Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Agatha's Early Inspirations

I recently stumbled across a book I got for Christmas long ago called In the Footsteps of Agatha Christie, by Francois Riviere and with photos by Jean-Bernard Naudin. The book is simply breathtaking with its images of Agatha's Torquay and of the many settings she made into the settings of her books. My particular favorites were the little English village of Miss Marple and, of course, the old seaside resorts.

The book recounts tales from Agatha's life, one of which was her determination to write The Mysterious Affair at Styles and how she ended up staying in moody Dartmoor for inspiration (this Dartmoor photo from http://www.independenthostelguide.co.uk/jpegs/Dartmoor%20Exp%20Centre%202.jpg)

Here's a little excerpt which I find particularly interesting and ironic:

"Mrs. Miller suggested that she leave the hospital for a while and stay in a hotel which they both knew well, on the edge of Dartmoor.

Dartmoor is a bleak tableland in the very heart of Devon, scattered with weirdly shaped rocks and haunting to susceptible spirits. It is a remote, empty, windswept place at whose centre only two roads of any note cross. Seemingly uninhabited, except by ponies and sheep, the impressive scenery had always fascinated Agatha. As a child she had followed her parents looking for prehistoric traces known as 'hut circles', which seem to fade away as one draws near. She also remembered picnics on the moor in the pouring rain, and, like many of her contemporaries, had been marked by The Hound of the Baskervilles, that long investigation conducted by Sherlock Holmes in an other-worldly atmosphere and the setting of Dartmoor. It was to this land of dreams and mysteries that Agatha came to regain her forces and set her imagination to work again. . . .

The manuscript of The Mysterious Affair at Styles was completed in 1916 and sent to four publishers in succession. The first three replied with a polite refusal. The fourth, John Lane of The Bodley Head, did not deign to answer."

Even Agatha, the woman who would become the GREAT Agatha, couldn't get past those rejection letters. And that should give hope to us all. :)


Liz Lytle said...

OOOH, Julia -- Thanks for taking me back to a summer's day, walking the chalk cliffs above the sea in Torquay, thinking of Dame Agatha in her era doing the same, and hoping to "channel" at least a bit of her incredible talent by following in her footsteps. Alas, I had to retrace my footsteps to the hotel on nearby Daddyhole Road -- that address is for real! and retire, bereft of Dame Agatha's influence, but still hopeful of seeing the hotel's resident ghost, a regal-looking Edwardian gentleman whose larger-than-life-size oil portrait "lorded" over the lounge/bar, in what was once his manor house. Let's lift a gin and tonic to the possibility of visiting her grandson, if not Dame Edith herself! When you go, be sure to leave time for Cockington Village, nearby on the English Riviera, where life goes on as it did in the 1800s, and watch where you step -- the horse-powered transport uses the same narrow roads! All the best, Liz Lytle, temporarily in Tucson, where the kids had first snowday in 25 years on Monday (1/2 inch nearly paralyzed the desert city)

Julia Buckley said...

That's wonderful! When were you there?

Anonymous said...

I looooooooove Agatha Christie's books. They're amazing!