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.)


I Know Kenny Smith

I’m writing in response to comments by City Councilman Larry Grohn about Kenny Smith. I don’t know Mr. Grohn, but I know Kenny Smith.  Kenny told me he met Grohn once but doesn’t know him.   If Grohn really knew Kenny Smith, he’d know Kenny pushed for expanded vocational education while on the School Board and is intent on pushing for it on the County Commission. ... (click for more)

Keep Judge Christie Sell On The Bench

Judge Christie Mahn Sell is a local Chattanoogan who has never been anything but a positive and influential leader in our community. I have known Christie most of my life, and I can attest to her integrity and character. Since Christie’s election as the first woman judge to General Sessions Court in 2006, she has focused on improving awareness and education of domestic violence ... (click for more)

EPB Says It Did Not Overbill The City; Says City Got $685,877 Break

EPB officials said Tuesday that an exhaustive audit of its street light contract with the city showed that it did not overbill the city. Instead, it said it found that the city was underbilled $685,877. EPB said it only goes back one year on errors so the amount owed by the city would be $178,314. Officials said that would be discussed with the city. Stan Sewell, the city's ... (click for more)

Citizens To Comment Next Tuesday On Sound Control Ordinance That Allows Higher Sound Around Downtown Clubs

Citizens will be allowed to comment next Tuesday on a new Sound Control Ordinance that allows higher sound from nightclubs in a downtown Controlled Sound Boundary. Track 29 behind the Chattanooga Choo Choo, that has drawn the wrath of some nearby Southside residents, is within the boundary, which goes along the river on the north and west, to around Erlanger Hospital on the ... (click for more)

Vols Open 2018 Season Against West Virginia In Charlotte

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.   – The Charlotte Sports Foundation announced Tuesday that the Tennessee Volunteers will open the 2018 season on September 1 against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the NFL's Carolina Panthers. All information related to kickoff date, time and tickets will be announced at ... (click for more)

Ooltewah's Williams Signs With Northwest Missouri

Ooltewah’s Mike Williams, one of District 5-AAA’s most respected wide receiver threats in 2013, has signed a football scholarship with Northwest Missouri State, the defending NCAA Division II national champion. Williams chose the Bearcats, members of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Conference, over Carson-Newman, in Jefferson City, Tenn., and Paine College, in Augusta ... (click for more)