Mycroft Holmes Society (1971 1986)
from a speech given by Randall Brune at a joint meeting
of the MHS and the Syracuse chapter of the Victorian Society
in the United States in 1986. Ed]
of admirers of Sherlock Holmes believe that he was a real
person. Born in 1854, he practiced with Dr. Watson at 221B
Baker Street from 1890 to 1903 when he retired to the Sussex
Downs and the keeping of bees. True devotees of the world's
greatest detective, in fact, believe that he is still alive
on the Downs and to this day is occasionally consulted by
Scotland Yard detectives when they find themselves in deep
waters. Such faith is not only a matter of individual or even
collective eccentricity. On Baker Street today, in the block
where 221B once stood, is the headquarters of Great Britain's
largest real estate institution, The Abbey National Bank and
Loan Society. This firm employs a full time secretary/receptionist
to answer the thousands of letters sent to Holmes and Watson
each year, and to greet the hundreds of pilgrims who annually
pay homage to this immortal pair.
true believers recognize that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
are real persons, they are also convinced that it is Watson,
as he himself points out on numerous occasions, who is the
author of the 56 stories and 4 novels chronicling some of
Sherlock Holmes cases. Strictly speaking, since Sherlock and
his brother Mycroft are the narrators of three of the stories,
it's assumed they also wrote them, but if so it's clear they
wrote them in Watson's singular style. Where does that leave
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you may well ask, the sometime eye
doctor, author of several wooden historical novels and the
more successful Dr. Challenger stories, and believer in spiritualism?
Sherlockians recognize that Doyle was indeed Watson's literary
agent, and that either through the publisher's mistake or
chicanery of the worst kind, he is widely thought to be the
author of the 60 adventures.
years after Doyle's death in 1930, when it become apparent
that the myth of Doyle's authorship was likely to be perpetuated,
two international organizations were founded to set the record
straight and, more generally, to study the Watson Canon, to
keep the memory of the Baker Street years ever green, and
to share the convivial company of kindred spirits at such
annual events as the Master's birthday each January 6th. Some
indication of their collective productivity and that of countless
affiliated students of the Canon can be had from the mere
size of the 1974 World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes and
Dr. Watson by Ronald DeWaal. It has more than 6000 annotated
entries, yet acknowledges it is incomplete; and in the years
since its appearance there have been thousands more publications,
movies, TV films, audio and video tapes.
more recent The Universal Sherlock Holmes by the
same author and published in 1994 contains in excess of
1.28 million words and 1324 pages in four volumes. Ed.]
older of the two organizations is the Baker Street Irregulars,
founded in 1933 by Christopher Morley, Elmer Davis, Rex Stout,
and other frequenters of the Algonquin Hotel in NYC. The BSI
has more than 120 chapters, or scion societies, in 40 of the
United States, in Canada, and in Hong Kong... [Over 400 by
today's count. Ed.]
1971 Mr. Gerald Clark had a letter published in the Syracuse
Post Standard and the Syracuse Herald-Journal inviting others
to join him in founding a local Sherlock Holmes club as a
chapter of the BSI.
the five* founding members four are still active in the MHS;
the fifth, the late Lawrence Siegfried of Syracuse University's
old School of Journalism, is still sorely missed by Mycroftians.
Larry was old enough to have read as a boy the first Sherlock
Holmes stories published in America, in Collier's Magazine
and to have pestered the mailman about the delivery dates
of issues with Sherlock Holmes installments, to have visited
Baker Street when number 221 was still standing, and to have
seen William Gillette in his play about Sherlock Holmes which
toured the country for the first 20 years of this century.
