Nero Wolfe weighs HOW MUCH?

Last night, I finished reading my first Rex Stout Nero Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance.

At the end of the book (I was reading a Kindle edition), they included some “notes” from Rex Stout on his characters:

The text was the same as this:

Soooo, 272 pounds. That’s not what I was expecting based on the description of someone who was largely immobilized by his weight and who says things like (paraphrased) “I would get up but my vast size makes that really difficult.”

I realize that people are bigger now than then, but 272 pounds? This guy, according to the site, is 5’10" and 280 pounds. That’s… not what I envisioned.

Huh. I think he is portrayed heavier in film and drawings.

I thought he was a lot bigger than that as well.

People are fatter now? That’s my theory. We are more use to the obese.

I know what you mean. Archie Goodwin’s descriptions of his boss makes it sound like Nero Wolfe at ~300 lbs is sideshow-freak huge, unable to use regular-sized chairs, and not merely a somewhat overweight guy. Different times, different standards?

Do a google image search and a lot of portrayals of him have been much heavier.

Depends on how many of those pounds are fat.

I thought he was described as weighing a quarter of ton? That would be 500 lbs.

Both Archie and Nero exaggerated Nero’s size and weight for effect. In one of the books they had to flee to Montenegro (his birthplace IIRC) and Nero was able to journey through the mountains on foot quite well save for swollen feet.

One-seventh of a ton, IIRC.

Ah, so that’d be 286 lbs. or so. Thanks.

That is what I recall.

I’m reading a Nero Wolfe story now, and the book describes him as “one-seventh of a ton”.

Don’t forget that a person at 272 lbs. was a lot heavier back then than he would be now.

Dr. Banting, who popularized low-carb diets among the Victorians, was 5’5" and at his heaviest weighed about 240. He claimed it was difficult to walk and almost impossible to go down staircases at that size.

Maybe things are diffierent in a world without innerspring mattresses and analgesics/anti-inflammatories? A lesser weight might set off a chain reaction of sore–>can’t sleep–>sorer much more easily.

In the book “In The Best Families”(the third in the “Zeck” trilogy), he dropped quite a bit of that weight and grew a beard working undercover as a cabbie. I don’t know what was more incredible-the weight loss or him driving as a profession.

First: Congratulations on reading Nero Wolfe! They’re great stories, and if you’ve never seen the Tim Hutton/Maury Chakin series, watch every episode! Maury Chakin, while playing a lot of other types of characters, was, in my opinion, Nero Wolfe.

Now, to the weight question. He was described as weighing one-seventh of a ton, but remember, when the stories were written, even 200 lbs was quite heavy. I’m trying to get a quick sense of average weight from the 1940s to now, and here are some sources (I won’t vouch for validity, but the gist is obviously true):

This says 1960, not the 40s, but I’m trying to make a point on the weight gain of the average male.

This site has an interactive BMI widget that purports to show the average male body through the years.

My point is that the standard of 200 lbs 70+ years ago was tremendously heavy, while today it’s almost average. So 286-300 lbs then is freakish, and today is almost not worth a second look.

I don’t know, I think 272 lbs then is the same as 272 lbs now.

Or, as George Carlin put it: “The Chancellor of the Exchequer has determined that the pound will not be devalued, but will remain at 16 ounces.”


Wolfe comments several times that his early life was violent. IIRC it’s mentioned that he was in some radical groups (probably anti-communist) and took risks. I think he fought in a civil war.

Gaining weight and becoming less mobile was a way to keep himself out of dangerous situations and stay alive.

Much of this is explained in the Zeck trilogy and The Black Mountain. Leaving home to directly fight Zeck is foreshadowed in the first two Zeck books. He was portrayed as one of the most dangerous adversaries Wolfe faced. Primary because he had so many resources.

Wolfe gets pretty active during WWII too. The author used the character to support the war effort.

I thought Archie said that the US government wouldn’t let him write about that.

Nero Wolfe of West 35th Street

is a great analysis of Stout’s character.

The same author wrote a similar analysis of Sherlock Holmes’ origins and cases.