Mycroft Holmes

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Mycroft Holmes
Sherlock Holmes character
as depicted by Sidney Paget
in the Strand Magazine in 1893
First appearance"The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" (1893)
Last appearance"The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" (1908)
Created by Arthur Conan Doyle
In-universe information
Occupation Government official
Family Sherlock Holmes (brother)
Nationality British

Mycroft Holmes is a fictional character appearing in stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from 1893 to 1908. [1] The elder brother (by seven years) of detective Sherlock Holmes, he is a government official and a founding member of the Diogenes Club. Mycroft is described as having abilities of deduction and knowledge exceeding even those of his brother, though their practical use is limited by his dislike of fieldwork. [2]


The character has been adapted many times in literature and media, including television series, films, radio, and comics. He is popular in culture, being mentioned by many works, referencing his job, personality, or his relationship with Sherlock Holmes.

Fictional character biography

History and occupation

Mycroft Holmes is Sherlock Holmes's older brother. He mainly appears in two stories by Doyle, "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" [3] and "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans". [4] He also appears briefly in "The Final Problem", [3] and is mentioned in "The Adventure of the Empty House". [5]

He first appears in "The Greek Interpreter", in which he brings Sherlock a case involving one of his neighbours. Sherlock Holmes tells Dr. Watson that Mycroft has powers of observation and deduction superior to his own, but is not energetic or ambitious. He also comments that some of his most interesting cases have come to him through Mycroft. In the story, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson visit Mycroft at the Diogenes Club, which Mycroft co-founded. Also, Mycroft visits 221B Baker Street. [3]

Mycroft makes a brief appearance in "The Final Problem". Sherlock Holmes gives Dr. Watson instructions to take a certain route to leave London to avoid Moriarty's gang, and part of this plan involves a ride in a brougham driven by a cloaked driver. Watson sees the coachman and does not recognise him. Sherlock later tells Watson that the driver was Mycroft. Near the end of the story after Sherlock's supposed death, Watson reads a letter left by Sherlock, which includes the statement, "I made every disposition of my property before leaving England, and handed it to my brother Mycroft." [3]

In "The Empty House", it is revealed that Sherlock Holmes faked his death in "The Final Problem" and subsequently went abroad. His only confidant during this time was Mycroft, who provided him with the money he needed. When Sherlock returned to London, he found that Mycroft had preserved his Baker Street rooms and his papers "exactly as they had always been". [5]

In "The Bruce-Partington Plans", Mycroft goes to Baker Street to speak with his brother about recovering missing submarine plans for the government. Sherlock Holmes says in this story that Mycroft only visited 221B Baker Street once before. Though Sherlock initially told Watson in "The Greek Interpreter" that Mycroft audits books for the British government, he reveals to Watson in "The Bruce-Partington Plans" that Mycroft's true role is more substantial:

"I did not know you quite so well in those days. One has to be discreet when one talks of high matters of state. 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." [4]

Mycroft has a unique position in the government, which is not named in the stories. Sherlock comments regarding Mycroft's role that there "has never been anything like it before, nor will be again" and that Mycroft "has the tidiest and most orderly brain, with the greatest capacity for storing facts, of any man living". He describes Mycroft's position:

"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." [4]

He adds to this that Mycroft thinks of nothing other than government policy, except when he asks Mycroft to advise him on one of his cases. [2]

Several Holmesian scholars have proposed theories about Mycroft, though none of these are confirmed in the stories. In "The Adventure of Black Peter", Dr. Watson records that Sherlock Holmes could assume various disguises in "at least five small refuges" which he had in different parts of London; Vincent Starrett wrote that Mycroft's residence "would certainly be one of them". [6] Ronald A. Knox suggested that Mycroft was a double agent who assisted both Sherlock and Professor Moriarty, with the goal of ultimately betraying Moriarty and members of his gang, including Colonel Moran. [7] June Thomson theorised that Mycroft nominated Sherlock to infiltrate the German spy ring in "His Last Bow" (set in 1914) and might have persuaded Sherlock to come out of retirement. Thomson calculated that Mycroft would have retired himself in 1912 at the age of sixty-five years old, but would have maintained his connections with former colleagues in the government. [8]

Personality and habits

Possessing deductive powers exceeding even those of his younger brother, Mycroft is nevertheless unsuitable for performing detective work as he is unwilling to put in the physical effort necessary to bring cases to their conclusions. [1] In "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter", Sherlock Holmes says:

"...he has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right. Again and again I have taken a problem to him, and have received an explanation which has afterwards proved to be the correct one. And yet he was absolutely incapable of working out the practical points..." [3]

Mycroft does not have ambitions of any kind, according to Sherlock. [2] Despite being "the most indispensable man in the country", as Sherlock says, Mycroft remains a subordinate, will receive "neither honour nor title", and his relatively modest annual salary in "The Bruce-Partington Plans" (which takes place in 1895) is £450 [4] (equivalent to £55,299in 2021 [9] ).

He lives in rooms in Pall Mall. His regular routine is to walk around the corner each morning to Whitehall where he works, and in the evening, to walk back to Pall Mall. He then stays at the Diogenes Club, which is located across from his lodgings in Pall Mall, from quarter to five until twenty to eight. [10] He seldom breaks this routine or goes anywhere except these three locations. [1]

Mycroft reads Watson's accounts of Sherlock's adventures and takes an interest in Sherlock's cases. [11] In "The Greek Interpreter", he takes snuff from a tortoise-shell box while at the Diogenes Club, and brushes the grains from his coat with a large, red silk handkerchief. He is also seen "sitting smoking in the armchair" at Baker Street. [3] Mycroft is occasionally referred to by Sherlock Holmes as "Brother Mycroft" in "The Bruce-Partington Plans". [4] He is the only character to refer to Sherlock exclusively by his first name.

Appearance and age

Mycroft resembles his brother Sherlock Holmes, but is described in "The Greek Interpreter" as being "a much larger and stouter man". According to Watson, Mycroft's eyes are "a peculiarly light, watery grey" and always have "that far-away, introspective look" which Watson had only seen in Sherlock's when he exerted his full powers [3] (Sherlock also has grey eyes [12] ). In "The Final Problem", Sherlock informs Watson that the driver of the brougham (later revealed to be Mycroft) will wear "a heavy black cloak tipped at the collar with red". When Watson sees the coachman, he describes him as "a very massive driver wrapped in a dark cloak". [3] In "The Bruce-Partington Plans", Watson states that Mycroft is "tall and portly", and gives the following description of him:

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-grey, 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. [4]

Mycroft is seven years older than Sherlock. According to Leslie S. Klinger, Mycroft was born in 1847. [13] A reference in the short story "His Last Bow", which takes place in 1914, suggests that Sherlock is sixty years old at the time the story takes place. [1] This would make the year of Sherlock's birth approximately 1854, and thus Mycroft's approximately 1847.


Mycroft Holmes has been portrayed many times in adaptations of the Holmes stories in film, television, radio, and other media.




Novels and short stories

The character has been used many times in works that are not adaptations of Holmes stories:


Video games

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