Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: Mycroft Holmes

A drawing of Mycroft Holmes from the Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Athur Conan Doyle

If one pays attention to little details, one finds all sorts of amazing connections. I'm terrible about this in real-life, but decent enough when it comes to books. Case in point: back when I was planning on becoming an Episcopal priest, I sought out a number of works by noted Anglicans pertaining to the church's view on aspects of the supernatural, and found one book of particular interest: The Book of Were-Wolves by the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould. Shortly before this, I'd played the role of Major-General Stanley in probably my very favorite operetta, Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" (no surprise as a favorite, I expect). This is a role I'd like to reprise someday, because I played it the same way everyone does, and I'd like to approach it with more of a blustery C. Aubrey Smith type of delivery the next go 'round.

ANYWAY, in Mississippi I attended a church where the music was not all that spectacular, and as a result we ended up singing that famous martial hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." Reading the credits(?) at the bottom, I found that the hymn was a collaboration of the Werewolf scholar Baring-Gould and composer Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan)!

Some time later, while becoming a more enthusiastic Sherlockian, I found that many of the best essays and annotations were by a William S. Baring-Gould. Upon examination, I found that this was Sabine's grandson! The world of letters is a small one indeed. This series of connections is probably EXTREMELY boring to all but myself.

I include this little whatchadoo here because Mycroft Holmes, pictured here in all his ambitionless brilliance (likely on route to the Diogenes club), is most probably NOT Sherlock Holmes' only brother, though he is the only one expressly mentioned in the canonical Arthur Conan Doyle stories. This deduction was arrived at by William S. Baring Gould based on a line in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," in which Holmes says that his ancestors were country squires. As the oldest son of a squire would most certainly have stayed home to take charge of the estates, Mycroft could not have filled this role AND his government duties in tandem. And, as younger sons of the gentry often went into government in the Victorian era, it is logical to assume that Mycroft is, in fact, the MIDDLE brother, and Sherlock the youngest. This assumption has since come to be more or less agreed upon amongst Holmes fans, and the name of the oldest brother is bandied about as Sherrinford, which was the original name given to Sherlock by Conan Doyle before the publication of A Study in Scarlet.



Cereal Guy Dan said...

I find it all pretty interesting, and am going to see if I can find some info on the werewolf text.

It seems as though it would be kind of fun to create an amalgam of the features you've used for Sherlock and Mycroft, as well as historical reference of what a country squire from the era would've looked like, and come up with your own image of Sherrinford. Maybe not though, since there are so many characters to draw from already. Just a thought.

I'm enjoying your daily art postings immensely, please keep it up!

buddy2blogger said...

Mycroft is one of my most favorite characters in the Sherlock Holmes canon.

Charles Gray made a great Mycroft in the Granada series.