Friday, January 13, 2017

Girls, It Is Time For Me To Tell You About Constance Kent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                               "Today, I killed grandfather."
                                                 --"Crooked House," by Agatha Christie

                                    That is the opening line of Agatha Christie's 1949 novel, "Crooked House," the title derived from the nursery rhyme, "There Was A Crooked Man."   Taking place in London and nearby within a huge  house, it also refers to its inhabitants, all of whom are far from perfect, hence crooked.

                                     The line in question turns out to have been written by Josephine Leonides, a 12-year-old girl, and the daughter of Magda West, an actress, who married one of the Leonides boys, Philip.  Imagine, a Leonides marrying an actress!  Bet she had once been a chorus girl!  Such social class indifference!  No wonder this house was crooked!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                       Josephine was some piece of work.  She killed her grandfather  (by poisoning him with  his eye medicine) because he would not pay for her ballet lessons.  She threatened others who said she would be sent to school in Switzerland.  This kid predates Rhoda Penmark in "The Bad Seed," by a good five years.  The reason Josephine did not become as iconic as Rhoda was because she was not American, and Christie's prose style was more restrained than William March's.  And then once "The Bad Seed" was dramatized...forget it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                       March's novel brought child murderers into the forefront, but I think Agatha Christie, a smart cookie herself, knew they had been with us since  the beginning time.  I mean, darlings,  if you think about it, Cain and Abel, the first documented murder, was a child killing; we know the two boys were not out of their teens, if even they had entered them.  How do I know this?  Well, hell it is obvious to me the hormones had not kicked in yet.  Abel was tending and sacrificing sheep; no one had to warn him, as most hormonally driven farm boys have to be, to "stay away from the sheep!"  So, this tells me Cain and Abel were very young.  Not only the first murder, but a juvenile one to boot!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                      The outcome of the Christie story is interesting, and almost foreshadows "The Bad Seed" to the point where I wonder if March had read the Christie work before writing his.  Josephine struts about, brags, fakes an attack on herself, revels in the attention she receives.  Yes sir, darlings, a real sociopath!!!!!!!!!!  She has a half sister, Sophia, daughter of Magda and Philip, whose governess, and spinster aunt, Edith De Havilland (no relation to Olivia, girls!!!!!!!) is devoted to her.  She pokes around, finds the notebook, and fits the pieces together, realizing Josephine is the killer.  She knows the scrutiny this child will be placed under, and it pains her.  So, she lures Josephine out for a car ride, with promise of an ice cream, only to deliberately toss them off a ravine, and have them both killed.  She leaves behind a suicide note, explaining why.

                                      How close this is to "The Bad Seed."  It had been the intention of Rhoda's mother, Christine Penmark,  to relieve her own guilt (which was really self-imposed) and save the world from Rhoda, and vice versa, by killing both she and the child, with  a shotgun.  She doses Rhoda with sleeping pills, and succeeds in shooting herself, but neighbors hear the gun going off--so Christine is dead, but Rhoda is saved.

                                       I still wonder if March had read "Crooked House."  I would not be at all surprised.

                                       Darlings, I just LOVE Josephine Leonides.  She is delightful. and deadly!!!!!!!!!  And foot fetishism in both stories--ballet shoes for Josephine, tapping cleats on Rhoda's patent Mary Janes!!!!!!!!!!!   Who could have imagined such deviance, back then????????????

                                        All of which makes me wonder if Christie, in creating Josephine was influenced by real life Constance Kent.  Constance, born on February 6, 1844, and grew up, with a younger brother, at Sidmouth, Devon, near the town of Road, which sometimes was spelled Rode.  The case became known as The Road Hill Murder.

                                        Everything was fine for Constance and her brother, until she reached her teens.  The girl's biological mother, Mary Ann Kent (nee Windus) became terminally ill.  While this poor woman was dying, her father, Samuel Saville Kent, a real pig, began romancing their governess, Mary Drewe Pratt, hardly bothering to conceal anything!  Can you believe it?  A governess?????????
A servant?????????  A dime store doxy??????????  I would have had the father whipped!!!!!!!!!

                                      Constance's real mother eventually died, and, to make matters worse, the father married the governess.  So, now, she is Mrs. Kent, and the children have to take orders from their stepmother--a former servant!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Do you think I would put up with this, girls??????????
Not on your life!  I would smack that bitch on her way, and sent her off  to London, to become the trollop she actually was!  And that pig of a father!!!!!!!!!  Marrying beneath his station!!!!!!!!!!!!
Such things were unheard off--even in my days, in Highland Park!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                        The newly weds eventually had a child of their own--a rather cute little boy, named Francis "Saville" Kent.  Things really tanked for Constance, then, who felt she and her brother, her father's first children, were being neglected, at this little upstart's expense.  I guess you can tell, from my tone, that I get Constance completely.  I may not have resorted to murder--just sibling sabotage--but Constance had it in her to kill, so she did.

                                           When the child was four, on the evening of June 29 and the wee early hours of June 30, 1860. Francis "Saville" Kent, was taken from his bedroom, to eventually be found in a vault in the family outhouse, or privy!  Talk about a metaphor for a piece of shit!  Shows what Constance thought of him, and her family.

                                              The child was found in the privy, stabbed with a razor, and his throat cut.  Constance took him from his room, and did the grizzly deed there, using a lighted match to let her see, suggesting she did it all with one hand.  She must have been enraged!  It was less about her brother, and more getting back at her father.

                                                The case is known as "The Road/Rode Hill Murder."  It was even referenced by Wilkie Collins, to a degree, in his classic novel, "The Moonstone."  You know I would LOVE to play Constance in a movie, darlings!!!!!!!!!!  Hell, with lighting, I could pass for sixteen, which was the age Constance was when she killed.

                                                  She was tried  in 1865, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment.  Ironically, she got some sentence, because, when she finally died, on April 10, 1944, she was 100 years old.  Eighty four of those years had been spent imprisoned.  Constance got her due, because the deed was appalling, and she was so young.  God punished her by stretching out the years.

                                                   Constance Kent and Josephine Leonides are something else.  They should have become actresses, instead.  True, they would have been regarded as one step up from prostitutes, but at least they could have come and go as they pleased.

                                                     Girls just wanna have fun, dolls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Hunting Violets (Resa Haile) said...

That's not the opening line; that line comes quite late in the book (which is a twist ending). The opening line is "first came to know Sophia Leonides in Egypt towards the end of the war."

One reason this character isn't as well known is that people don't want to spoil the whodunit. March's book is not a whodunit.

I was thinking that myself about the Edith de Havilland connection.

I think you mean "grisly."

If you haven't read it, "The Suspicions if Mr. Whicher" is a good book about the Kent case.

Hunting Violets (Resa Haile) said...

"I first came to know Sophia Leonides in Egypt towards the end of the war."

The Raving Queen said...

Hunting Violets,

Your comments are most welcome. I am
not clear on the sentence you quote. Are
you saying that opens Christie's novel.
Because I am pretty sure it does not.

You are SO right about "The Bad Seed"
not being a "whodunit." Which is what
makes it stand out more. It is more of
a How and Why.