Margery Allingham

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Margery Louise Allingham (born May 20, 1904 in London , † June 30, 1966 in Colchester , Essex ) was an English writer and crime novelist . Today she is counted among the representatives of the classic detective novel .

Allingham's parents were journalists and writers. She herself began to write very early, but initially concentrated on plays and short stories. She had her first major breakthrough with her second detective novel The Crime at Black Dudley (published in German under the titles Mord in Black Dudley or The Italian Dagger ), which was published in 1927. In this novel, she also introduces her main protagonist, Albert Campion. Her third crime novel Mystery Mile ( Dangerous Country Life ), in which she introduces the character of Magersfontein Lugg as Campion's servant, was voted book recommendation of the month by the Doubleday Crime Club.

Life and work

Allingham is among the essential women writers who, in the so-called Golden Age of detective history, are the only ones born at the beginning of the 20th century. Agatha Christie , Dorothy Sayers , Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey , in contrast to you, were all born in the late 19th century.

Family and childhood

Allingham was the first child of Emily "Em" Hughes and Herbert Allingham and was born in London. Her brother Phil was born two years later and her sister Joyce was born in 1913. However, she was raised by domestic workers. At the time of her birth, her father was the editor of the London Journal , a weekly magazine that published the stories of popular Victorian writers as a sequel . Magazines of this type met with increasingly less interest from the reading public, and Herbert Allingham gave up this activity when Margery was five years old. From then on he worked as a freelance writer for various publications. Allingham's mother, Emily Hughes, grew up in financially very limited circumstances after her mother separated from her alcoholic husband and had worked as a hat maker before the marriage . At the time of Margery Allingham's birth, she was also writing for various British publications. Both parents were open to socialist ideas and belonged to the Fabian Society , an intellectual-socialist movement. Em Hughes also experimented with various religious directions, but it was characteristic of her rejection of the traditional role of mother and housewife.

In 1909 the Allingham and their children moved to Colchester , Essex. The new family home was a former, run-down rectory whose living comfort lacked all the amenities that were already part of the standard of living of the middle class at that time. In this spacious house, the Allingham couple set up a room in the servants' wing as an office for her on the occasion of their daughter's seventh birthday: this is where she began to write under her father's supervision. Herbert Allingham gave her an action and then had his eldest daughter write a story that filled that requirement. Among other things, he taught her how to carefully revise her first draft. Her first story was a fairy tale, and a little later she began to write a family newspaper that included serialized stories, poems and even advertisements.

Shortly after her seventh birthday, Margery Allingham was enrolled in a girls' boarding school and only returned to her family on weekends. After a year, however, she fell seriously ill with typhus . After her recovery, the attending physician recommended that she not be allowed to return to school. Margery Allingham was raised accordingly by a number of different governesses until 1915 before she returned to the girls' boarding school.

First publications

The First World War changed the British publishing business profoundly - a number of magazines, newspapers and magazines Herbert and Em Allingham had written for were either discontinued or merged with others. After five years of relative prosperity, the Allingham couple found themselves abandoning their rural idyll in Essex and returning to London, where they moved into an apartment in Bayswater . The changed living conditions put a considerable strain on the marriage. Em's sister Maud was able to help the couple. She was one of the first editors of the British women's magazine Woman's Weekly and commissioned Em Allingham to write a series of detective stories. A little later Herbert also began to write for this new magazine. An offshoot of the magazine, Mother and Home , published Margery Allingham's first sold story, a fairy tale, in 1917.

Mersea Island Salt Marshes. A vacation on the secluded island inspired Allingham to write her first novel, an adventure story.

In 1919 Margery Allingham was enrolled in another boarding school in Cambridge. The Peres High School for Girls was known for its emphasis on classical education and prepared its students for university. However, Allingham turned out to be a poor student here too, although she also wrote two plays that were performed by her classmates. In 1920 she left boarding school and was privately tutored for another three years by Barbara Harper, a teacher at Queen's College in London. Allingham's knowledge of literature and history is attributed to Harper. In parallel to these classes, she took individual courses at London's Regent Street Polytechnic . Because of her early successes in acting classes at this university, she aimed at an acting career, in parallel, she continued to write plays and short stories under the guidance of Harper. In 1921, Allingham began writing his first novel , inspired by a family vacation on secluded Mersea Island . The adventure story Blackerchief Dick (not published in German) was published in 1923.

