

While now in retirement several hundred miles from Chattanooga, I was still quite excited to hear that my friend and colleague of many years, Joe Smith, had decided to run for the District 3 seat on the Hamilton County Commission. What an incredible difference he will make as he serves your community.  For a number of years I served in a counseling position at McCallie School. ... (click for more)

City To Begin Shipping Much Of Its Garbage To Bradley County

City Public Works Administrator Justin Holland said the city plans to begin shipping much of its garbage to Bradley County. He said the deal is projected to extend the life of the city landfill at Birchwood by 15 years. Mr. Holland said Bradley County "has a huge landfill and takes garbage from Knoxville and other municipalities. It's regional." He said Bradley County charges ... (click for more)

Man Says He Did Nothing To Provoke Shooting At Bakewell Gas Station; Suspect Says Victim Was Coming Toward Him

A 33-year-old man who was shot in the face during a clash at a Bakewell gas station said he did nothing to provoke the shooting. The man charged said the victim cursed him, then started toward him. General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, after a hearing on Tuesday, bound to the Grand Jury a charge of attempted first-degree murder against Donald Stuard II, 29, of Old Washington ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Beats Red Bank On Senior Night

It was Senior Night at Signal Mountain on Wednesday as the Lady Eagles played their last regular-season volleyball match at home before they host next week’s District 7-AA tournament and all went pretty much as planned. It was a battle of regular-season district champions as the 6-AA queen Red Bank Lionettes provided the opposition for the 7-AA winning Lady Eagles. Signal ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Wins 7-AA After Beating Notre Dame

The Signal Mountain Lady Eagles took care of business at home Tuesday night as they swept visiting Notre Dame by scores of 25-15, 25-19 and 25-19 to claim first place in District 7-AA with a 10-0 district mark and 30-8 overall. Audrie Johnson had 11 kills while Kate Barry added 17 digs and 11 assists.  Nicole Terfloth finished with 18 digs and three aces for the winners ... (click for more)