Agatha Christie letters

Scope and Content

Original manuscript air mail letter from Agatha Christie to Shirley Dawson, in response to her request for advice on writing. In addition, one photocopy of the letter and one additional photocopy letter to Shirley Dawson. Also includes hard copies of explanatory emails with transcripts of letters and envelope.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Mallowan (1890-1976), the novelist known 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, 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.

Christie received many letters from young writers, asking for advice. Often her agent would reply on her behalf, but occasionally she replied herself with encouragement.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply

Acquisition Information

Donated by Shirley Connuck (Dawson), the recipient of these letters. Deposited in two parts in 2010 and 2012

Other Finding Aids

Listed. See Description.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Sue Inskip, 2012; modified by Christine Faunch, Head of Heritage Collections, Oct 2013.

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction is permitted without permission of the rights holder

Related Material

See also EUL MS 99, Agatha Christie Business Papers. Christie's literary papers are retained in the possession of the Christie family. Other letter collections are held at Reading University Library, the British Library and the Bodleian Library. EUL MS 379