Marlinspike Hall is the stately home, that as a child, I wanted to visit more than any of the others I was taken to – and I seemed to be taken to a lot. Or indeed any that I have visited since. But that could never happen as it it is entirely fictitious, a small piece of the genius that was Hergé, the inventor of Tintin.
For those not in the know Marlinspike Hall is the ancestral home of Captain Haddock, Tintin’s long time, if not exactly most reliable of trustworthy companion.
We come across Marlinspike Hall first in the Secret of the Unicorn when it is owned by two crooks, the Bird Brothers. A lot of the important elements of the story centre around the basement vaults. A treasure trove of antiques and artefacts and beautifully drawn. How I wanted to rummage in its dusty corners as a child.
The two part story – the second book is Red Rackham’s Treasure and also features other stalwarts Professor Cuthbert Calculus who provides Tintin with the shark-styed submarine necessary for the treasure hunt and the hapless Thompson and Thomson – the Thompson Twins, detectives in name only.
It is a tremendous story. Hergé had done some adventure stories – The Black island set in Scotland, the Blue Lotus – a wacky drug infused tale set in the Far East and a really weird one, The Shooting Star with magic mushrooms and hallucinations. But this double header saw him develop his story telling to a new level and, as a child I simply adored it.
Later we revisit the hall in the Casterfiori Emerald and The Calculus Affair. The humour in the former is more adult, subtle in its character-plays whereas the latter is another ripping yarn.
The Hall itself is modelled on a French Chateau but set in the English countryside. I can close my eyes and see it now, looming large with the faithful retainer Nestor by the main doors and the beautiful if sinister grounds all around.
Captain Haddock did one other thing for me. He provided me with a lexicography of swear words that are still useful to this day. He had 212! Here’s the link to the Tintinologist for you. How to choose a favourite from Bashi-Bazouks, to Anthracite and Vegetarians. Aardvarks to Coelcanth, Jobbernowl to Odd-toed ungulate? I think if there’s one it has to be:
Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles in a thundering typhoon
I aim to grow old disgracefully but I do not aim to grow up. Vivre Tintin, Vivre Le Vieux Haddock!!