Ian Fleming never describes James Bond’s physical appearance in any detail, so in December 1962, before the release of the first Bond film, Dr. No, Playboy art director Arthur Paul sent an inquiry to his office. He received this reply:

Dear Mr. Paul,

As Mr. Fleming is away from London I sent him your letter and here now is his description of James Bond:

Height: 6 ft 1 in.
Build: Slim hips, broad shoulders
Eyes: Steely blue-grey
Hair: Black, with comma over right forehead
Weight: 12 stone 8 lb.
Age: Middle thirties


Determined chin, rather cruel mouth.
Scar down right cheek from cheekbone.


Wears two-button single-breasted suit in dark blue tropical worsted. Black leather belt.
White Sea Island cotton shirt, sleeveless.
Black casual shoes, square toed
Thin black knitted silk tie, no pin
Dark blue socks, cotton lisle.
No handkerchief in breast pocket
Wear Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch

I hope this information is sufficient for your purpose.

Yours sincerely,


Secretary to Ian Fleming

From Henry Chancellor, James Bond: The Man and His World, 2005.


A few adventures of Dashiell Hammett, who worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency before turning to fiction:

  • “I know a man who once stole a Ferris-wheel.”
  • “I was once engaged to discharge a woman’s housekeeper.”
  • “I was once falsely accused of perjury and had to perjure myself to escape arrest.”
  • “A man whom I was shadowing went out into the country for a walk one Sunday afternoon and lost his bearings completely. I had to direct him back to the city.”
  • “Three times I have been mistaken for a Prohibition agent, but never had any trouble clearing myself.”
  • “I know an operative who while looking for pickpockets at the Havre de Grace race track had his wallet stolen. He later became an official in an Eastern detective agency.”
  • “I know a detective who once attempted to disguise himself thoroughly. The first policeman he met took him into custody.”
  • “In 1917, in Washington, D.C., I met a young woman who did not remark that my work must be very interesting.”
  • “The chief of police of a Southern city once gave me a description of a man, complete even to a mole on his neck, but neglected to mention that he had only one arm.”

Interestingly, he notes that “the chief difference between the exceptionally knotty problem confronting the detective of fiction and that facing the real detective is that in the former there is usually a paucity of clues, and in the latter altogether too many.”

(“From the Memoirs of a Private Detective,” The Smart Set, March 1923.)

Something New

The eminent tragedian [William Charles Macready] opened in Lear, our property-man received his plot for the play in the usual manner, a map being required among the many articles (map highly necessary for Lear to divide his kingdom). The property-man being illiterate, read ‘mop’ for ‘map.’ At night the tragedy commences; Macready in full state on his throne calls for his map, a ‘super’ noble, kneeling, presents the aging king a white curly mop. The astounded actor rushed off the stage, dragging the unfortunate nobleman and his mop with him, actors and audience wild with delight.

— Edmund Stirling, Old Drury Lane, 1881, quoted in Ralph Berry, ed., The Methuen Book of Shakespeare Anecdotes, 1992

Fluke Encounter

How does Ahab find Moby-Dick? On more than 11 occasions in Melville’s novel we are given cardinal points, the accurate location of well-known cruising grounds, and changes in the ship’s direction as the Pequod follows a “zig-zag world-circle” in search of the great white whale. But we are never told how he hopes to find it, a task that seems flatly impossible.

In writing the book, Melville consulted maps, guidebooks, charts, and logbooks to lay out a route typical of a three-year whaling voyage. Ahab, as an experienced captain, might have known the migratory patterns of sperm whales, their feeding grounds, the ocean currents, and the locations of previous sightings. “But even with this seasoned knowledge, he is not guaranteed to track down an entire pod of whales, let alone one eccentric loner,” writes Eric Bulson in Novels, Maps, Modernity (2007).

