15

The New York Times record Hercule Poirot's age as "unknown" in their obituary:

Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective who became internationally famous, has died in England. His age was unknown.

Lask, Thomas. "Hercule Poirot Is Dead; Famed Belgian Detective". Nytimes.com.
http://www.nytimes.com/1975/08/06/archives/hercule-poirot-is-dead-famed-belgian-detective-hercule-poirot-the.html

If I'm not mistaken, all we know for certain is that Poirot is retired when he first appears, something Agatha Christie expressed regret for:

What a mistake I made there. The result is that my fictional detective must be well over a hundred by now.

Agatha Christie: An Autobiography, Agatha Christie

Do we have a more specific figure for Poirot's age?

  • 2
    Some useful info here; poirot.us/age.php – Valorum Jan 25 '17 at 12:25
  • 2
    "Somewhere between the redwoods and God." – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jan 25 '17 at 13:33
  • @Valorum You could turn that into a decent answer ... – Rand al'Thor Jan 26 '17 at 0:21
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor - And while that's true, I don't really subscribe to the idea that he's aging in realtime (albeit with a slowtime ratio) which largely invalidates the conclusion. – Valorum Jan 26 '17 at 0:25
  • 1
    @b_jonas - Perhaps each book exists within its own self-contained universe. – Valorum Feb 7 '17 at 21:37
8

According to the Wikipedia page on Hercule Poirot and based on quotations from Curtain, Poirot died in October 1949, thirty-three years after he first met Captain Hastings in June 1916. (He wasn't actually retired by that point, but he was a refugee escaping from World War I: it's unclear when exactly he retired). We know that he was a detective with the Brussels police force by 1893, when he tried to solve the case of The Chocolate Box. If we assume that he was 20-40 years old in 1893, he would have been born between 1853 and 1873, fled as a refuge to Britain at the age of 43 to 63, and would have died somewhere around the age of 76 to 96, which makes sense to me. If he was 55 when he moved to Britain -- at or around retirement age -- that gives us a birth year of 1861 and a death age of 88.

| improve this answer | |
1

TL;DR: It is not possible to put together a consistent biography of Poirot that includes all the stories.

Chronology

Precise dates are very rare in the Poirot corpus, and there are few references to historical events that can be used to give a terminus post quem, but here is a selection of significant dates.

  • “I had a bad failure in Belgium in 1893. You recollect, Hastings? I recounted it to you. The affair of the box of chocolates.”

    Agatha Christie (1932). Peril at End House, chapter 15. London: Collins.

    In the story itself Poirot says, “At that time, mon ami, I was, as you know, a member of the Belgian detective force” but as to the date he is vague:

    “It was at the time of the terrible struggle in France between church and state.”

    Agatha Christie (1923). ‘The Clue of the Chocolate Box’. The Sketch, issue 1582. Reprinted in Poirot’s Early Cases.

    This places the story during the conflict over state secularism that occupied the last quarter of the 19th century and culminated in the Loi du 9 décembre 1905.

    However, in Cards on the Table Poirot says that his last failure was “twenty-eight years ago”:

    “Don't you ever have a failure, Monsieur Poirot?"

    “The last time was twenty-eight years ago,” said Poirot with dignity. “And even then, there were circumstances—but no matter.”

    Agatha Christie (1936). Cards on the Table, chapter 15. London: Collins.

    When does Cards on the Table take place? It must post-date The A.B.C. Murders, since Miss Meredith says:

    “I know all about you, Monsieur Poirot. It was you who really solved the A.B.C. crimes.”

    Cards on the Table, chapter 2.

    And The A.B.C. Murders is set in 1935:

    It was in June of 1935 that I came home from my ranch in South America for a stay of about six months.

    Agatha Christie (1936). The ABC Murders, chapter 1. London: Collins.

    So Poirot’s “twenty-eight years ago” can be no earlier than 1907. This suggests that he had more than one failure, so that his “last failure” is not the same case as ‘The Clue of the Chocolate Box’.

  • [Inspector Japp] turned to the other man. “You’ve heard me speak of Mr. Poirot? It was in 1904 he and I worked together—the Abercrombie forgery case—you remember, he was run down in Brussels. Ah, those were great days, moosier. Then, do you remember ‘Baron’ Altara? There was a pretty rogue for you! He eluded the clutches of half the police in Europe. But we nailed him in Antwerp—thanks to Mr. Poirot here.”

    Agatha Christie (1920). The Mysterious Affair at Styles, chapter 7. London: Bodley Head.

  • In Three Act Tragedy, Poirot says that he was “due to retire” from the Belgian police on the eve of the First World War:

    “See you, as a boy I was poor. There were many of us. We had to get on in the world. I entered the Police Force. I worked hard. Slowly I rose in that Force. I began to make a name for myself. I made a name for myself. I began to acquire an international reputation. At last, I was due to retire. There came the War. I was injured. I came, a sad and weary refugee, to England.”

    Agatha Christie (1934). Three Act Tragedy, chapter 6. London: Collins.

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles is not precisely dated, but it is set during the First World War. Captain Arthur Hastings has been “invalided home from the Front”, Mary Cavendish is a Land Girl, Cynthia Murdoch is a pharmacist in the Voluntary Aid Detachment, Mrs Inglethorp says, “We are quite a war household; nothing is wasted here”, and there are Belgian refugees in the village. Some time around 1916 seems to be indicated, and this date is confirmed by Hastings in Curtain:

    Ah! If I could go back—live life all over again. If this could have been that day in 1916 when I first travelled to Styles…

    Agatha Christie (1975). Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, chapter 1. London: Collins.

