May 29, 2014
It has turned into a Marplish week, which is no bad thing. We could have offered a quiz, but instead, Nine Little Factoids about Everybody’s Favorite Sleuthing Spinster:
1. Miss Who? Agatha Christie said she took the lady’s surname from Marple Hall, a stately manse in Cheshire near her sister’s home.
2. Miss Marple made her debut in the short story “The Tuesday Night Club,” which appeared in the December 1927 issue of The Royal Magazine. The story would later become appear as the first of The Thirteen Problems, a collection of short stories published in 1932. She would eventually appear in a dozen novels and 20 short stories. Her last adventure was in 1971’s Nemesis. If we assume that Miss Marple was already “of a certain age” in 1927*, she must have been the creakiest sleuth on record by the time she finally hung up her magnifying glass.
*In fact, a closer read suggests that she wasn’t all that spinsterly when she first appeared. Based on clues from later books, Miss Marple appears to have been born in about 1892. The frail, ancient biddy of “The Tuesday Night Club”? Was in fact about 35 years old.
3. If you need proof that, as Miss Christie suggested, one really shouldn’t discount the old biddies, look no further than to Joan Hickson, who played Miss Marple for eight years on the BBC. She was 86 when she filmed her final episode.
4. Christie’s original notes for Death On the Nile (first published in 1937), indicate that Miss Marple was slated as the sleuth. (In its final form, the book instead featured Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.)
5. Miss Marple famously makes her home in the (imaginary) village of St Mary Mead. But in fact, only three of the Marple novels – The Murder at the Vicarage, The Body in the Library, and The Mirror Crack’d – take place there.
6. According to the books, St Mary Mead is 25 miles from London (assuming a departure from Paddington), and 12 miles from the sea. Based on these clues, some close-reading fans site St Mary Mead as in the vicinity of Basingstoke.
7. In fact, many of the outdoor scenes in the BBC “Marple” series were shot in the Hampshire town of Nether Wallop. This in itself is not particularly interesting, but it does give me the chance to type “Nether Wallop,” which fills me with a certain glee. Nether Wallop Nether Wallop (cue massive giggling fit). Ok, done now.
8. Should you happen to find yourself in the delightfully named Sassafras, Australia, overcome with a craving for a tidy gossip over some Darjeeling in a bone-china cup, Miss Marple’s Tea Room has what you need. Just don’t look at the picture of what they call scones.
9. Jaw, meet floor. Or, rather, meet the Japanese anime version of Miss Marple (with a side order of Hercule Poirot). If you have half an hour to spare, this offers up a gorgeous giggle.
(Image: Cover of the Folio Society edition of The Complete Miss Marple Short Stories, from 2003)