“Miss Marple is a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner — Miss Weatherby is a mixture of vinegar and gush. Of the two Miss Marple is much more dangerous.” The Murder at the Vicarage
Miss Marple first came into being in 1927 in The Tuesday Night Club, a short story pulled together into the collection The Thirteen Problems. It was first published in the December 1927 issue of Royal Magazine. Christie never expected Miss Marple to rival Poirot in the public’s affections, but since the publication of The Murder at the Vicarage in 1930, Marple’s first full length novel, readers were hooked.
While Agatha Christie acknowledged that her grandmother had been a huge influence on the character, she writes that Miss Marple was “far more fussy and spinsterish than my grandmother ever was. But one thing she did have in common with her – though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and was, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right.” Mellowing with appearances (if not with age) Miss Marple graced twelve novels and twenty short stories during her career as an amateur detective, never paid and not always thanked. The Miss Marple of The Thirteen Problems is decidedly more shrewish and Victorian than the later character, who is often more forgiving.
Agatha Christie is one of the prime influences of my reading life. She wrote 66 detective novels, and I believe I read them all. I guess one of my favorites would actually be, By the Pricking of My Thumbs, which is a Tommy and Tuppence mystery. I always loved all Christie’s characters, including another one you may not have heard of, Ariadne Oliver, a writer friend of Hercule Poirot, she is large-bosomed and eats quite a lot of apples. I often imagined myself turning into a sort of Ariadne Oliver when I got old.
But, back to Miss Marple. A Miss Marple novel I particularly liked was The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side (and then she died! soooo scary!). It included Miss Marple’s cleaner, Cherry, and I always loved their relationship, as well as Miss Marple’s relationship with her nephew, Raymond. Miss Marple is always very proper, but also kind and wants the best for others, and she reminds me quite a lot of a dear and wonderful nun I once worked for.
The thing about Miss Marple is that she shows her readers that anyone, no matter how small that person’s life may seem, no matter how unimportant to the hustle and bustle of the world he or she may be, can still have a lot to contribute and be quite smart as well, often the smartest person in the room!
Raise a glass of sherry, but only a small one mind you, to Miss Marple.
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