Getting to Know MH: Mycroft Holmes in The Adventure of Bruce-Partington Plans

The Adventure of Bruce-Partington Plans is one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes adventures mainly because of Mycroft Holmes.

It is already given that Sherlock Holmes is such an expert in his craft that I am now running out of superlatives to describe him and his works. I mean, will there be enough adjectives in the Webster dictionary to describe how great of a genius Sherlock Holmes is?

In this particular incident, which is more of a theft than a murder case, Mycroft Holmes approached his younger brother to help solve the case of the stolen submarine plans, called the Bruce-Partington Plans which are very important for it already involves the British Government and its international affairs. Since Sherlock is a much more ‘free’ individual than Mycroft in a sense that the former can conduct investigations which are off the radar, he became the best person to resolve this case. Of course, when it comes to Sherlock, we can only expect the best results.

So this time I’m writing more because I am just overwhelmed with the descriptions Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put in for Mycroft Holmes – accounts which I haven’t imagined reading ever. I was totally caught off guard on the position that Mycroft Holmes occupy in the British Government and how rare of a ‘human being’ he is. Also, the existence of the Holmes brothers proves yet again that good genes definitely run in the family.


Below are the very descriptions of Sir Doyle for Mycroft Holmes which I have gathered in the said story, as told by the younger Holmes to Dr John Watson.

“You are right in thinking that he is under the British government. You would also be right in a sense if you said that occasionally, he is the British government.

Mycroft draws four hundred and fifty pounds a year, remains a subordinate, has no ambitions of any kind, will receive neither honour nor title, but remains the most indispensable man in the country.

Well, his position is unique. He has made it for himself. There has never been anything like it before, nor will be again. He has the tidiest and most orderly brain, with the greatest capacity for storing facts, of any man living. The same great powers which I have turned to the detection of crime he has used for this particular business. The conclusions of every department are passed to him, and he is the central exchange, the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance. All other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience. We will suppose that a minister needs information as to a point which involves the Navy, India, Canada and the bimetallic question; he could get his separate advices from various departments upon each, but only Mycroft can focus them all, and say offhand how each factor would affect the other. They began by using him as a short-cut, a convenience; now he has made himself an essential. In that great brain of his everything is pigeon-holed and can be handed out in an instant.   Again and again his word has decided the national policy. He lives in it. He thinks of nothing else save when, as an intellectual exercise, he unbends if I call upon him and ask him to advise me on one of my little problems.” (Doyle, 1917. p 400)

While the following are the descriptions as told by Watson.

“A moment later, the tall and portly form of Mycroft Holmes was ushered into the room. Heavily built and massive, there was a suggestion of uncouth physical inertia in the figure, but above this unwieldy frame there was perched a head so masterful in its brow, so alert in its steel-gray, deep-set eyes, so firm in its lips, and so subtle in its play of expression, that after the first glance one forgot the gross body and remembered only the dominant mind.” (Doyle, 1917. p 402)

I also got the following traits of Sherlock Holmes in this story which are definitely a bonus for me.

“I play the game for the game’s own sake.” – Sherlock Holmes

“It was one of my friend’s most obvious weaknesses that he was impatient with less alert intelligences than his own.” – Dr John Watson

“One of the most remarkable characteristics of Sherlock Holmes was his power of throwing his brains out of action and switching all his thoughts on to lighter things whenever he had convinced himself that he could no longer work to advantage.” – Dr John Watson

Every day spent reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpiece is indeed a day well spent. I am more than grateful that books like these do exist and that I am one of the many which have been given the opportunity to read his works.

I still have several stories left to read in this volume and I know, that disappointment will never befall on me.

Photo credits: Image used was grabbed online. Credit to owner.


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