Monday, February 22, 2016

Searching for Mother Holmes.

About seventeen years ago, when I was publishing a fun little journal called The Holmes & Watson Report, I asked a round table of Sherlockian writers to come up with their own theories on Sherlock Holmes's mother. We're pretty sure Sherlock Holmes had a mother. Or was, at least, given birth by a human woman. It was the Victorian era, after all, not some clone-teched future or an ancient Greek land of gods. "The world is big enough for us," as Holmes himself would remind us. But what could one deduce about the woman who gave the world Sherlock Holmes from what evidence we have on hand?

Six good Sherlockian brains set about figuring that out.

Hugh Harrington decided that trust was the key to finding Holmes's mother. Who did Sherlock Holmes trust as only a mother could be trusted?

"While Watson never actually mentions Holmes's mother, we can, with some degree of confidence, find her in the Canon playing a role that not only defeats the German spy network, but also preserves the life of her son, Sherlock Holmes."

Hugh suspected Martha Holmes of being that cat-loving agent in "His Last Bow."

David R. McCallister, on the other hand, looked outside the Canon to the Cockburns of Berwickshire and "a tall, thin waif" of a Home cousin, who passed on certain "medium" genes to her son.

Tina Rhea also took a scholarly approach, looking at both the Canon and other writings on the era to surmise that Sherlock's mother might have been "entirely the wrong sort of woman."

Rosemary Michaud gathered her data and used that sort of "logical synthesis" Holmes favored to project a woman she called "Violette" who ran off with an actor and died after giving birth to Sherlock in Chicago.

Don Hobbs saw Sherlock and Mycroft's mother as a Bohemian soul who inspired neither of her sons to take up a life-partner.

My own theory, adding in my favorite theorized siblings of Sherlock (James and Violet), and looking at the admirable qualities of all her children, was that Mother Holmes was a very remarkable woman.

"I have frequently gained my first real insight into the character of parents by studying their children," Sherlock once said, and why wouldn't we use his own methods in this case, as we would any other?

BBC Sherlock gave us one of the few portrayals of that most necessary person, and a lovely one at that, and I've seen rumors that a certain other television show might be doing a mother with the last name of Holmes soon as well. But no matter who is looking into the mother of the greatest detective in the history of the world, I think we call all agree that she was no ordinary woman.

No ordinary woman at all. But then, few mothers are.

1 comment:

  1. I just reread GREE this week and that story always makes me wish Doyle had written more about Holmes' lineage.