Albert-Campion

Albert Campion is a fictional character in a series of some 19 detective novels and over 20 short stories by Margery Allingham. Supposedly created as a parody of Dorothy L. Sayers’ aristocratic ‘tec, Lord Peter Wimsey, Campion established his own identity, and a considerable following, as the series progressed.

After Allingham’s death her husband Philip Youngman Carter completed his wife’s last Campion book, and wrote two more before his own death.

Meet Mister Campion…

Here he is, courtesy of YouTube, as portrayed by actor Peter Davison, from the BBC Television series of 1989 and 1990:

According to the literature, Albert Campion is the pseudonym used by a man born in 1900 into a prominent British aristocratic lineage. Early novels suggest that he was part of the royal family, but this reference is dropped in later works. In “Mystery Mile”, his true first name is said to be Rudolph, while his surname begins with a K.

Educated at Rugby School and the (fictitious) St. Ignatius’ College, Cambridge, he assumed the name Campion in his 20s and began life as an adventurer and detective.

Campion is a thin, blond, bespectacled fellow, often described as affable, inoffensive and bland. His deceptively blank and unintelligent expression hides a man of authority and action. In some stories, he lives in a flat above a police station at Number 17A, Bottle Street in Piccadilly, London.

… a.k.a. Mornington Dove…

Campion uses many other names, in the course of his career.

“Mornington Dove” (or “Mornington Dodd” in the 1988 Avon edition (page 72) of “The Black Dudley Murder”) and “the Honourable Tootles Ash” are mentioned in “The Crime at Black Dudley”.

“Christopher Twelvetrees” and “Orlando” are mentioned in “Look to the Lady”.

…and His Friends

A study of the Allingham books suggests that Campion’s father was a Viscount, already dead at the start of the series.

In “Sweet Danger” it’s mentioned that his brother was “still unmarried”, and Campion is therefore likely to “come into the title some day” – although there’s no suggestion in the books that this actually occurs.

His sister Valentine Ferris plays a central part in “The Fashion in Shrouds”. In that book, it’s revealed that both are estranged from most of their family.

In the short story “The Meaning of the Act”, Campion explains that the secret of his success is to “take a drink with anyone, and pick your pals where you find ’em”. This includes having acquaintances on both sides of the law.

From “Mystery Mile” onwards, Campion is usually aided by his manservant, Magersfontein Lugg – an uncouth street tough who used to be a burglar.

Campion is also good friends with Inspector (later Superintendent) Stanislaus Oates of Scotland Yard (who is as by-the-book as Campion is unorthodox), and later with Oates’ protégé Inspector Charles Luke.

After Campion’s intelligence work during World War II, he continues to have a connection with the secret services. He also has many friends and allies, seemingly scattered across London and the English countryside – and often including professional criminals.

After a doomed passion for a married woman in “Dancers in Mourning”, Campion eventually meets Amanda Fitton, who first appears in “Sweet Danger” as a seventeen-year old, and later becomes an aircraft engineer. In that story, her brother Hal recovers the family title of Earl of Pontisbright, and Amanda becomes Lady Amanda, as the sister of an Earl. She and Campion eventually marry, and have a son called Rupert.

The Adventures

The Campion stories are generally adventures, rather than true mysteries. They rarely feature puzzles that the reader has a chance of solving; it’s the characters and situations which move the story along.

The Adaptations

Two stories were adapted by the BBC in 1959 and 1960, with Bernard Horsfall as Campion and Wally Patch as Lugg. Each story was shown in six, 30-minute episodes.

In 1968, “The Case of the Late Pig” was adapted for television, with Brian Smith as Campion, and George Sewell as Lugg. It was part of the BBC Detective series (1964–1969), which was an anthology featuring adaptations of popular detective stories.

In 1989 and 1990, the first eight of the novels (excluding “The Crime at Black Dudley”) were adapted over two seasons, with each story shown in two hour-long episodes. Peter Davison played Campion. Professional wrestler turned actor Brian Glover was Magersfontein Lugg, and Andrew Burt played Stanislaus Oates.

In the show’s second season, actress Lysette Anthony featured as Campion’s lady love, Amanda Fitton.

Peter Davison sang the title music for the first series himself. In the second series, the song was replaced by an instrumental version.

I’d best be whistling off, myself.

Till next time, then.

Peace.

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