WTTE – 015 – The Scarlet Pimpernel & Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a character now long disconnected from his origins in a 1903 novel The Pimpernel is a mysterious Englishman who uses elaborate disguises to heroically rescue French aristocrats from the guillotine during the French Revolution Naming himself after a small red flower the enigmatic hero s identity is known only to a select few In reality he is a wealthy English aristocrat Sir Percy Blakeney The Scarlet Pimpernel has appeared in films TV series stage plays spin-offs and parodies He is in fact the original masked hero – the prototype for Batman Zorro the Lone Ranger or any number of other superheroes with secret identities Yet the Scarlet Pimpernel was originally the creation of Baroness Orczy a fascinating figure in literary history A Hungarian aristocrat who found fame as an English novelist a conservative who was nevertheless very progressive in her depiction of female characters a novelist remembered for a single character but who produced a huge body of work Orczy was an accomplished writer of detective fiction Her Old Man in the Corner stories harked back to Edgar Allan Poe s Auguste Dupin while anticipating the Miss Marple tales of Agatha Christie Orczy was also the creator of Lady Molly one of the earliest examples of a female detective Lady Molly is a detective in the Holmesian mould with her Watson-like sidekick solving crimes in her capacity as a detective for Scotland Yard In this episode I explore the life and writings of Baroness Orczy following her journey from her childhood home in Hungary to international fame and fortune I m joined by Dr Clare Clarke to assess her impact on detective fiction and popular literature more widely We talk Victorian periodicals Sherlock Holmes feminism and a mysterious murder in Dublin For shownotes links and more head to wttepodcast com http wttepodcast com scarlet Click here to visit this podcast episode