Roald Dahl wrote a short story called "Nunc Dimittis" (though Wikipedia states that it was first published in 1953 as "The Devious Bachelor"). The story is described here on Wikipedia: it essentially involves a troublemaking older woman falsely convincing the protagonist, Lionel, that his girlfriend, Janet, finds him boring; the protagonist then takes elaborate revenge on Janet, humiliating her in public. At the end of the story it is implied that Janet has poisoned Lionel in retaliation.

Why is the story called "Nunc Dimittis"? Again from Wikipedia, this appears to be the Latin name of a Biblical hymn, literally meaning "now let depart". What is the relevance to the story?

1 Answer 1


Note that the translation of the opening of the prayer in the King James version and the English Book of Common Prayer is:

Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace

and "depart" refers originally to the death of Simeon. It is traditionally used as a night prayer. In literature it is often quoted as part of a reference to death, or to a character exiting a play or novel. It sometimes refers to the retirement of a person after a long career. Dahl would have herd the prayer often as he grew up, and encountered many literary references to the words "Nunc Dimittis".

Note that at the end of the story the narrator (Lionel) is feeling ill, and there is a clear implication that he has been poisoned by his victim, Janet. So one may say of him "now let him depart" for he is getting the release that he has earned, poetic justice.

  • I'm popping up again years later, but "Dahl would have heard the prayer often as he grew up" was the real answer... I know now that RD was a Christian and later abandoned the religion when his daughter died.
    – equin0x80
    Commented Aug 13, 2022 at 8:19

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