Cultural Knowledge.

The below passages are taken from Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie.

Chapter 25 A Luncheon Party

Captain Hastings

Somebody—I forgot who—had uttered the phrase ‘judgement of Paris’, and straight away Jane’s delightful voice was uplifted. ‘Paris?’ she said. ‘Why, Paris doesn’t cut any ice nowadays. It’s London and New York that count.’ As sometimes happens, the words fell in a momentary lull of conversation.

It was an awkward moment. On my right I heard Donald Ross draw his breath sharply. Mrs Widburn began to talk violently about Russian opera. Everyone hastily said something to somebody else. Jane alone looked serenely up and down the table without the least consciousness of having said anything amiss.

Chapter 30 The Story

Hercule Poirot

It is at a luncheon party. Sir Montagu Corner makes a reference to a conversation he had with Lady Edgware on the night of the murder. That is easy. But Nemesis comes upon her later. There is a mention of the “judgement of Paris” and she takes Paris to be the only Paris she knows—the Paris of fashion and frills! ‘But opposite her is sitting a young man who was at the dinner at Chiswick—a young man who heard the Lady Edgware of that night discussing Homer and Greek civilization generally. Carlotta Adams was a cultured well-read girl. He cannot understand. He stares. And suddenly it comes to him. This is not the same woman. He is terribly upset. He is not sure of himself. He must have advice. He thinks of me. He speaks to Hastings. ‘But the lady overheard him. She is quick enough and shrewd enough to realize that in some way or other she has given herself away.

Reading Agatha Christie’s detective novels, especially those featuring Hercule Poirot was how I spent many pleasant days when young. Recent tweets about cultural literacy, ED Hirsch, classic lierature etc reminded me of the above passages. I think you can guess why!

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3 Responses to Cultural Knowledge.

  1. This is great! Ernst Gombrich wrote an essay called ‘The Tradition of General Knowledge’ where he uses exactly this example! The whole essay is brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the link. Really enjoyed reading it.


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