  • Curtain is set during or after the Second World War, according to Hastings:

    How long ago was it that I had taken this self-same journey? Had felt (ridiculously) that the best of life was over for me! Wounded in that war that for me would always be the war—the war that was wiped out now by a second and a more desperate war.

    Curtain, chapter 1.

    A remark from Poirot suggests that the war is ongoing or only recently concluded, otherwise “the last war” would be the Second World War, not the First:

    “Like your Mr Asquith in the last war.”

    Curtain, chapter 8.

    Hastings meets “an old woman with rheumy eyes and an unpleasantly ghoulish manner” who describes the passage of time since the earlier novel:

    Twenty years ago and over. When the old lady died up at the Court. That was the first murder we had to Styles. Won’t be the last, I say. Old Mrs Inglethorp, her husband done her in, so we all said. Sure of it, we was.”

    Curtain, chapter 15.

    This would seem to place Curtain in the mid-1940s: indeed, by 1946, it would already be thirty years since Mrs Inglethorp’s murder.

  • Hallowe’en Party is set after the suspension of capital punishment for murder in 1965:

    Faint memories flashed across his mind. Rather a celebrated case, more celebrated actually than it had showed any signs of being, a case that had seemed cut and dried. Of course! It came to him that his nephew Robert had been connected with it, had been Junior Counsel. A psychopathic killer, it had seemed, a man who had hardly bothered to try and defend himself, a man whom you might have thought really wanted to be hanged (because it had meant hanging at that time). No fifteen years, or indefinite number of years in prison. No. You paid the full penalty and more’s the pity they’ve given it up, so Mr Fullerton thought in his dry mind.

    Agatha Christie (1969). Hallowe’en Party, chapter 12. London: Collins.

    (This paragraph references the events of Mrs McGinty’s Dead, 1952.)

  • Elephants Can Remember is set in the early 1970s:

    “A speech!” Mrs. Oliver sounded horrified. “No, of course not. You know I never make speeches.”

    “Well, I thought they always did at these here literary luncheons. That’s what you’re going to, isn’t it? Famous writers of nineteen seventy-three—or wherever year it is we’ve got to now.”

    Agatha Christie (1972). Elephants Can Remember, chapter 1. London: Collins.

    “What I want," said Mrs. Oliver with firmness and the determination of a spoiled child, "is my nineteen seventy address book. And I think nineteen sixty-nine as well. Please look for it as quick as you can, will you?”

    Elephants Can Remember, chapter 3.

Consistency

Since Curtain is ‘Poirot’s Last Case’ and so would have to follow Hallowe’en Party and Elephants Can Remember in any coherent biography, the only way to make the chronology consistent would be to imagine that the characters are mistaken or lying or joking in some or all of these works. But I think that’s a sign that such an exercise would be futile.

Christie was well aware of this. She satirizes the difficulty of having such a long-running series detective in Mrs McGinty’s Dead, where crime novelist Ariadne Oliver and playwright Robin Upwood are collaborating on a play in which Oliver’s Finnish detective, Sven Hjerson, is to be the hero:

Robin continued blithely: “What I feel is, here’s that wonderful young man, parachuted down—”

Mrs Oliver interrupted: “He’s sixty.”

“Oh no!”

“He is.”

“I don’t see him like that. Thirty-five—not a day older.”

“But I’ve been writing books about him for thirty years, and he was at least thirty-five in the first one.”

“But, darling, if he’s sixty, you can’t have the tension between him and the girl—what’s her name? Ingrid. I mean, it would make him just a nasty old man!”

“It certainly would.”

Agatha Christie (1952). Mrs McGinty’s Dead, chapter 12. London: Collins.

However, nothing in Christie’s oeuvre suggests that she was all that bothered by series consistency. While they may share characters, each novel and story stands on its own. There are occasional references to other stories but these are never important to the plot. It’s not just Poirot’s age that varies: for example, Hastings is about to marry Dulcie Duveen at the conclusion of The Murder on the Links (1923) but in Peril at End House (1932) he calls his wife ‘Bella’, the name of Dulcie’s twin sister in the earlier novel.

| improve this answer | |
-3

Hercules Poirot was born in Belgium, between 1875 and 1880 … or before. He entered the Belgian police when 18 years old, between 1893 and 1898. He retired from the Belgian police with 22 years of service, between 1915 and 1918. He arrived in England between 1916 and 1918, because the First World War was ending.

His first case was The Mystery of Styles in 1920, when he was between 40 and 45 years old. Here there is a small discrepancy, because if he arrived in England at the end of the war, his first case should have been in 1916/1918 and not in 1920, but let's continue. He died in Curtain in May 1975, the New York Times published his death. So when he died he should be between 95 and 100 years old, or more.

But there is another version: the letter addressed to Hastings, where Poirot explains how he solved the Curtain case, is dated October 1949. With this version, he should be between 69 and 74 years old when he died.

Conclusion: between 69 and 100 . . . or more. There is no exact way to know how old Poirot was at death.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Welcome to the site! What is your source for this information? I'm not saying any of it is wrong, but the answer would be more useful if we can see where you got the info. – Rand al'Thor Mar 8 at 10:38
  • 60 years of reading all the Agatha books several times, watching all the movies several times and reading notes about the subject. I am AC collector. – user8672 Mar 8 at 11:16
  • That's how you obtained the information, not where. – muru Mar 8 at 11:55
  • Yes, you are right ! - The info is in the books,,, – user8672 Mar 8 at 12:13
  • Could you quote the passages you are relying on? For example, when you write, "The letter [in Curtain] is dated October 1949", which edition are you using? I checked my copy and the letter is undated. – Gareth Rees Mar 8 at 20:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy