Eternity Ring by Patricia Wentworth

Eternity Ring  by Patricia Wentworth


published 1948




She herself wore a pink blouse with her grey coat and skirt, and some rather tired pink cotton roses pinned to the lapel. Her bushy grey hair bulged in every direction under the black felt hat which was, like the curtains, a survival from the past. None of the young people in Deeping had ever seen her in any other hat.

This is a very Wentworth clothes description, for a very Wentworth character. This book also contains a sentence with some extreme Miss Silver geography, in an archetypal Wentworth village:

“I think [the lamplight] is rather nice for anyone coming down the path off the Common—such a lonely road, especially where it runs through Dead Man’s Copse.”

Can you see what's coming here? And, if you don’t guess the murderer in this one you shouldn’t really be reading crime stories. Or perhaps you should.

The traditional falling out between the two romantic leads is more than usually stupid, even in the long  history of Wentworth problems.

In a throwback to Agatha Christie’s 1944 Towards Zero, we are looking for a man with something noticeable about his hands. Something very noticeable in a faint light when his face is not visible – TWICE. I am trying not to judge.

Given it is such a classic example (even though Miss S has no standing in this case, she is just a friend, briefly takes on an official role, but in the end refuses any fee), from here I am going to go straight in to the Miss Silver Patent Checklist: 


Odd names a man called Grant (though this turns out to be his middle name, he is Edward), and Alvina. Splendid discussion of the merits of being called Mabel vs Alvina, ending up with ‘She took the last iced cake, and remarked that village children were all called after film stars nowadays.’

There is a Frenchwoman called Louise, and I am going to claim that the incidence of French women called Louise in detective fiction far outnumbers them in real life – particularly maids. (This one is not a maid)

 Miss Silver coughs 34 times – she coughs ‘in a hortatory manner’, and gives an appreciative cough. A minor character says ‘that silly cough again’ – lese majeste, surprising she didn’t get herself murdered.

Knitting  Nothing special, just a couple of matinee coats for a baby.

Clothes  too much description of lower class women who are vulgar and don’t know how to behave themselves.

It might have been the effect of the artificially brightened hair, the artificially heightened complexion. It might have been theway the hair was done—the last and extremest London fashion, looking a good deal out of place on a country farm. It might have been the hard royal blue of an equally unsuitable dress, or the brooch which glittered quite as brightly as if its stones were real. Probably all these things contributed to the impression made by Mary Stokes.

And there are also a too-tight, too-bright tweed suit  on another character and a tight-waisted coat on yet a third. The combo of Miss S and Miss Wentworth is far too snooty in this book.

There is this:

Cicely hung over the piano, talking, arguing, animated, in a house-coat the colour of rowan-berries.

Rowanberries and hanging over the piano, really? Wentworth ladies don’t usually makes themselves so cheap.

The wedding dress here is not important, but I did find a nice picture…

Mrs. Abbott brought her old Lady Evelyn Abbott’s wedding-dress…The folds of deep creamy satin had filled the room. That was the long Court train with roses worked on it in pearls, but the dress was plain, to show off the flounce of Brussels point which draped it.



Ladylike & other strange occupations

‘She’s strong enough to be out till all hours, and she’s strong enough to go round with the eggs and butter to any house where there’s a good-looking young man.’

A song writer - ‘his music matters, and nothing else does. He writes revue tunes’. Miss silver thinks ‘There was no doubt that he had a great deal of charm, and that his playing was clever—oh, yes, very clever indeed, though according to her old-fashioned standards sadly lacking in melody.’ That’s him at the piano in the quote above, with Cicely in her housecoat.

And there’s an excitingly experimental farmer, though it’s a bit vague what that constitutes.

Unusual words   ‘peter-grievous, poor thing’. (already noticed in a previous  - or peter-grievous - Wentworth book The Case is Closed by Patricia Wentworth (

Invited in for an Elevens – used twice, apparently a version of elevenses? Checking this out, it seems to have been the word up till the mid-20th century,when elevenses became more general…

Not unusual but a nice bit of description about a cleric writing local history: ‘the Reverend Augustus was unsparingly diffuse’.

Jewellery: Miss Silver has her bog oak rose brooch  – see earlier post. The eternity ring of the title is a misnomer. The jewellery items are a pair of earrings, made like eternity rings (picture of something similar from etsy)

Miss Silver is also revealed as wearing ‘one of those heavy Victorian lockets with a pattern of deeply cut and interlaced initials, a pious relic of the long dead parents whose A (for Alfred) and M (for Maria) formed the design. In the days when it had reposed on Maria’s bosom it had contained a lock of Alfred’s hair. To this had now been added a soft grey curl of Maria’s. To Miss Silver Alfred and Maria were “Poor Papa” and “Dear Mamma,” and she thought the locket very handsome.

