INSIGHTS: Forgotten Anthologies: Christie's "The Veiled Lady"
Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Collectors of Christie’s full-length novels have plenty of accurate resources to reference to determine true first printings. However, short stories are much harder to collect as first hardback printings occasionally did not initially appear in omnibus collections – ones where all the stories were by Agatha Christie. Many true firsts of short stories appeared in anthologies – collections of short stories from many different authors in a single volume. Many Christie collectors are unaware of these anthologies.
Prior articles have explored several of these anthologies. The Best Detective Stories of the Year - 1928 (Faber & Gwyer, UK, 1929), contains the first Miss Marple story in book form. In addition, Best Detective Stories of the Year - 1929 (Faber & Faber, UK, 1930) is of particular importance to Agatha Christie collectors as it contains two short stories previously unpublished in book form - S.O.S. and The Third Floor Flat. Both are true firsts. Another anthology, Many Mysteries (Rich & Cowan, UK, 1933) contains the first book printing of the Hercule Poirot story The Second Gong.
Today, we discuss The Hospital Centenary Gift Book – an anthology previously unknown to us. Yet this book contains the first UK hardback printing of the Poirot story The Veiled Lady.
The Veiled Lady:
The Veiled Lady is a short story by Agatha Christie first published in The Sketch in October 1923 in the U.K. In the U.S., the story was first published in The Blue Book Magazine in March 1925. The story was gathered and included in the omnibus short-story collection Poirot Investigates (Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, 1925). Previously, its first book appearance in the UK was believed to be in The Evening Standard Second Book of Strange Stories (Hutchinson, London, 1937).
The first paperback appearance was in June 1944 as part of a two-story paperback printing by Polybooks which also contained The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest. Two years later, The Veiled Lady was part of a three story paperback collection titled Poirot Lends a Hand (Polybooks, March 1946).
In September 1974 the story was included in the omnibus collection Poirot's Early Cases (Collins Crime Club, London UK).
The Hospital Centenary Gift Book:
Published in 1935 by George G. Harrap & Company, London, but appropriately printed in Manchester by St. Ann’s Press, this anthology was sold to aid the centenary appeal of the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
Founded in 1829, it still is the largest and oldest children’s hospital in the UK. In 1935, the hospital built a then new 40 bed facility in an eight-acre garden that adjoined the hospital. The costs of this expansion and other maintenance needs resulted in an appeal to raise £100,000 (est. £8,000,000 today). Part of the fundraising effort was the publication of The Hospital Centenary Gift Book which was made possible by the gifts of stories, verses, drawings and photographs. Contributors included Rudyard Kipling, J.B. Priestley and Agatha Christie. Certainly the mid-1930s were an incredibly successful and productive period for Christie. Her willingness to support a charitable effort such as this with the donation of a story for publication is most laudable.
There were also three pages of full colour plates by Walt Disney for the side and rear panels of the new ambulance, including all your favourite Disney characters.
In total, the book was 254 pages of stories and poems, plus numerous pages of photographs and art. Originally issued with a dust jacket (though now very rare to find) and priced 5 shillings. It is still unclear how large the publication run was or how wide the distribution was.
The book appears quite uncommon. There have been a few that appeared on the market over the last decade, with auction results ranging from £40 - £120. As these anthologies become more well known expect prices to climb especially when you consider none of the auction listings referenced the fact that it included a first UK printing of a Poirot story. It is likely an attentive collector may find an affordable copy on eBay or other online sites.