I asked just recently Who is the best Miss Marple? and a poll asked participants to choose from 7 film/TV actors who have played Jane Marple.
The popular choice was Joan Hickson, but significantly, none of them looked like this, the first known image of Miss Marple, an illustration by Gilbert Wilkinson of Miss Marple from the December 1927 issue of The Royal Magazine and the first-known image of the character.
In THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS there are two very clear descriptions of Miss Marple.
In first story The Tuesday Night Club, Miss Marple's debut appearance, we have
Miss Marple wore a black brocade dress, very much pinched in round the waist. Mechlin lace was arranged in a cascade down the front of the bodice. She had on black mittens, and a black lace cap surmounted the piled-up masses of her snowy hair. She was knitting - something white and soft and fleecy.
And then in a later story, The Blue Geranium, we have
Mrs Bantry... fixed her gaze on the very upright old lady sitting on her husband's right. Miss Marple wore black lace mittens; an old lache fichu was draped around her shoulders and another piece of lace surmounted her white hair. She was talking animatedly...
Elsewhere Miss Marple's age is emphasised by referring to her as "the old lady", and with reference to her faded blue eyes. She herself refers to her failing memory and sight.
Descriptions of Miss Marple are not plentiful in her debut novel THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE. The vicar's wife Griselda refers to her as "that terrible Miss Marple.... the worst cat in the village". The vicar says "Miss Marple is a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner - Miss Wetherby is a mixture of vinegar and gush. Of the two Miss Marple is the more dangerous." The Chief Constable calls her the "typical elderly spinster" and then, after he has met her, "that wizened-up old maid."
Physically, Christie obviously has the same description in mind as in the earlier short stories.
"Miss Marple arranged her lace fichu, pushed back the fleecy shawl that draped her shoulders", and in other places the vicar emphasises her fragility and her age.
I'll be watching how Miss Marple develops, what descriptions of her there are in later books.
The Wikipedia article says " The character of Jane Marple in the first Miss Marple book, The Murder at the Vicarage, is markedly different from how she appears in later books. This early version of Miss Marple is a gleeful gossip and not an especially nice woman. The citizens of St. Mary Mead like her but are often tired by her nosy nature and how she seems to expect the worst of everyone. In later books she becomes more modern and a kinder person."
I just have the feeling that Miss Marple of film and television is not as old as the Miss Marple as Agatha Christie first created her.
Miss Marple appeared in 12 novels
- The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
- The Body in the Library (1942)
- The Moving Finger (1943)
- A Murder is Announced (1950)
- They Do It with Mirrors, or Murder with Mirrors (1952)
- A Pocket Full of Rye (1953)
- 4.50 from Paddington, or What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! (1957)
- The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, or The Mirror Crack'd (1962)
- A Caribbean Mystery (1964)
- At Bertram's Hotel (1965)
- Nemesis (1971)
- Sleeping Murder (written around 1940, published 1976)
- The Thirteen Problems (short story collection featuring Miss Marple, also published as The Tuesday Club Murders) (1932)
- Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories (short stories collected posthumously, also published as Miss Marple's Final Cases, but only six of the eight stories actually feature Miss Marple) (written between 1939 and 1954, published 1979)
- Miss Marple also appears in Greenshaw's Folly, a short story traditionally included as part of the Poirot collection The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (1960). Four stories in the Three Blind Mice collection (1950) feature Miss Marple: Strange Jest, Tape-Measure Murder, The Case of the Caretaker, and The Case of the Perfect Maid.