Oath of Detection

September 10, 2007

In 1929 a group of English mystery novelists banded together, with G. K. Chesterton as their President, to form the Detection Club, a society for light-hearted literary buffoonery. Notables such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers were members. Here is the Initiation Rite which members were required to undergo:

The Ruler shall say to the Candidate:
M.N. is it your firm desire to become a Member of the Detection Club?

Then the Candidate shall answer in a loud voice:
That is my desire.

Ruler:
Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence or Act of God?

Candidate:
I do.

Ruler:
Do you solemnly swear never to conceal a vital clue from the reader?

Candidate:
I do.

Ruler:
Do you promise to observe a seemly moderation in the use of Gangs, Conspiracies, Death-Rays, Ghosts, Hypnotism, Trap-Doors, Chinamen, Super-Criminals and Lunatics; and utterly and for ever to forswear Mysterious Poisons unknown to Science?

Candidate:
I do.

Ruler:
Will you honour the King’s English?

Candidate:
I will.

Then the Ruler shall ask:
M.N. Is there anything you hold sacred?

Then the Candidate having named a Thing which he holds of peculiar sanctity, the Ruler shall ask:
M.N. Do you swear by (Here the Ruler shall name the Thing which the Candidate has declared to be his Peculiar Sanctity) to observe faithfully all these promises which you have made, so long as you are a member of the Club?

But, if the Candidate is not able to name a Thing which he holds sacred, then the Ruler shall propose the Oath in this manner following:
M.N. Do you, as you hope to increase your Sales, swear to observe faithfully all these promises which you have made, so long as you are a member of the Club?

Candidate:
All this I solemnly do swear. And I do furthermore promise and undertake to be loyal to the Club, neither purloining nor disclosing any plot or secret communicated to me.

Ruler:
There being no objections to your candidacy, forasmuch as we are hungry I invite you, M.N., to join our group to-night, and I hold you to the solemn promise which you have given as touching the theft or revelation of plots and secrets.

M.N., you are duly elected a Member of the Detection Club, and if you fail to keep our promise, may other writers anticipate your plots, may your publishers do you down in your contracts, may strangers sue you for libel, may your pages swarm with misprints and may your sales continually diminish. Amen.

Then the Candidate, and after him all the Members present, shall say:
Amen.

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