Mycroft: Did He Pass Away?

Margie Deck “Gwen” from Seattle’s Sound of the Baskervilles and one of our most active Members has sent along a very interesting question.  She refers to the Sherlock Peoria blog and a posting that ask whether Mycroft might have passed away when “The Dying Detective” was written.  Here is the link:

Margie wonders whether anyone would like to reason a response to this question. The premise of the theory is that if Holmes was dying Watson surely would have notified Mycroft, yet no mention of Mycroft is made.

Thoughts? Can you support or refute the position?

8 Replies to “Mycroft: Did He Pass Away?”

  1. I will weigh in if I may with a comment. This premise by Mr Keefauver, commented on by Margie Deck “Gwen,” is original thinking and worthy of consideration. It is both logical and characteristic of Doctor Watson, given his caring personality and desire to do well, that he would notify Mycroft of Holmes apparent fatal potential in DYIN. Mycroft could not have been away from London, as he was never away from London. Mycroft would not have been unresponsive as there is no evidence of his being uncaring about his brother in the Canon. If one examines Mycroft’s assistance to Holmes (coach driver, mentor, confidant) in other cases, we would expect to find a mention of his concern in DYIN. After all, these are the Canonical Three Musketeers, “All for one, and one for all.” Therefore, one must, at least, consider Mycroft’s health as a logical reason–perhaps the only logical reason–for his absence here and subsequently in the Canon. Is it possible that whilst running on his rails, he experienced the destiny of many a man in his physical condition: a fatal heart attack?

  2. My first thought is that Mycroft is aware of Holmes’ ruse, as he was aware Holmes’ was alive and well the time the world and Dr. Watson thought he lay at the bottom of the falls. Perhaps this is just one more time that the poor doctor is kept in the dark by the brothers. But even if so, it is remarkable that Watson does not mention Mycroft at all–lending credence to the idea that Mycroft is no longer alive. I would think a heart attack would be the most logical assumption.

  3. Well played, “Gwen”! It is very possible that Mycroft was in on the ruse. And, once again we hear Watson’s plaintive and oft-repeated question: “But why keep me in the dark?”

    Of course, there are ostensibly definitive answers in Mycroft’s biography of Holmes and in Holmes’s autobiography. Holmes states Mycroft died in 1926. Mycroft, writing the biography of Holmes, states he wrote it in 1925 and had only a year to live at the outside. Apparently, he did, indeed, pass away in 1926 as Holmes states. So, why doesn’t Mycroft figure in the Canon after DYIN? There is the mystery.

  4. Ah…Buttons: that would require me to take the words of Mycroft and Sherlock as truth. The Holmes’ brothers practice ruse and disinformation at the highest level, although thankfully and usually for a good cause. I’m afraid I must rely only on the words of the good Dr., who is not a pro at deception–despite a good turn at playing a pottery expert. I’m afraid the mystery of Mycroft’s silence and absence will remain a mystery for me.

  5. Gwen and Buttons: fascinating ideas. Yes, where is Mycroft? Could it be that the BBC writers have some sort of extrasensory or paranormal connection with the triumvirate and so they show Mycroft not only out of London and England but also out of the country. It could be that the good doctor was kept in the dark, but it also could be that he had to keep silent about Mycroft’s doings except for only a very few instances and with the cover story of the office, Diogenes Club, and flat triangle. The ante for this went up considerably as the political situation began to lead up to WWi. Curiouser and curiouser.

    1. Daisy et al: Yes, and it would seem logical that, were Mycroft alive, he would have figured significantly in LAST. Yet, with all of the significance and foreshadowing of the spy activities in that story . . . No Mycroft! And he WAS, after all, The British Government.

  6. I’ve always thought it interesting that at the time of BRUC, Mycroft is ‘the British government’, and he is only 48 years old! Amazing really! Of course at LAST, he would be 67 which is not too old to be a thinking machine for the government but perhaps too old to be out and about on special assignments so to speak. Of course, he was seldom out and about anyway. Such an interesting character.

  7. Brad’s premise supposes that DYIN takes place in 1903. That is according to his own chronology. However, a majority of chronologist believe that the case took place in 1890–one of the three that Watson has records for of that year. If indeed the case took place in 1890, then of course Mycroft was not dead (see FINA and BRUC). But why was Mycroft not mentioned? Judging from the internal timeline of the story Watson may have asked Holmes if Mycroft was informed of his illness. Yes or no is immaterial. Urgent action was needed and Culverton Smith was to be consulted right away. By the time the story was published, such a side question would have no bearing on the outcome of events and may have slowed the narrative flow. The Mycroft issue was dropped. Kudos to Brad for noticing what others over the years have missed.

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