Agatha Christie Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection is the sequence of files from the offices of Hughes Massie & Co Ltd relating to Agatha Christie's literary estate prior to her death. For this entire period her agent was Mr Edmund Cork, and the files were created by him to reflect his dealings with publishers, film-makers and other professional persons with an interest in the Christie estate, including Agatha Christie herself, and her husband, Professor Sir Max Mallowan. Each file of correspondence relates to a year, and may include correspondence between Agatha Christie and Edmund Cork, correspondence between Cork and an American literary agent, Harold Ober, and other interested parties. There are also files relating to the setting up and administering of Agatha Christie Ltd, and family beneficiaries. The total number of letters in the collection is estimated to be in the region of 5,000-6,000. Only three letters predate 1940.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Mallowan (1890-1976), novelist as Agatha Christie, was born in Torquay, the third and youngest child of Frederick Alvah Miller of New York and Clarissa Boehmer. She received no education of note but taught herself to read and in this way made up for her lack of schooling. In 1906 she was sent to Paris to study singing and piano in the hope of making a career in the concert hall, but was told she was too reticent for such a role. Returning to Torquay, she rejected one suitor to fall for Archibald Christie, whom she married with two days notice in 1914. After his enrolment in the Royal Flying Corps she took up work as a nurse at University College Hospital, London. It was at this point that her idea of writing a sleuth story was born, and took the shape of a Belgian, Hercule Poirot, based on characters she met evacuated from the continent. In 1920 her first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published by John Lane, finally introducing Poirot to readers after six earlier attempts to find a publisher had failed. In 1926 she changed her publisher to Collins and at the same time her husband's affections changed to another woman. The first Collins title was a great success and a revolution in the genre of crime writing. It also triggered the meeting between Agatha Christie and Max Mallowan, an archaeologist, whom she visited at Ur and whom she married in 1930, two years after divorcing her first husband, by whom she had a daughter. More than twenty more novels had appeared by 1938, when this series of files begins, and a further forty followed, plus short stories and plays. She went on to become the world's biggest-selling author, and the author of by far the longest-running play in London, The Mousetrap. She was given a CBE in 1956 and an Hon D.Litt. from Exeter in 1961, and in 1971 she was made a Dame of the British Empire. She died on 12 January 1976 at her home in Oxfordshire.

Arrangement

The original order of the files created by Hughes Massie & Co Ltd has been maintained. Prior to 1960 subject-related letters, such as fan mail, were filed in the main correspondence files; in later years separate files were created, for the sale or acquisition of land, for example. From the later 1960s fan mail was also separately filed.

Conditions Governing Access

Written permission is required from the University Librarian

Acquisition Information

The collection was deposited in two parts by Hughes Massie & Co Ltd in 1992 and 1993.

Other Finding Aids

The collections is unlisted

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction is permitted.

Bibliography

All the items are unpublished, so far as is known.