Agatha Christie on Individuality

This morning I was reading more of Agatha Christie’s Autobiography. It feels as though I’m listening to her as she recalls her life and in this morning’s chapter she was talking about individuality and writing. She said that even though you admire certain writers and may wish to write like them, you know you can’t:

If I could write like Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Spark or Graham Greene, I should jump to high heaven with delight, but I know that I can’t, and it would never occur to me to attempt to copy them. I have learnt that I am me, that I can do the things, that as one might put it, me can do, but I cannot do the things that me would like to do. As the Bible says, ‘Who by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?’ (page 422)

So it’s no good me wanting  to write like she did!

She went on to list the things she couldn’t do:

  • she was never good at games
  • she was not a conversationalist
  • she couldn’t draw or paint
  • she couldn’t model or do any kind of sculpture
  • she couldn’t hurry without getting rattled
  • she couldn’t say what she meant easily – she could write it better

and then the things she could do:

  • she could write
  • she could be a reasonable musician, but not a professional one
  • she could improvise when in difficulties

and things she didn’t like:

  • crowds
  • being jammed up against people
  • loud voices
  • noise
  • protracted talking
  • parties, especially cocktail parties
  • cigarette smoke and smoking generally
  • any kind of drink except in cooking
  • marmalade
  • oysters
  • lukewarm food
  • grey skies
  • the feet of birds, or the feel of birds altogether
  • and most of all – the taste and smell of hot milk

finally, things she did like:

  • sunshine
  • apples
  • almost any kind of music
  • railway trains
  • numerical puzzles and anything to do with numbers
  • going to the sea
  • bathing and swimming
  • silence
  • sleeping
  • dreaming
  • eating
  • the smell of coffee
  • lilies of the valley
  • most dogs
  • going to the theatre

Apart from a few exceptions we like and dislike most of the same things – I do like a glass of wine for example, I’m useless at numerical puzzles, can’t do sudoku (I bet she’d have liked that), I’m not fond of swimming, and I like cats as well as dogs.

9 thoughts on “Agatha Christie on Individuality

  1. Margaret – What a wonderful bit to share with us! Thank you! I actually have felt much the same way as Christie about my writing. I can’t write like she did. The best I can do is write like I do. And it’s good to know she and I shared some weaknesses (I’m not good at games, art or being rattled, for instance). And I love dogs, music and the smell of coffee. Like you, though, numerical puzzles are not my cuppa. Oh, I’m going to smile all day about this 🙂


  2. Hi Margaret,

    What a wonderful insight into the person, I really must get my hands on a copy of the book.

    She had such strong views about her likes and dislikes, her achievements and failings. I wonder how many of us could be that honest with ourselves?

    I love crosswords, but am absolute rubbish at numerical or cryptic puzzles. I like dogs, but can’t stand cats…I am actually scared of them!!

    I definitely like the odd glass of wine!!!!!


  3. This was so much fun to read, Margaret. It reminds me of a Jewish saying–when you die, God won’t ask you why you weren’t Moses. God will ask why weren’t you —–(fill in your own name)?


  4. This is interesting. I should read her autobiography since she’s always been such a mystery to me. I agree with many of her likes and dislikes – hate crowds and hurrying for instance, and love apples and the smell of coffee.


  5. That quotation of hers is just so clever! And would the world want a poor imitation of Graham Greene or Muriel Spark, if they could have a unique Agatha Christie?


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