In 1925, Margery Allingham finished her studies at Regent Street Polytechnic. Tall and heavy, she had given up her dream of a career in theater. Her aunt Maud again offered her work. As the editor of women's magazines, Maud Hughes also oversaw two that focused on the film world and one aimed at young, working women - the so-called flappers . Allingham began writing regularly for these publications.

The first detective novel

1927 Allingham's first crime novel appeared an evil neighbor ( The White Cottage Mystery ) as serialized in a newspaper. In the same year, namely on September 29, 1927, she married Philip "Pip" Youngman Carter, the brother of a fellow student of her acting courses. Both spouses were just 23 years old. Carter tried to establish himself in the art scene as a painter . He only occasionally earned money designing book covers. Allingham contributed the greater part of the couple's income through her writing for various magazines and newspapers. Carter encouraged her than 1,928 Allingham's first detective novel was published in book form, to work on a second detective story, which later under The Crime at Black Dudley ( Murder in Black Dudley ) appeared. Allingham later wrote of working on this novel:

“... I learned to write anywhere, anytime - even if there was a party or a dog fight going on in the same room. Better still, I grew happier. It was the first time that I had the courage to write in a humorous way - something that I had always avoided so far. "

Allingham's detective novels quickly proved to be successful: The American Doubleday Crime Club voted their third detective novel Mystery Mile ( Dangerous Country Life ) as Book of the Month.

Difficult married life

Allingham's success as a writer was not without impact on their marriage. Her husband Pip Carter increasingly took on the role of a mentor - at the time of the publication of Mystery Mile Allingham described him as the most important source of ideas for her novels. Allingham directly attributed two-thirds of the plot of Mystery Mile and half of the humor of this novel to her husband, who had given up all hope of an artistic career by the mid-1930s. The now very overweight Allingham was increasingly the only one contributing to household income. Not least because Allingham continued to write for newspapers and magazines in addition to her work on her detective novels. Pip Carter increasingly led the life of a gentry's country gentleman : playing and drinking were his main occupations. There were increasing arguments between the two spouses and there are indications that there were also fights between the two. In a diary entry Allingham wrote in 1934:

“... feel taken advantage of, but with the uncomfortable feeling that it's my fault. Either I've charged myself more than I can digest, or I'm trying to do the work of a man-woman and do it in a nice and feminine way. "

In public, the couple, who now lived in the country, was perceived as a happy, somewhat extraordinary couple, who worked happily side by side and regularly invited friends to their country house for a happy weekend, with a costume party and a cricket tournament as annual highlights. Allingham seemed to be the motor of this marital happiness in the public perception: writing, but at the same time running an extensive household, a patient hostess whose favorite pastimes were cooking and sewing. Press articles portray Allingham as a person who led her professional and personal life with grace and confidence. In fact, however, she was overworked and felt little valued by those closest to her. At this point, she probably assumed that her husband was cheating on her. At the same time, she suffered from constant neck pain and probably bronchitis and sinusitis .

Allingham's financial responsibility grew in 1935: at the instigation of her husband, they bought a spacious country house in Tolleshunt D'Arcy , Essex , in 1935 . In addition to Grog Gregory, who had lived with them for years, the Carter's household now also included Mary Orr, an old friend from the Regent Street Polytechnic. There was also a housekeeper, a cook and a gardener. Allingham began writing serial and short stories and despite the successful publication of several detective novels, she found it difficult to raise enough money to maintain the Essex country house.

