It isn’t easy being Mycroft Holmes. Although his younger brother might occasionally resent that he truly is “the smart one.” Although his colleagues in Whitehall might envy his ability to create his own position, immune from the comings and goings of various prime ministers and their governments. Although Her Majesty might wish that she, too, could indulge her love of good food without having to subject herself to the restrictions of a corset. Although various world leaders would find themselves effortlessly outmaneuvered by him again and again.
It still isn’t easy being Mycroft Holmes.
Not that he would trade his lot for any other in the world. He can’t. He is, after all, the British Government. More religious than his younger sibling (the weight of responsibility and the awareness of how chaotic the world really is can do that to one), he harbors in his soul the belief that God has placed him where he is for His divine purposes. He runs on his rails because he is called to do so, not necessarily because he wants to.
Unlike Dr. Watson, Mycroft can’t find an Anstruther to take over for him, and unlike Sherlock, there is never a day when he doesn’t have a “case” or 12 that needs unravelling. But occasionally, on Christmas, things quiet down enough for him to stay in his comfortable Pall Mall flat and indulge in his favorite form of relaxation: sitting in front of the fire with a nice cup of tea, petit-fours, and Anthony Trollope.
Not the actual Anthony Trollope, of course. Although Mycroft had the pleasure of once meeting him in 1878 (the author passed on in 1882). But his novels. After averting war with Germany, or keeping his hand in in Ireland, he finds it relaxing to read about the small domestic problems of Barsetshire. Unlike Sherlock, he adores being shut up in his flat. He finds it cosy.
All he needs is a cat.
A cat to gambol at his feet, to feed bits of pheasant to, to weave a welcome around his legs when he returns after a tiresome meeting with the Foreign Secretary, and to sit comfortable and warm in his ample lap while he reads Doctor Thorne for the sixth time. A cat to shed on the settee, to give his housekeeper something to do (unlike his brother, Mycroft is exceptionally neat, not only in his person, but in all things).
I think we’ve found one….
And now, for today’s question–
Since we’ve mentioned the Naval Treaty (in the caption above), what was the name of the Phelps’s house? What does it refer to? (Besides the house, all of you wiseacres!)
And the prize–
I’ll admit right now–I haven’t read this book. But these endorsements from Bonnie MacBird and Roger Johnson (taken from the book’s Amazon page) lead me to believe that you’ll enjoy it. Trust me, these are reviewers you want if you’ve written a Holmesian book!
“Maureen Whittaker’s ‘Playing a Part’ presents a remarkable and highly readable compendium of the professional career of the scintillating actor Jeremy Brett – who thrilled audiences for four decades onscreen and onstage in roles ranging from Orlando to Dracula, William Pitt the Younger, and Freddie Eynsford Hill – culminating, in his creation of what what is widely regarded as the definitive performance of Sherlock Holmes in Granada’s legendary series. As a deep Sherlockian and fan of Jeremy, I loved this book – it is a thrill ride and a suitable way to honour the remarkable career of a courageous, gifted gentleman. Twinkle on, Jeremy.”
Bonnie MacBird, BSI, SHSL, Emmy winning producer, playwright, screenwriter (TRON) and author of ‘The Sherlock Holmes Adventure Series’), HarperCollins.
A quarter-century after his death, the name of Jeremy Brett is known and honoured world-wide – because in the early 1980s Michael Cox chose him to play Sherlock Holmes in a landmark television series. That one rôle made him an international star and ensured his lasting fame, but it has, regrettably, overshadowed the rest of his career. The reason why Jeremy Brett was a great Sherlock Holmes (many would say the greatest) is that he was one of our finest actors. Yet his work pre-Holmes is little known, as his most notable performances were in the theatre or on television; no recordings exist of his work at the Old Vic, the National Theatre or the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and only a few are available from such small-screen productions as Love’s Labours Lost, The Merchant of Venice and An Ideal Husband. Maureen Whitaker’s splendid book – “the fruit of pensive nights and laborious days”* – redresses the balance, and does justice to Jeremy Brett’s whole remarkable career.
Roger Johnson, BSI, ASH, SHSL
Editor, The Sherlock Holmes Journal
As always, to enter the prize drawing, please send your answers to me via blog comment or FB message. And while I am kind of pretending this is December 30th, let me wish you a wonderful New Year’s Day!
The Day 6 prize goes to Resa Haile. Resa is always so thorough, that I am going to share her entire answer here:
“This is what has come to be called “The Martha Myth,” possibly first posited by Vincent Starrett, who opined that Mrs. Hudson, the elderly housekeeper in Holmes’ retirement, and the Martha who worked undercover as Von Bork’s housekeeper in “His Last Bow” were all the same woman. (It does not seem to me that “Martha” would have been the operative’s real name anyway.)
“I don’t think we know that Mrs. Hudson is a Scotswoman. Holmes says “she has as good an idea of breakfast as a Scotch-woman,” which, to me, suggests the opposite. For instance, if someone is described as knowing as much about filmmaking as Alfred Hitchcock, I would wager the someone is not Hitchcock. I believe the line is changed in some adaptations to ‘any Scotchwoman’ (and Mrs. Hudson is presumably Scottish in those).”
By the way, I love all the answers that essentially said, “Because Vincent Starrett said so.” Although we all have our own Sherlock Holmes facts that we pick and choose from (I like the January 6th birthdate, for example), the notion that some Sherlockians’ theories take precedence over others which are just as well reasoned can be a little silly.