1890 – 1916

The Early Years

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on 15 September 1890 in Torquay, Devon, South West England into a comfortably well off middle class family. What made her upbringing unusual, even for its time, was that she was home schooled largely by her father, an American. Her mother, Clara, who was an excellent storyteller, did not want her to learn to read until she was eight but Agatha, bored and as the only child at home (she was a much loved “afterthought” with two older siblings) taught herself to read by the age of five.

Where did her creativity come from? She absorbed the children’s stories of the time – Edith Nesbit (The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Railway Children) and Louisa M Alcott (Little Women) but also poetry and startling thrillers from America. Agatha invented imaginary friends, played with her animals, attended dance classes and began writing poems when she was still a child.

When she was five, the family spent some time in France having rented out the family home of Ashfield to economise, and it was here with her “governess” Marie, that Agatha learnt her idiomatic but erratically spelt French. At the age of eleven there was a shock. Her father, not well since the advent of financial difficulties, died after a series of heart attacks. Clara was distraught and Agatha became her mother’s closest companion. There were more money worries and talk of selling Ashfield. But Clara and Agatha found a way forward and from the age of 15 Agatha boarded at a succession of pensions and took piano and singing lessons. She could have been a professional pianist but for her excruciating shyness in front of those she did not know.

By the age of 18 she was amusing herself with writing short stories – some of which were published in much revised form in the 1930s – with family friend and author Eden Philpotts offering shrewd and constructive advice. “The artist is only the glass through which we see nature, and the clearer and more absolutely pure that glass, so much the more perfect picture we can see through it. Never intrude yourself.”

Clara’s health and the need for economies dictated their next move. In 1910 they set off for Cairo and a three month “season” at the Gezirah Palace Hotel. There were evening dresses and parties and young Agatha showed more interest in these than the local archaeological sites. The friends and young couples she met in Cairo invited her to house parties back home on her return. Various marriage proposals followed.

It was in 1912 that Agatha met Archie Christie, a qualified aviator who had applied to join the Royal Flying Corps. Their courtship was a whirlwind affair; both were desperate to marry but with no money. According to her autobiography, it was the “excitement of the stranger” that attracted them both. They married on Christmas Eve 1914 after both had experienced war – Archie in France and Agatha on the Home Front now working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in a Red Cross Hospital in Torquay. They spent their honeymoon night in The Grand Hotel, Torquay and on the 27th December Archie returned to France. They met infrequently during the War Years and it wasn’t until January 1918 when Archie was posted to the War Office in London that Agatha felt her married life truly began.

Words of Wisdom from Agatha Christie

“Instinct is a marvelous thing. It can neither be explained nor ignored.” – Agatha Christie

“Any coincidence is worth noticing. You can throw it away later if it is only a coincidence.” – Agatha Christie

“No innocent person ever has an alibi.” – Agatha Christie

“Very few of us are what we seem.” – Agatha Christie

“It’s what’s in yourself that makes you happy or unhappy.” – Agatha Christie

“Courage is the resolution to face the unforeseen.” – Agatha Christie

“Fear is incomplete knowledge.” – Agatha Christie

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Agatha Christie

“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.” – Agatha Christie

“To every problem, there is a most simple solution.” – Agatha Christie

“Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.” – Agatha Christie

“Poirot,” I said, “I have been thinking.” “An admirable exercise, my friend. Continue it.” – Agatha Christie

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