|“||They're an economic bonanza. They do the work of an adult for half the gum. What kind of a businessman would I be to part with them?||”|
— Sir, "The Miserable Mill: Part Two"
Sir's "partner" and implied lover is Charles, whose duties involve ironing Sir's shirts, cooking him omelettes, and making him milkshakes. In other words, Charles is employed as his personal servant.
Sir is the dominant one in his partnership with Charles. He is often rude to Charles, including ignoring Charles's concerns and treating his opinions as worthless, and he raises his voice at him.
Sir is the type of person who thinks that raising his voice and saying "my word is final, this argument is over" means he "wins" an argument, as if he has the ultimate authority. Because of Charles submissive personality, Sir's behavior in debates works, and he always gets the last word.
Despite their unhealthy relationship, it is implied that Sir is not entirely evil and that he cares about Charles to some degree, which is why Charles stays with him. Charles hopes he can change Sir, as he sees that little bit of kindness in him. Charles mentions Sir had an unfortunate childhood, and Charles is sympathetic toward him.
It is implied that Charles and Sir may be a gay couple. In the TV series, Charles mentions he struck up the courage to leave Sir and found another man (Jerome Squalor).
Sir is also greedy and indifferent to others. He does not care much about the welfare and horrid living conditions of his employees, especially the Baudelaire children, and mentions he has not even visited the dormitory in six years, and hires relatives to work in his dismal conditions.
He had a very terrible childhood which caused him to be the greedy, mean-spirited boss he is today, but it's unknown what exactly happened to him that shaped his character. In his adulthood, Sir eventually became the owner of the Lucky Smells Lumbermill.
He shows little concern for both the Baudelaire orphans and his employees. The latter whom he pays in coupons and provides an unsatisfying meal of chewing gum for lunch and disgusting casseroles for dinner.
Sir's real name is unknown. It is extremely difficult to pronounce, as evidenced by Mr. Poe's attempts early in the book. Equally obscure is Sir's appearance because his entire head is hidden by a thick layer of smoke from his ever-burning cigar.
In the book, it is left ambiguous that he may have conspired with Georgina Orwell. In the TV series, it is revealed they have indeed conspired with each other because he gets free labor and they split the profits, however, Sir simply thinks that Orwell simply does "weekly eye exams to boost worker morale" instead of hypnotism. It is possible he is a member of V.F.D., but he probably could be on the fire starting side.
The Miserable Mill
At the end of the fourth book when Shirley's identity is exposed and Charles's life was saved, he fires the Baudelaire children, claiming that they were too much trouble and that misfortune follows them wherever they go and he will have no more of it. Charles objected to Sir's decision, but as usual, he caves in when the latter put his foot down.
In the TV series canon, a worker's revolt causes Sir to flee from the lumbermill instead of staying like in the book. Sir also 'frees' Klaus by accident from his hypnosis.
The Penultimate Peril
He later appears in The Penultimate Peril as a guest at Hotel Denouement. A disguised Klaus takes him and Charles to the sauna. While the latter tells the former that he wants to apologize to Klaus and his sisters for what happened at the mill, they both talk about a cocktail party held by someone named J.S. In addition, Sir stated that wood from his lumbermill was used to build the Hotel Denouement. Frank Denouement or Ernest Denouement comes in telling the two of them that they have to clear the sauna. When Sir stated his love for burning wood, Frank or Ernest asks a passing chemist (who was actually Colette in disguise) to take them to Room 547 where Organic Chemistry is.
Sir was among those awoken by the death of Dewey Denouement by an accidental shooting from a harpoon gun. He remembered the Baudelaire children clearly after they were identified by Geraldine Julienne and claimed once again that they instigated accidents at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill while Charles corrected him by stating that Count Olaf was responsible for those accidents.
During the trial that had taken place the next day, Sir submitted the employment records as evidence.
When the Hotel Denouement Fire began, he and Charles were holding hands in order to not lose each other in the commotion as they argued about whether fires were good for the lumber business or not. It is unknown if both of them survived, or if they died together as partners until the end.
Sir and Charles relationship
It is thought by some readers that Charles is in a relationship with his boss and partner, Sir:
- Some moments in The Miserable Mill in combination with their chat in The Penultimate Peril have suggestive lines
- In The Penultimate Peril, they share a room when they travel together to the Hotel Denoument, share a relaxing sauna together there, and when the hotel is set on fire, they are holding hands as they attempt to escape.
- In The Beatrice Letters, Lemony Snicket tells Beatrice Baudelaire that he will love her until "C realizes that S is not worthy of his love," confirming suspicions of the relationship.
- They are mentioned to be partners—the lack of mention of them being business partners is unusual, and suggests they may be romantic partners.
The TV series adaptation made this relationship more explicit.
- Klaus: Doesn't "partner" mean "equal"?
- Lemony Snicket: Well, in fact, "partners" can mean several things. It could mean "two people who own a lumbermill together, or a cupcake store." Now, with the advent of more progressive cultural mores, not to mention certain High Court rulings, it could also mean...
