I always enjoy listening to fresh thoughts on our friend Sherlock Holmes and his cases, and this morning's listen to the Highly Improbable podcast commenting on "Noble Bachelor" was very rewarding, especially on the point of a certain Sherlock Holmes quote. The podcast hosts calling it out for its oddity to a modern ear made me ponder it, and that pondering took me somewhere I don't think I had been before.
"I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."
It's far too easy to focus on the flag imagery in that statement and overlook the rest. I've made one of those flags before. It's a fun little craft.
But let's get down to the meat of it: "world-wide country."
One Earth. One country. And a UK/US union ruling it all, apparently, given that choice of flag.
United Federation of Planets, this ain't.
There are some other curious parts to this statement as well: "I am one of those . . ."
It isn't just some idea Sherlock Holmes came up with. There are others thinking about this notion, apparently, which our history books don't tell us of. Where this all gets particularly interesting is when you combine Sherlock's statement with his later words about his brother Mycroft: "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."
Sherlock Holmes wasn't someone who cared much for politics. Watson listed his original thoughts on Holmes's political knowledge as "feeble." But he did grow up next to a man who was very interested in politics and how the government should work. So where do you think this idea of UK/US global domination might have come from?
"One of those," he says. Is he just taking some boyhood fantasy of his brother's and pretending it is more widespread than it actually was? Or is he actually talking about a quiet movement to encourage such a future?
Sherlock's quote also has "the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years" as the thing that will possibly prevent such a future, and we assume "far-gone" to mean the past. But "far gone" just does not mean the past. It also means "a bad and worsening state." What if he's speaking of the folly of having a monarch in the future, or the blundering of too much power in a future prime minister? Like either of those could cause problems for this global plan?
Mycroft Holmes remains largely a mystery to us, with ties to things in the Sherlockian Canon as subtle and unknown as Professor Moriarty's works. But I can't help but think he's definitely behind this particular statement of his brother Sherlock's in "The Noble Bachelor."
How great were Mycroft Holmes's secret ambitions? Did such ideas pass with youth, or were they quietly being worked at throughout his career? That mystery, as large as the man himself, remains.