Nunc Dimittis (short story)

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"Nunc Dimittis" is a short story by Roald Dahl. It was first published under the title "The Devious Bachelor" in Colliers in September 1953. The story is wholly told from the first-person perspective.

Plot summary[edit]

When the main character, wealthy art collector Lionel Lampson, learns from an unreliable gossip that his younger girlfriend Janet thinks of him, among other things, as a "crashing bore," he devises an elaborate revenge. He visits the artist John Royden and asks him to paint Janet's portrait with the stipulation that she does not know who has commissioned it. Royden has an unusual method: he paints his subjects nude and then adds every layer of clothing one at a time. When the portrait is completed, Lionel (who happens to be skilled at restoring and cleaning paintings) removes the top layer of paint, exposing Janet in her underclothes. He then stages a dinner party for Janet and some of society's elite, where, at the end of the candle-lit meal, the lights are suddenly turned on and the painting is revealed for all to see. Lionel leaves the room unobserved (but not before seeing the stunned look on Janet's face) and slips away to his house in the country, basking in the success of his scheme until he is called that night by the same old widow who had told him the gossip about Janet and now invites him to pass by; it is then clear to Lionel that she had been hooking him all the time. But things get even worse: a few days later, Lionel receives a container of excellent caviar along with a letter from Janet saying that she forgives him and still loves him. Lionel feels deeply ashamed. Not being able to resist his favorite food, he indulges himself and, by the end of the story, begins to feel violently ill (...come to think of it, I really do feel rather ill all of a sudden). The implication is that Lionel has been poisoned, perhaps fatally, by Janet.

TV Adaption[edit]

The story was adapted for television in Tales of the Unexpected (2/10) under the title Depart in Peace.