Jody Baker: Sherlockian Nursery Rhymes And TAMG Part 2

Saturday, January 12, 2013 - by Jody Baker

Consistent with the Sherlockian Christmas tradition of giving attention to The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Ron Lies (of the Hounds of the Internet) has posted to that List-serve a second Sherlockian nursery rhyme built upon a Blue Carbuncle platform. On Jan. 1 Mr. Lies posted this one based on the Little Jack Horner in-a-corner bit:

Poor John Horner
Sat in a corner,
Of a cell on Christmas Day;
Holmes effected his release,
By ignoring the police,
And sending James Ryder away. 


We shall again consult the work of William S. Baring-Gould and his talented wife, Lucile Maugerate Moody Baring-Gould: “The Annotated Mother Goose”[TAMG]. 

In seeking to consider the history and any secondary meaning to the nursery rhyme, we will carefully examine available resources. Again we note that the earliest version is not a bit like the version which has evolved as it has come down through the ages. A 1720 version shows as: 

Now he sings of Jackie Horner
Sitting in a Chimney-corner
Eating of a Christmas-Pie
Putting in his Thumb, Oh fie!
Putting in, Oh fie! his Thumb
Pulling out, Oh Strange! A Plum. 


Though our annotators do not show us the evolutionary changes of this rhyme, the present version of it is given: 

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
Eating of Christmas Pye
He put in his Thumb
And pull’d out a Plum
And [said[ What a good Boy was  I. 


Our annotators, the Baring-Goulds, (in TAMG) have identified “Little Jack Horner” as Thomas Horner, who was the property manager [steward] for Richard Whiting. Whiting was the last abbot [chief monk] of the Glastonbury [benedictine] monastery in Somerset. The annotation tells us of the legend and reads, in part, as:

“At the time of the dissolution, Henry VIII was taking over all the church property he could get his hands on. The abbot [Whiting] is said to have sent his Steward  [Horner] to London with a Christmas gift to appease the king: a pie in which were hidden deeds to 12 manorial estates. On the journey Thomas Horner is alleged to have opened the pie and to have extracted one deed --- that to the fine manor of Mells (a plum, indeed!). There his descendants live to this day.  As far as abbot Whiting, he was tried (with Thomas Horner sitting on the jury!), found guilty of having secreted sacramental gold cups from the profane hands of the king [Henry VIII], and consequently hanged, beheaded, and quartered.” 

Thus, the annotators’ summary of a legend which has surrounded Mells Manor House and the Mells Estate throughout the ages. The heirs of Thomas (Little Jack) Horner deny the truth of the legend.

AMPLIFICATION ON THE ANNOTATION --- As Mrs. Baynes and I view it, this is the story of an evil king who tried to confiscate a church’s property (successfully, in part for a time) and a chief monk who tried to bribe the king (totally unsuccessful) with the gift of a part of the church’s other properties and  a dishonest aide to the chief monk who (apparently, successfully) stole a valuable manor house and the very large expanse of  lands surrounding it.

The chief monk was tried and convicted on grounds, the specifics of which are lost to history. The hero of the nursery rhyme Thomas (Little Jack) Horner violated the trust reposed in him and stole from his employer (or from the king). The hero of the rhyme was never punished. He was, in fact rewarded. We have no idea what that hero told the king to receive preferential treatment. But we do knows that the punishment inflicted upon the chief monk, Richard Whiting, was a severe punishment usually reserved for traitors. It is possible that the mideeds of the hero could also include: fabrication and prevarication.

And you want to teach this rhyme to the little ones? 

FURTHER AMPLFICATION --- TAMG tells us that the punishment imposed upon Richard Whiting, was that he was hanged, beheaded, and quartered. Neither Mrs. Baynes nor I have the words to describe this punishment. We, therefor,  turn to another scholarly work for this. 

In Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,  (Centenary Edition, Harper & Row, New York, NY 1970, Library of Congress #79-107024), you will find a quoted imposition of sentence by Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough (1750-1818): ---“You are to be drawn on the hurdles to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged, but not till you are dead; for, while still living, your body is to be taken down, your bowels torn out and burned before your face; your head is then cut off, and your body divided into four quarters.” 

Are you still sure that you want to teach this nursery rhyme to the little ones? 

Respectfully submitted, 

Inspector Baynes



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


Too Many NFL Players Take Their On-Field Aggression Off The Field

Bone snapping. Hard hitting. Violence. We all love to watch it. We love the adrenaline that football gives us. Most Americans have their own team that they love to cheer on and win football games. We get so carried away watching the violence that we don’t seem to see the big picture. We watch the violence on the field, but what we don’t see is the violence that football players ... (click for more)

Remembering Ed Temple And TSU's Legacy

Many Chattanooga alumni, former students and members of the Tennessee State University community were saddened to receive the following information from our Alma Mater that legendary track and field coach Ed Temple has finished the great race we call life. Perhaps no other individual, with the exception of Jesse Owens, contributed more to the success of U.S. Olympic track and ... (click for more)

DA Pinkston Files Petition To Declare 2 Gangs A Public Nuisance

District Attorney General Neal Pinkston filed a petition on Monday asking that two Chattanooga gangs, the Gangster Disciples and the Grape Street Crips, and their members be declared public nuisances. General Pinkston is also "asking that injunctive relief be given to the law-abiding residents of East Lake by establishing a Safety Zone that covers most of their neighborhood." ... (click for more)

2 Boaters Die In Suspected Carbon Monoxide Poisoning On Chickamauga Lake

Two boaters and their pet were pronounced dead at the scene of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning on Chickamauga Lake.  Kristy D. James and Mike L. Richardson of Chattanooga were reported missing to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office earlier in the day by a concerned family member. The boaters had not been heard from since Saturday. Tennessee Wildlife Resources ... (click for more)

Vols' Dobbs, Barnett Grab SEC Player of Week Honors

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs is the SEC Offensive Player of the Week and end Derek Barnett the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week. This week's honor marks the first time this season that a Vol has earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week. Dobbs was the last UT player to win the award in Week 6 of 2015 following his performance in the Vols' ... (click for more)

Craine, Ribeiro Named SoCon Players Of The Week

Two University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football student-athletes were named Southern Conference Players of the Week, following the Mocs' 41-21 win over Samford on Saturday.  Seniors Derrick Craine and Henrique Ribeiro both earned recognition from the league office announced today. Craine rushed for a career-high 222 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns in the win. ... (click for more)