LibLink: Steven Fielding on Scott Egerton, “gentleman, Liberal MP… and detective”

by Stephen Tall on April 15, 2012

Over at his personal blog, Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, takes a look at the work of Lucy Beatrice Malleson who, under the nom de plume Anthony Gilbert, wrote 10 books featuring the gentleman detective — and Liberal MP — Scott Egerton. Here’s an excerpt:

Malleson’s Egerton stories follow a clear pattern in that he usually intervenes on behalf of someone falsely accused of murder and proves their innocence by finding the real villain. … If Egerton closely follows the model of the amateur upper-class detective, one best exemplified by Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey who first appeared in 1923, his political background makes him exceptional. Egerton’s career however rarely intrudes into the plot, although occasionally he has to catch up on correspondence, attend a Commons debate, meet constituents or dash off to solve a local political crisis. The son of a well-known ‘reformer’ Egerton is initially a Conservative but by the end of The Tragedy at Freyne (1927) his first outing, Egerton has followed his conscience and become Liberal MP for a Yorkshire constituency.

If scrupulously conscientious – Egerton’s political work sometimes involves him rising at 4am – his political views remain vague, although he is not an especially radical Liberal. Thus, Egerton backs a scheme to help struggling farmers in his constituency, ‘not by Government subsidy which is infernally dangerous, but by the goodwill of other industries’ such as iron and coal. Like all good Liberals he also favours free trade. Yet, however important is his political career, Egerton does not allow it to ever harm his relationship with wife Rosemary, the pursuit of whom once put his political future in jeopardy. Egerton is therefore an exemplary politician; indeed one character declares: ‘He’s the type that’s cut out for leadership’.

You can read Professor Fielding’s post in full here. And LDV readers may be interested in his forthcoming book, Representing Politics: Britain’s Political Culture on Screen, Stage and Page Since 1900, due to be published by Bloomsbury Press in 2013.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.