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Monday, January 12, 2015

Three nominees for Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is where most of England's greatest are memorialized, if not buried. There is an area in the Abbey known as Poet's Corner because of the number of writers and poets who are honored there.

But three writers seem conspicuous by their absence: Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ian Fleming.

None of them are another Shakespeare, or Charles Dickens, or Rudyard Kipling. But I'd put them at least on a par with C.S. Lewis, or the overrated Oscar Wilde, both of whom made the cut.

None of the three was known as a prose stylist, or produced epic sagas which captured the grandeur of the English empire. But all three created characters who have become immortal.

Dame Agatha Christie actually produced two: Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. (I just happened to watch the 1987 BBC production of At Bertram's Hotel again last night, and it struck me that Christie really deserves a spot in the Abbey.) Christie also happens to be the best-selling novelist of all time, with over two billion copies of her books sold; that ought to count for something.

Arthur Conan Doyle was knighted for having created Sherlock Holmes, the ultimate master of deductive reasoning. But Doyle also deserves a place at Westminster. He may not have coined as many popular expressions as Shakespeare, but many of us are familiar with "Come Watson, the game is afoot!" Or, "When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth."

For that matter, how many of us have never been chided with, "No shit, Sherlock!"

(True story: I wanted to name my daughter Irene Adler Craig, in honor of the heroine of A Scandal in Bohemia, but my wife would not have it.)

Ian Fleming, of course, created a character who is not only a household name, but the template for pretty much every male fantasy. In case you've only seen the movies based on his books, Fleming is a far better writer than you might expect.

These suggestions are hardly an issue of topical import. But that's actually the wonderful thing about Westminster Abbey: its timelessness. When you're in the presence of true greatness, what's happening at the moment in the world outside somehow seems particularly pedestrian.

Anyway, none of these three nominees would be out of place inside those hallowed walls.


Anonymous said...

I read the history of this church (online), in the process finding out which royal couples "tied the knot" there. Interesting place.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
It's an amazing place, with more history crammed into it than any other building I can think of. There are other buildings (like the US capitol) with maybe as much political significance, but Westminster serves as the crypt for people like Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

Anonymous said...

If I ever go to England, I would visit this historical church. My maternal grandfather was born in England, but his family emigrated to the United States when he was a young boy.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
I'd highly recommend it. London is a great tourist town, but this is absolutely tops on the list of places to go. it's awe-inspiring if you pay attention to who's buried and memorialized there.