O.Wilde, Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. (...)
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. (...)

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. (...)
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself...

O. Wilde (1854-1900),
Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Clara Boehmer & Frederick Alvah Miller. Life

Agatha Christie's parents

                     Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller
                     was born  in Torquay  (on the
                     Devon coast)  in  1890 of  an
                     English  mother, Clara Boehmer
                     and  an American father,
                     Frederick Alvah Miller.

Clara Boehmer didn’t have a happy childhood.  Her father, an officer, died after a bad fall from a horse leaving his wife, a beautiful 27-year-old widow, with four small children and a modest pension.  Her elder sister,  who had recently married a rich American, a Mr. Miller, offered to adopt one of her  children.   The young widow, full of worries, didn’t feel to renounce to such a kind proposal. And so she chose her only daughter Clara probably because she thought that, being a female, she needed a more comfortable life.
Agatha’s mother, Clara, left her house and family for North England, and entered a new house where she felt immediately an outsider. She felt abandoned and, little by little, she got a suspicious attitude towards life. Her auntie was a lovely and kind woman but not sensitive enough to children’s problems. And there Clara had the opportunity to be in a comfortable house and the possibility of a good education. But she missed and lost the cheerful and more natural life she had previously spent with her brothers in her natural home.
She was very sad in her new family and at the beginning, during the first months, she used to cry in the evening till she got asleep. She became thinner and thinner and got ill. The doctor realised the causes of her uneasiness and Clara opened her hearth to him. This fact helped her to ease her strain but didn’t succeed in removing her feelings of loneliness and abandonment.
She felt a feeling of grudge against her mother and, as a reaction, she grew attached to her American uncle who unfortunately, at the time, was already very ill.  
But, there,  the true delight and consolation of Clara's life were Fred’s periodical visits. Frederick Alvah Miller was her aunt’s stepson and, consequently, her cousin. He was Mr. Miller and his first wife’s son. Fred was about ten years older than Clara but she, when still a child, felt in love with him madly.  In the end they got married.
Before their first daughter Madge was born, they went to stay in Torquay, England,  for a while. At the time Torquay was a fashionable seaside resort to spend the cold season.
Their second child, a son, was born in America where Agatha’s parents had to spend some time on business. When they came back they decided to buy a house in Torquay, which Fred loved.  They bought a villa, Ashfield, which had to become Agatha’s home for almost all her life.
Fred felt really at home there and decided not to move anymore. He was very busy with his visits to his Club, to play cards and to go to parties.  Agatha’s mother didn’t like the sea, she didn’t like social events and couldn’t play cards. But she too was happy at Ashfield where she was even able to give dinner parties. Undoubtedly Agatha’s parents were very different. Clara was very active while Fred was  very calm. He was lazy and he was happy to live on his income. During Agatha’s early childhood he used to go out in the morning  and to join his club. Then he came back by carriage at lunchtime and in the afternoon used to go back to play whist. He was then back just in time to get dressed for dinner.  During the season he used to spend his days at the Cricket Club of which he was the president. Beeing very fond of theatre (in reality all the family was!),  he sometimes organised plays. He had a lot of friends and he liked to spend time with them. Every week they had a dinner and more than once they were invited out. (only later, Agatha realised that her father had been really loved by his friends and by the people in general. He didn’t have any particular peculiarity, he was not exceptionally intelligent, but he was simple, affectionate, loving and kind and, above all, very interested in people and their problems. He had a great sense of humour and made people laugh. He was not bad, not jealous but peaceful and well-disposed toward life).
Agatha’s mother was just the opposite. Endowed with an excellent and  vaguely mysterious personality(stronger than her husband's), she was very creative and original, even if shy and very insecure, probably affected by  a hidden sadness due to her past. Everyone – children, servants, people in general – were very devoted to her, ready to obey and please her. She was able to make everything interesting.
She didn’t like monotony and dullness and had a very diversified conversation, she used to jump from a subject to another very easily. She had no sense of humour at all. Her thoughts were always crossing her mind too quickly. While her husband loved to think about nothing but leisure, she used to be involved with three different thoughts at a time. Her thoughts, as Agatha discovered later, were always discordant with reality. She saw the world tinged with brighter colours than it really was and people were always better or worse than they really were as a matter of facts. Probably because of her strict control on herself when she was a child, she used to tinge things of melodramatic colours.
Her fantastic abilities were so accentuated  that she could transform the most unimportant and insignificant facts. She had great powers of intuition which allowed her to perceive in a while what other people were thinking of.

                                  As it is possible to realise from these short pieces of information,
                                 Clara Boehemer and Frederick Alvah Miller had a great influence
                                            on their daugheter's famous detective stories.

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