The Un-ambitious Older Brother and other Relations

The reader is given few glimpses of Mycroft Holmes in his younger brother’s stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  In ‘The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter’ Sherlock says Mycroft “has an extraordinary faculty for figures, and audits the books in some of the Government departments,” but by the time of ‘The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans’ Sherlock trusts Watson enough to state “occasionally he is the British Government.”  It was Mycroft who drove Watson’s cab in ‘The Final Problem.’  Mycroft was the only person whom Sherlock voluntarily told that he was alive during his three year absence, so the trust must have been great between the siblings.

Mycroft Holmes remains an enigma though some inferences may be drawn from the sparse data we are given.  The word croft can be generally defined as a small area, and Mycroft certainly stayed “in his own circle.”  Mycroft was co-founder of the Diogenes club that is named after perhaps the best known cynic Greek philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope, which may provide some insight into the character of the man.

Other evidence that Sherlock Holmes has family comes from the fact that Vernet the French artist was the brother of his grandmother.  In ‘The Adventure of the Norwood Builder,’ Watson tells us that someone named Verner (perhaps a corruption of Vernet) had purchased his medical practice allowing him to return to live at 221B Baker Street.  Watson later learned that it was Holmes who had supplied the purchase price to his distant relative.  This wee keek into the lineage of Sherlock Holmes has been added to by many others, but these are the basic facts according to Conan Doyle.

NEXT WEEK: Woolly Wordings 3

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