Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, master mind…

Above: Penfold Street, London NW8.


“Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s world famous home
Hampton & Sons (London)

Estate agent’s auction brochure with 22 photoprints of house and grounds.”The universally admired home of the late Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema O.M., R.A.; 34 Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood, N.W.; An unique residence with magnificent Byzantine studio and gallery. Nine or more bed rooms, billiard room, dining room, library, inner hall, palm house, Dutch Room, complete domestic offices, etc. The entire property is freehold and extended to about three-quarters of an acre. The house is set well back from the road, and seated amidst old world matured gardens; the whole property is in reality an artist’s treasure house, collected by one master mind. Hampton & Sons will sell the above by auction at the Mart, Tokenhouse Yard, E.C., on Thursday, 5th December, 1912, at two o’clock (unless previously disposed of by private treaty).” [page 1]”

From a post of November 23, 2015 at

Mastermind: An outstanding or commanding mind or intellect; a person with such a mind. Also: a person who plans and directs a complex and ingenious enterprise, especially a criminal operation. (Both definitions via Oxford English Dictionary online.) The original usage of mastermind – a brilliant person – first appeared in the late 17th century; the second originated in 1872, in a passage written by Anthony Trollope. The verb to mastermind first appeared in a 1923 baseball story published in the Salt Lake City Tribune: “Little Miller Huggins did a bit of masterminding himself in that stirring eighth.”

Mastermind is seen frequently in media accounts of acts of terrorism, even when those acts cannot be proved to be attributable to a single prime mover. It has appeared frequently in coverage of the November 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people, including seven of the attackers.

But mastermind is inaccurate, misleading, and even dangerous, wrote Jack Shafer in a Politico column published November 16: 

[I]f we’re serious about contending with the problem, we need to resist the mastermind trope. Our enemies are nowhere near as invincible as Moriarty, Blofeld, or Lecter. 

Brigit Katz wrote for Smithsonian Magazine of November 1, 2017:

“…(Margaret) Atwood would mull over the Kinnear-Montgomery murders for decades, writing a number of acclaimed novels —including The Handmaid’s Tale—in the meantime. Finally, in 1996, she published Alias Grace, a novel that blends the events of the double homicide with flourishes of liberal invention to reconstruct the circumstances surrounding the crime.

…To this day, (Grace) Marks remains as enigmatic as she seemed in the mid-1800s. Was she a mastermind or a pawn? Cunning or simple-minded? An impressionable girl or a steely killer? The truth may lie at either end of these extremes or somewhere in between—in all likelihood, we will never know.

Before she disappeared from the historical record, Marks confirmed her version of events for a final time. Upon her release from the penitentiary, she was asked 27 “liberation questions” that were posed to all outgoing prisoners. “What has been the general cause of your misfortunes,” asked the 23rd question, “and what has been the immediate cause of the crime for which you have been sent to the Penitentiary?”

Marks was succinct in her reply: “Having been employed in the same house with a villain.”.”

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