(The only other than genial remarks Larry ever made about
things Sherlockian were his criticisms of Basil Rathbone's
portrayal of the great detective, and his impatience with
the rest of us for whom Rathbone's film image was Sherlock
in the Mycroft Holmes Society over the years has been as high
as 60, but more recently seems to have stabilized at about
25, always including teenagers and octogenarians as well as
all those between. Among our local members have been three
"investiture" members of national organizations
that is, three who in recognition of their Holmesian accomplishments
have been invited to join the Baker Street Irregulars, the
Sherlock Holmes Society of London, and the Adventuresses of
Sherlock Holmes (the last when she was 16).
number of founding members, like the location of Watson's
wound, varies in the telling of this history because of
a controversial move by Gerry Clark to exclude women from
participation in the first meetings. This policy did not
last into the public meetings, as we will see. Alas only
one of the founding members is still with us as of this
activities of the Mycroft Holmes Society seem to have fallen
into two broad patterns: in the 1970s Mycroftians were more
often than not an inward looking group, reading and discussing,
and sometimes publishing papers, listening to records, and
watching films, we did, however, in our first year make an
official excavation at the site of the Old Wieting Opera House
on Clinton Square where, with the help of an architect member,
we located the basement dressing rooms of the old theater.
1899, William Gillette opened the pre Broadway run of his
Sherlock Holmes play at the Opera House and it seemed appropriate
to the Mycroft Holmes Society to remove a brick from one of
the arches of that historic building. This brick is one of
two "sacred stones" belonging to the Mycroft Holmes
called the "Blesse'd Brick". Ed.]
more typical activity in the 70's however, was the exchange
of papers on the Canon and on allied topics. The best of which
were presented as Hilton Cubitt Memorial Lectures named in
honor of one of two clients Holmes lost during his career.
Among those in this distinguished series have been papers
Walking Tour of Holmes' London"
"The Sociological Holmes"
"The Feminist Holmes"
"The Hungarian Connection"
"The Cortland Connection"
“Was Watson jack the Ripper?”
the 80's the Mycroft Holmes Society continued to produce papers
and watch videotapes and movies, but we also seem to have
turned more outward, making many pilgrimages to places near
and distant of Sherlockian significance, and even holding
a public symposium in 1983 on the charge in Science Magazine
that Conan Doyle (the Literary Agent) was responsible for
the Piltdown hoax. In respect to the last, it's worthy of
note that the Mycroft Holmes Society was so aggressive in
its defense of Doyle that the opposition was reduced to total
silence!, and this despite the fact that Mycroftians, like
Sherlockians everywhere, believe that Doyle was indeed a scoundrel
for claiming to have written the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Responsibility for one hoax of global significance in a lifetime
is enough for any man, and if Piltdown Man really was a moden
ape with doctored teeth, we are convinced Sir Arthur was innocent
even if he was at the scene of the crime, and even if he had
a motive, and even if he had chemicals, implements, and expertise.
Mycroftians made a pilgrimage to Switzerland in 1983 to visit
the scene of what for many years was thought to be the death
of Sherlock Holmes at the hands of Professor Moriarty: Reichenbach
Falls. It was Moriarty who perished at Reichenbach, however,
and tourists can see a plaque commemorating the event, placed
there by the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. For the Mycroft
Holmes Society, our members brought back through customs a
memento, our other "sacred stone" a very lethal
looking rock taken at great risk from the plunge basin of
the falls in the late autumn when there is almost no flow
second "sacred stone" resides in the Arthur Conan
Doyle Room of the Toronto Metropolitian Library. A gift
of the MHS. Ed.]
other pilgrimages in recent years have been:
- Two to The Arthur Conan Doyle Room at the Toronto Reference
Library as well as to the Sherlock Holmes Restaurant in
- Several High Teas in Cazenovia, Syracuse, and Camillus.
- Gillette's Castle in Connecticut.
- Professor Moriarty's Restaurant in Saratoga, NY.
- A weekend at Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks, the site
of Chester Gillette's murder of Grace Brown, and where the
Mycroft Holmes Society after exercising its best Sherlockian
Skills did, indeed, discover fresh evidence.
Mycroft Holmes Society will be returning to Toronto for
the third time this June,  to participate in a four
day symposium of international Sherlockians sponsored
by the Bootmakers, and we will of course visit the Municipal
Library's duplication of the 221B sitting room, eat at
the Sherlock Holmes Restaurant, and drink more than one
toast to "the Woman."