To return to the occasional appreciation of the cozy genre, I today would like to pay tribute to Miss Felicity Lemon. As limned by Dame Agatha, this woman is tres formidable, to put it mildly. Consider this passage from the opening page of Hickory Dickory Death:
[Poirot’s] voice held incredulity. For Miss Lemon, that hideous and efficient woman, never made mistakes. She was never ill, never tired, never upset, never inaccurate. For all practical purposes, that is to say, she was not a woman at all. She was a machine–the perfect secretary. She knew everything, she coped with everything. She ran Hercule Poirot’s life for him, so that it, too, functioned like a machine. Order and method had been Hercule Poirot’s watchwords from many years ago. With George, his perfect manservant, and Miss Lemon, his perfect secretary, order and method ruled supreme in his life. Now that crumpets were baked square as well as round, he had nothing about which to complain.
I’m not sure Agatha Christie had a soft spot for Miss Lemon, but I do. The world needs more people like her: low maintenance, supremely efficient, with the highest standards for herself and her employer. She does share her first name, and a generally high level of office competence, with my own Miss Prim, but the similarities end there. Where Miss Prim is warm, Miss Lemon cannot be bothered with the finer points of human frailty. Where Miss Prim is given to emotion (particularly where her family is concerned), Miss Lemon is independent, a true lone wolf who can never be counted on to suffer fools gladly.
And yet… I see a humanity in Miss Lemon, a soul who has armed herself against a tough world by presenting a steely exterior. I have created an extensive back story for her in my own mind, and I understand why she is the way she is. In a world of incompetence, she is the ultimate in competence — and that is quite a rarity. She doesn’t apologize for having high standards, doesn’t care how she is perceived in social media, and in general refuses to cast her pearls before swine. Though we don’t know much about her relationships (in one book, she does express concern about her sister), I suspect she would be a very loyal friend to anyone upon whom she chooses to confer that privilege. She’s the kind of person who’ll do what’s right but unpopular, difficult but fair. She doesn’t have an inferiority complex or insecurities; she knows who she is, and that’s good enough for her. She wouldn’t want to work for anyone who doesn’t appreciate her, because she wouldn’t respect that person–and respect is essential in any relationship Miss Lemon might undertake. In short, to me, she is one of those unsung heroes who keep the world running while keeping the drama to a minimum. So, long live Miss Lemon!