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.)


Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Supporting Dr. Mary Headrick

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Mary Headrick two years ago when she first ran for Congress. I was convinced then and am even more convinced now that she is the best choice for the 3rd Congressional District. Dr. Headrick has degrees in math and computer science, which shows she has a brain and in medicine, which shows she has a heart. She is superbly qualified to serve our ... (click for more)

Architect/Contractor Selected By Erlanger For New Children's/Women's Hospital

HKS has been selected as the architect and McCarthy as the construction manager for a new Children’s and Women’s Hospital at the Erlanger campus on East Third Street. The Atlanta team competed against another Atlanta group for the major construction project. Erlanger officials announced Monday that $11.5 million is being set aside in a debt restructuring for the new $30 ... (click for more)

Westfield Charged In Burning, Torture Of Kitten At Cleveland

An arrest has been made in the case of a kitten who was burned and tortured in Cleveland, Tn. At 12:50 p.m. on Tuesday, Gary A. Westfield, 31, of Cleveland, was placed in custody on a warrant obtained by Lt. Robert Harbison and Detective Matt Jenkins of the Criminal Investigations Division. Westfield was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, which is a Class E felony. ... (click for more)

Mihaescu, March Win Region 3-A/AA Cross Country Titles

The weather wasn't quite as nice as it was last week, but it was still sunny and warm on Tuesday afternoon for the Region 3-A/AA cross country championships, which were held on a flat course at Camp Jordan in East Ridge. Sequoyah senior Danielle March was the female winner as she toured the 5K course in 21 minutes, 46 seconds to win by almost a minute over KiAnna Queener, ... (click for more)

Boyd-Buchanan Defeats East Ridge 7-1 In Soccer Semi

The Boyd-Buchanan girls’ soccer team has already made history this season, but coach Todd Ledbetter’s Lady Bucs are hungry for more. After winning the school’s first district title last week, they moved a step closer to another championship with a Region 3-A/AA semifinal victory at home on Tuesday. Boyd-Buchanan, the 5-A/AA champion, defeated District 6 runner-up ... (click for more)