Ishmael notes that “though Moby-Dick had in a former year been seen, for example, on what is called the Seychelle ground in the Indian ocean, or Volcano Bay on the Japanese coast; yet it did not follow, that were the Pequod to visit either of those spots at any subsequent corresponding season, she would infallibly encounter him there. … For as the secrets of the currents in the seas have never yet been divulged, even to the most erudite research; so the hidden ways of the Sperm Whale when beneath the surface remain, in great part, unaccountable to his pursuers.”

At one point Melville contends that the Pequod‘s circumnavigating route “would sweep almost all the known Sperm Whale cruising grounds of the world,” a conceit that the New York Albion called “more than sufficient motive” to justify the otherwise “intolerably absurd” idea of “a nautical Don Quixote chasing a particular fish from ocean to ocean.”

But even Ahab himself seems helpless in his task until the whale’s unexplained appearance at the novel’s end. In a dramatic address to the sun, he says, “Thou tellest me truly where I am — canst thou cast the least hint where I shall be? Or canst thou tell where some other thing besides me is this moment living? Where is Moby-Dick?”

Briefly Noted

Ira D. Sankey’s 1873 music collection Sacred Songs and Solos contains the hymn “There is a land mine eyes have seen.” The index lists this as:

‘There is a land mine’

In the Sunday Times, March 15, 1964, F.N. Scaife recalls seeing a similarly odd entry in an old hymn book. The first lines of the hymn were:

O Lord, what boots it to recall
The hours of anguish spent

This was indexed as:

‘O Lord, what boots’

Boss Issues

For his James Bond Dossier (1965), Kingsley Amis went through the 12 Ian Fleming books in which the character M appears and found that they give “a depressingly unvaried picture of what he’s like to be with, or anyway work for.” M’s demeanor or voice is described as:

  • abrupt, angry (3 times)
  • brutal, cold (7 times)
  • curt, dry (5 times)
  • frosty (2 times)
  • gruff (7 times)
  • hard (3 times)
  • impatient (7 times)
  • irritable (2 times)
  • moody, severe, sharp (2 times)
  • short (4 times)
  • sour (2 times)

Amis says this “divides out as an irascibility index of just under 4.6 per book.”

The character seems to be a composite of several people whom Fleming had known, but he seems to be modeled most closely on Rear Admiral John Godfrey (above), Fleming’s superior at the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. After Fleming’s death, Godfrey complained, “He turned me into that unsavoury character, M.”

In a Word

adj. pertaining to the big toe

In 1856, 10-year-old Ellen Terry was just about to give Puck’s final speech in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when a stagehand closed a trapdoor on her foot, breaking her toe. She screamed, but manager Ellen Kean offered to double her salary if she finished the play. So, supported by Kean on one side and her sister Kate on the other, she delivered the following soliloquy:

If we shadows have offended (Oh, Katie, Katie!)
Think but this, and all is mended, (Oh, my toe!)
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear. (I can’t, I can’t!)
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream, (Oh, dear! oh, dear!)
Gentles, do not reprehend; (A big sob)
If you pardon, we will mend. (Oh, Mrs. Kean!)

“How I got through it, I don’t know!” she wrote in her 1908 memoir. “But my salary was doubled — it had been fifteen shillings, and it was raised to thirty — and Mr. Skey, President of Bartholomew’s Hospital, who chanced to be in a stall that very evening, came round behind the scenes and put my toe right. He remained my friend for life.”

Practical Math

Sample questions from L. Johnson’s 1864 textbook Elementary Arithmetic Designed for Beginners, used in North Carolina during the Civil War:

  1. A Confederate soldier captured 8 Yankees each day for 9 successive days; how many did he capture in all?
  2. If one Confederate soldier kill 90 Yankees how many Yankees can 10 Confederate soldiers kill?
  3. If one Confederate soldier can whip 7 Yankees, how many soldiers can whip 49 Yankees?

Students were also asked to imagine rolling cannonballs out of their bedrooms and dividing Confederate soldiers into squads and companies. Let’s hope they didn’t take field trips.