- Sir: I do all the work. He irons my clothes.
- Charles: I also cook your omelette.
- Lemony Snicket: The definitions are not mutually exclusive.
At one point, while Violet is snooping around the library, she eavesdrops on Sir and Charles. Charles attempts to kiss Sir but Sir does not notice.
At the end of Episode 8, Violet asks what Charles plans on doing next. Charles responds that he plans on searching for Sir even though he's not a good person. He tells the Baudelaires, "Some day you will learn that some things aren't always black and white."
When asked about gay characters in his novels, Daniel Handler specifically mentioned Sir and Charles despite there being no prior mention:
|“||I grew up in an environment of queerness of every stripe, and I'd like to believe my work reflects such a world, even if the romantic and sexual lives and preferences of many of my characters are not explicit, as they aren't in life. (After all, we don't know what Sir and Charles do when we're not around, as we don't know, and thank goodness, with many friends; my new forthcoming YA novel has already ruffled the feathers of both queer and straight readers for scenes portraying certain flexibilities.)||”|
— Daniel Handler
In another interview, when Daniel was asked about who is gay in A Series of Unfortunate Events, he replied he wanted to leave it up to speculation, but said, "More than you probably think, as in real life."(25:00)
Behind the scenes
He is portrayed by Don Johnson in the TV series. Unlike his book counterpart, his face is not constantly covered in cigar smoke, probably because such feature wouldn't work very well on-screen.
- "It wasn't a mistake. I don't make mistakes, Charles. I'm not an idiot."
- Charles: "Oh, sir. You can't be serious. A lumbermill is no place for small children to work."
Sir: "Of course it is. It will teach them responsibility. It will teach them the value of work. And it will teach them how to make flat wooden boards out of trees."
- Charles: "Now, Sir. These are children. You shouldn't talk to them this way. As you remember, I never thought it was a good idea for the Baudelaires to work in the mill. They should be treated like members of the family."
Sir: "They are being treated like members of the family. Many of my cousins live there in the dormitory. I refuse to argue with you, Charles! You're my partner! Your job is to iron my shirts and cook my omelettes, not boss me around!"
- "Now THAT is the part of the story that is so unbelievable that I don't believe it. I met this young woman, and she isn't at all like Count Olaf! She has one eyebrow instead of two, that's true, but plenty of wonderful people have that characteristic!"
- "How did you know my name?" (to a disguised Klaus who asked, "What can I do for you, Sir?")
- "Don't ask, don't tell." (Sir's motto)
- "Call me Sir. Everybody does 'cause I tell 'em to. I'm the boss. They have to do what I say, even my partner here."
- "Nonsense. I believe you treat children like grown-ups. Put 'em to work in the mill. It'll teach them responsibility. It'll teach them the value of hard work. And it'll teach 'em how to make flat wooden boards out of trees."
- "I hate the things, but I can't quit smoking 'em. I'm the boss."
- "Nonsense. Lunch breaks are for chewing gum, not sneaking off to libraries."
- "Frankly, I never thought weekly eye exams would have such an impact on employee morale."
- "It's a moving story. And frankly, it's a coincident that defies belief. But a trio of orphans with those exact qualities arrived at the mill just yesterday."
- "They're an economic bonanza. They do the work of an adult for half the gum. What kind of a businessman would I be to part with them?"
- "I took a chance on treating you like grown-ups. Don't make me regret it."
- "I didn't have a choice. Charles, we made certain deals to keep this mill open. And if she wants us to cover up the truth and blame the fire on the Baudelaires, well... that's the cost of doing business."
- "Trying to run away, are ya?" (to the Baudelaires)
- Many years before the TV series came out, there was a lot of speculation on Sir's and Charles' relationship. Many people did not believe they were a couple, thinking that Daniel Handler would not insert gay characters into his stories, especially those which young readers would read. Ironically, the same book features a woman being gored to death by a buzzsaw, which is unconventional enough for a children's book. One of the major themes of A Series of Unfortunate Events is that one can choose to face reality or be in denial of it. Handler is of the opinion that being a child is not an excuse to be sheltered from the reality that LGBT people exist.
- One possible reason that Handler did not make the relationship more explicit is due to the amount of stigma and possible backlash of LGBT characters in children's books, as The Miserable Mill was published in 2000. Such backlash could prevent the other 9 books in the series from being published, as Handler was unsure if the series could continue past the fourth book.
- Sir wrote the book The History of Lucky Smells Lumbermill and donated it to the library. In the TV series, the table of contents is shown and the final chapter is titled "Sir a Legend in the Making".
- A character with similar traits to Sir, Smogface Wiley, appears in File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents. Smogface Wiley smokes cigarettes and collects silver spoons, each engraved with a different letter of the alphabet. In the TV series, an excerpt from his book says that Sir smokes cigarillos and uses a silver spoon to eat alphabet soup.
- The Miserable Mill
- The Penultimate Peril
- A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV series)