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Born plain old Mary Mackay, she began her career as a musician, adopting the name Marie Corelli as her stage name. She gave up music, turning to writing instead and in 1886 published her first novel, A Romance of Two Worlds.
In her time, she was the most widely read author of fiction (some of her books went into 50 or more editions) but professional critics hated her for her melodramatic and emotional writing. A critic in The Spectator called her "a woman of deplorable talent who imagined that she was a genius, and was accepted as a genius by a public to whose commonplace sentimentalities and prejudices she gave a glamorous setting”. Despite this, she was popular with the British Royal Family, and by Winston and Randolph Churchill, amongst others and the American writer Mark Twain took the trouble to visit her in Stratford-upon-Avon on a British visit.
Corelli wasn’t nice to know. She fought with everyone and vented her spite on just about everyone who tried to be nice to her. Her vendettas were usually public.
Considered nowadays, Corelli’s books were New Age, an attempt to reconcile Christianity with reincarnation, astral projection and other mystical topics.
She spent her final years in Stratford-upon-Avon where she fought hard for the preservation of its 17th century buildings, and donated money to help their owners remove the plaster or brickwork that often covered their original timber framed facades.
Corelli’s eccentricity became legendary and she caused much amusement by boating on the Avon in a gondola, complete with gondolier, that she had brought over from Venice.
This is an extraordinary letter, handwritten and signed in black ink on four 8" x 6" integral sides of headed notepaper (Mason Court, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, Sunday August 22 1920) . In it, Corelli reveals her obsessive refusal to accept the British Summer Time Act, which had been introduced four years earlier, in 1916. It reads (in full):
Sunday Aug 22 1929
My dear Sir Philip
I’m so very sorry you were ‘bewildered’ by my continuous refusal to obey the Government’s weather lie! I have never altered my clocks from what is understood as ‘solar’ time, ‘navigation’ time and ‘Greenwich ‘ time – I believe in the sun, with the sailors generally.
I daresay it bothers the sheep of humanity who would do anything they are told! – but I have steadily refused to get up with a lie or go to bed with one! – that is to say I will get up at 6 if necessary but I will not call it 7. Nor will I go to bed at 10 when it is only 9! – There you are! All the farmers and navigators and useful people generally are with me. But I daresay (as in your case) it is a confusion – but I do not put my friends out as a rule. I go to no lunches, as I cannot break my morning’s work at 12 in the misconception of it being one - nor do I go to dinner till ‘summer time’ is over, and 8 is really 8, not 7!! – so I get on very well and my work proceeds equably with the course of the day.
Forgive this long explanation!
Mrs Asquith dishes up Mr Balfour this morning in the Sunday Times – what a low idea of friendship she has – why did anybody ever know her!!
Yours very sincerely
One vertical and one horizontal correspondence fold. In very good condition.