Recognition as a writer

In 1937 Allingham published her detective novel Dancers in Mourning ( Dancers in Mourning ), which received very well-meaning reviews. Critics compared it to Dorothy Sayer's last completed detective novel, Busman's Honeymoon, and often judged that Allingham's novel was the better work. The novel sold better than any of her previous novels and received recognition from literary circles for the first time. She has been invited to events that have also been attended by eminent literary figures such as EC Bentley and Freeman Wills Crofts . The writer and literary critic Frank Swinnerton and his wife became their friends. Influential literary magazine Time and Tide asked her to write reviews for her. Even benevolent as Dancers in Mourning her next novel was The Fashion in Shrouds ( fashion and murders ) was added. Even for the self-doubting Allingham it was now obvious that she could write sophisticated literary works in the form of crime stories. The Observer published a review of the novel, which is often quoted to this day, in which the critic stated:

"Albert Campion has to be granted the honor of being the first serial detective to appear in a story that is an outstanding novel even by the high standards of literary criticism."

Classification of the work

Margery Allingham began her career writing plays . She had her first success at the age of 17 while studying theater in London. Her first novel Blackerchief , which is heavily influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson , received more reviews than the literary quality warrants, according to Martha Hailey Dubose, when it was published. Allingham himself distanced himself from this novel and later bought up antiquarian printed copies in order to take the novel out of circulation.

In 1927 she discovered the crime genre for herself and published her first crime novel. In 1929 Mord in Black Dudley appeared (The crime at Black Dudley), which was the first appearance of the character who would make her famous: Albert Campion. He's a bit of an annoying person who almost can't come up with a reasonable sentence but gets the plot moving. Allingham did not originally plan to make Campion its main protagonist. However, his strange personality and style outshone the real protagonist of this second novel, the pathologist and advisor to Scotland Yards Abbershaw. Dubose sees many of Albert Campion's character traits borrowed from Dorothy Sayer's protagonist Lord Peter Wimsey and PG Wodehouses Bertie Wooster . Contemporaries of Allingham also named her husband and Grog Gregory, a friend of the husband's, as inspiration for this character. However, literary historians like Julia Thorogood have also pointed out that "Duffer", the hero in a sequel by Allingham's father, had a major influence on this character.

Like Dorothy L. Sayers ' Lord Peter Wimsey, Albert Campion comes from high aristocratic circles, but hides behind the pseudonym Albert Campion and his masquerades. The reason is his brother. Which circles he comes from and why he is hiding behind a false name will never be revealed. He appears as a sometimes naive and absent-looking youthful dandy and is therefore often underestimated by others, but with his sharp mind he always succeeds in solving confused cases. His fictional date of birth is May 15, 1900; it is therefore older than its inventor. Campion has the rare quality for a fictional character of his time to develop and also to age. Campion's servant is Magersfontein Lugg , a character Allingham introduced in her second Campion crime novel, Mystery Mile ( Dangerous Country Life ). In this detective novel, published in 1930, Campion identified as the main actor for the first time. He is the protagonist in another 16 novels and numerous stories up to 1965. Allingham could not complete her last book because she fell ill with cancer and died in 1966. Her husband PY Carter finished writing Disappeared Freight and followed up with two more Campion adventures before he too died in 1970.

Works (selection)


  • The burglar's thanks. Crime stories . Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1993, ISBN 3-257-22651-9 .
  • The Frenchman's gloves. 5 crime stories ("Mr. Campion and others"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1981, ISBN 3-257-20929-0 .
  • Wanted innocents. Two stories (“Take two at bedtime”). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-257-22433-8 .
  • The perfect butler. Stories ("The Allingham Minibus"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1994, ISBN 3-257-22707-8 .