(We recently looked at hideous mourning jewellery in a post on Mrs Oliphant’s Phoebe Junior  - many examples pictured there)

There is a housekeeper who wears an unexpected brooch with the head of the medusa on it, for no important reason. 

She is also the subject of one of the great lines of the book:

Cicely would rather have slept in any other room, but the mattress was against her. You can’t fling an aired mattress back in a housekeeper’s face, especially when she’s been thirty years longer in the house than you have.

Sociology & etiquette 

Miss Silver criticizes someone’s behaviour:  “That was sadly imprudent. A woman should have more self-respect.” What do you think she might have done, this imprudent person? The answer is: married a younger man.  

And in another show of sisterly solidarity, the cook says “The way you girls carry on I wonder there isn’t more of you get yourselves murdered. A young man’ll stand just so much and no more.”

Times have changed for the better, somewhat.

Wedding dress portrait  from the Smithsonian Institute collection.

Smithsonian Institute collection.

Blue dress is from 10 years later, but seemed to fit: NYPL.

Lady in hat from Smithsonian Institution.


  1. Some interesting village customs: The heroine gets called "a little brown thing" about a dozen times. There is an invalid girl who gets to listen in on every telephone conversation.

    The village makes a return in a later book.

    1. You have such encyclopaedic knowledge!
      Yes, a funny phrase. Wentworth never afraid of repetition.

  2. Names in crime fiction: the majority of late 20th and early 21 st century British female detectives seem to be called Anna or Kate...

    1. I hope you are keeping statistics! That's a great perception.

  3. Who inspired the Medusa brooch? Caravaggio, HJ Ford?

    1. I had to look up HJ Ford! ('a prolific and successful English artist and illustrator, active from 1886 through to the late 1920s' - for anyone else who doesn't know...)
      I don't know, but Medusa brooches were definitely a thing, there were quite a few of them about.

  4. That brooch!! Yikes! I love your wit in this post, Moira! You've got such an eye for the Miss Silver tropes, and you're right about Dead Man's Copse, I think. Even if it's not the best of the bunch, there's just something about this series, at least for me. Yes, there are all those issues, but it all can be entertaining, too, at least in my opinion.

    1. thank you! And whatever I say about them, I am a devoted fan of the books and will continue to read them....

  5. Not an author for my reading list.

    "the incidence of French women called Louise in detective fiction far outnumbers them in real life – particularly maids."
    Perhaps characters in detective stories follow a similar - Frenchified - policy with their maids to Saki's Mrs. Riversedge:
    "when I get maids with unsuitable names I call them Jane; they soon get used to it."
    "An excellent plan," said the aunt of Clovis coldly; "unfortunately I have got used to being called Jane myself. It happens to be my name."

    1. I agree that Wentworth would not be a good match for you.
      There are a number of places where employers choose names for the maids - I wonder how much it happened in real life? Good for Saki (always).

  6. Wasn't the "younger man" married to the imprudent woman actually a "bad sort" who only wanted her money? That's what I took from the situation, anyway. Of course Miss S would probably disapprove of any May-September marriage!

    1. Oh yes, in her case it WAS a mistake, but it's clear that, as you say, she disapproves on principle. There's an attitude of 'what can you expect if you do that?'

  7. I agree that the romantic falling-out is about the most idiotic in Wentworth. (It reminds me of what Roger Ebert called the Idiot Plot in movies.)

    1. I looked that up, the Ebert Idiot Plot, and enjoyed it very much. And yes, a lot of Wentworth would fall into that category...

    2. "The Ebert Idiot Plot" works very well when we're talking about Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, though.

    3. AS with so many things - forgiveable when you like the results...

  8. Replies
    1. Now that is a really fascinating detail Curt! thanks

    2. Miss Silver may have been speaking from Mrs. W's experience when she says marriage to a younger man is "sadly imprudent".

    3. I missed this earlier. Do we know anything about Wentworth's inner life other than the facts of her biography? It would be interesting to know more.

  9. Honestly, Moira, reading your blog is better than reading the novel - you have given us all the best bits and as it is such an archetypical Wentworth book, I can easily fill in the rest! So glad you are blogging more these days. Chrissie

    1. What a lovely comment, Chrissie! Very much what i would hope to achieve

  10. Wonderful review and I especially like the rowan house-coat (I wonder if the shrub at my childhood home was rowan berries - will have to ask my mother; I did not realize they were common in the US).

    I especially like when Miss Silver's audience recognizes her coughs are meaningful (usually Frank Abbott).

    When I first started reading and collecting Wentworth in the 90s, this book was either out of print but referred to parenthetically quite often (or so it seemed). I was delighted when I finally found a copy yet don't recall thinking it was quite as good as her best.

    BTW, I just got my copy of The Birthday Girl, which I look forward to later this month!


    1. Thank you for the kind words! There is so much to enjoy in Wentworth's books, even though I am quite teasing about her.
      Hope you enjoy Birthday Girl!


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