Walter Peabody Emerson, known universally as “Ramses,” is a fictional character in the Amelia Peabody series of historical mystery novels set in Victorian Egypt and England, written by author Elizabeth Peters. He is the son of Egyptologists Amelia Peabody and her husband, Professor Radcliffe Emerson. Amelia Peabody announces her pregnancy at the end of Crocodile on the Sandbank and Ramses first appears in the second book of the series, The Curse of the Pharaohs.
Born in the summer of 1887, named for his father’s younger brother, he received the nickname "Ramses" from his father, who said of his baby, "in its belligerent appearance and imperious disposition it strongly resembled the Egyptian pharaoh, the second of that name, who had scattered enormous statues of himself all along the Nile." Likewise, his swarthy complexion and dark hair gave him a closer resemblance to Egyptians than to traditional English boys. As he grows up, he also cultivates an impassive facial expression that Nefret Emerson calls his "stone pharaoh" face.
As a child, Ramses was very precocious, and could speak with appalling fluency before the age of two, though he had a mild speech impediment that faded quickly. His mother, who admits that her maternal instincts are not very developed, finds his early years an incredible ordeal, given his insatiable curiosity, his lack of fear, and his incurable habit of going on speaking until he runs out of breath or someone interrupts him (usually the latter). He also has what his mother calls a streak of “Machiavellian logic” that requires her to expressly forbid him from doing as many things as she can think of.
Ramses' first trip to Egypt occurs in the Archaeological season of 1894-95, in the novel,The Mummy Case. This is his first involvement with the mysteries the Emersons solve. He is seven years old.
Seeing a Large Cat is a pivotal novel in Ramses's development. At the beginning, he has just turned sixteen, and returns to his family after he and David have spent several months in the desert under the tutelage of Sheikh Mohammed Bahsoor, a friend of Emerson's, learning the traditional skills of manhood: fighting, horseback riding, desert survival, tracking. It is also during this time (as hinted later in He Shall Thunder in the Sky) that he loses his virginity.
With Seeing a Large Cat, Peters begins to use Ramses as a parallel voice, providing a different point of view from the first person perspective of Amelia. Peters purports to intersperse the sections of Amelia’s journals with excerpts from "Manuscript H," written in the third person.
Ramses follows his family’s Egyptological path, becoming a skilled excavator like his father. However, his specialty and true passion is, like his Uncle Walter, philology, the reading and translation of ancient languages.
His precocity and skill at languages, mimicry, and disguise, lead some Egyptians to credit him with supernatural abilities, resulting in his nickname, Akhu el-Efreet, "Brother of Demons".
Friends and Family
Ramses’s closest friend is David Todros, the grandson of the Emersons' reis Abdullah. Initially distrusted by the rest of the family, David becomes Ramses’s blood brother. They are virtually inseparable for many years, getting into some kind of mischief. Even though they are of different backgrounds, they are remarkably similar looking, a fact they use to their advantage in several of the more recent books.
David also becomes Ramses’s cousin by marriage, when he marries Walter and Evelyn Emerson’s daughter Lia.
Growing up to be a strong, intelligent, and strikingly handsome young man, Ramses has had several liaisons with women, kept secret (for the most part) from his parents. But his true love has always been Nefret Forth, who captured him the moment they first met, when he was only ten. After an extremely long wait, she falls just as passionately in love with him (The Falcon at the Portal), and after several monumental misunderstandings, they are married in January 1915 (He Shall Thunder in the Sky).
Ramses and Nefret are the parents of twins Charlotte (“Charla”) and David John. In an ironic twist, Ramses’s children inherit his most aggravating speech patterns: Charla, his lisp (“Did you catch de lady?”) and David John his appallingly precocious loquacity.
At the end of Tomb of the Golden Bird Nefret reveals she is pregnant again.
Ramses also has an adopted sister, Sennia, the abandoned offspring of Amelia's nephew, the late (unlamented) Percy Peabody.
In the Vicky Bliss series' final installment, The Laughter of Dead Kings, it is revealed that main character John Tregarth is the descendant of the youngest of Ramses and Nefret's three children, an as-yet unnamed daughter. It is also mentioned that the children "bred like rabbits," and that at the time of Dead Kings, over eighty people are descended from Ramses and Nefret's offspring.
The Curse of the Pharaohs. Mysterious Press: Reissue edition (February 1, 1988), p. 7.