  • The old man at the window. An Albert Campion story (“The old man in the window”). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1983, ISBN 3-257-79519-X .
  • Blackkerchief Dick . London 1923.
  • Flowers for the judge. Roman ("Flowers for the judge"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1990, ISBN 3-257-21821-4 .
  • A bad neighbor. Roman ("The White Cottage Mystery"). New edition. Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-257-21962-8 . First published in Great Britain in 1927.
  • The Pig case. Roman ("The Case of the Late Pig"). New edition. Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-257-21901-6 .
  • Thought Sniff. Roman ("The Mind Readers"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-257-22434-6 .
  • Dangerous country life (“Mystery Mile”). New edition. Goldmann, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-442-05393-5 .
  • The governess spirit. Roman ("The China governess"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-257-21900-8 .
  • The house on the Roman golf course (“Safer than love”). Goldmann, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-442-03001-3 .
  • The keeper of the chalice. An Albert Campion novel (“Look to the Lady”). New edition. Goldmann, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-442-03079-X .
  • The Italian dagger ("The Crime at Black Dudley"). New edition. Goldmann, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-442-05392-7 (former title Mord in Black Dudley ). Allingham's second detective novel.
  • Judas wage. Roman ("Traitor's purse"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1988, ISBN 3-257-21570-3 .
  • Fashion and murders. An Albert Campion novel (“The Fashion in Shrouds”). New edition. Goldmann, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-442-03243-1 .
  • The patient in the peacock villa. Roman ("The patient at peacock's hall"). 2nd Edition. Goldmann, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-442-03251-2 .
  • Police at the grave. An Albert Campion novel ("Police at the Funeral"). London 1931. New edition. Goldmann, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-442-05491-5 .
  • Hit me with blindness Detective novel ("Hide my eyes"). Rowohlt, Reinbek 1964.
  • Black plums. A classic detective novel from 1940 ("Black Plumes"). New edition. Heyne, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-453-03832-0 .
  • The trail of the tiger. An Albert Campion novel ("The Tiger in the Smoke"). New edition. Goldmann, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-442-06215-2 .
  • Sweet danger. An Albert Campion novel ("Sweet anger"). 2nd Edition. Goldmann, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-442-02251-7 .
  • Dancers in mourning. Roman ("Dancer in mourning"). New edition. Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1989, ISBN 3-257-21691-2 .
  • Don't trust a lady. Roman ("The Beckoning Lady"). New edition. Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1987, ISBN 3-257-21567-3 (former title The luring lady ).
  • Overtime for the gravedigger. Roman ("More work for the undertaker"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1988, ISBN 3-257-21630-0 .
  • Missing cargo. Roman ("Cargo of Eagles"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1993, ISBN 3-257-22596-2 .
  • When ghosts die. Roman ("Death of a Ghost"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1988, ISBN 3-257-21616-5 .
  • A corpse for the wedding. Roman ("Coroner's Pidgin"). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-257-22432-X .

Film adaptations of the works of Allingham

  • 1956: Tiger in the smoke - Director: Roy Ward Baker
  • In the late 1990s, eight of Campion's cases were filmed for English television.


  • Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery - The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists . Thomas Dunne Books, New York 2011, ISBN 978-0-312-27655-3 .
  • Marianne van Hoven (Ed.): Margery Allingham. 100 years of a great mystery writer . Lucas Books, Aylsham 2004, ISBN 1-903797-35-7 .
  • Richard Martin: Ink in her blood. The life and crime fiction of Margery Allingham . UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, Mich. 1988, ISBN 0-8357-2028-4 .
  • Barry A. Pike: Campion's career. A study of the novels of Margery Allingham . Popular Press, Bowling Green, Ohio 1987, ISBN 0-87972-380-7 .
  • Julia Thorogood: Margery Allingham. A biography . Heinemann, London 1991, ISBN 0-434-77906-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 281.
  2. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 282.
  3. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 283.
  4. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 284.
  5. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 285.
  6. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 287.
  7. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 288.
  8. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 290. In the original the quote is: ... now I learned to work anywhere at any time with anything from a party to a dogfight going on in the same room. Better still I grew gay myself. For the first time I venture to entourage the humor which until then I had always tried to keep out of my work.
  9. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 291.
  10. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 292. In the original the quote is: Feel put upon but have uncomfortable feeling that it's my fault. Have either taken on more than I can chew or else am trying to do a he-woman's job and ... do it nicely and in a feminine fashion.
  11. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 294.
  12. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 296.
  13. quoted from Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 297. In the original, the literary critic of the Observer wrote: To Albert Campion has fallen the honor of being the first detectives to figure in a story which is also, even when junget by the fixed stars of criticism, a distinguished novel.
  14. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 287.
  15. ^ Martha Hailey Dubose: Women of Mystery. P. 290.