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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 July 2019

Brenda Ayres
Affiliation:
Teaches for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Sarah E. Maier
Affiliation:
Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of New Brunswick, Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies and was named University Teaching Scholar in 2006.
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Summary

Once upon a time, Marie Corelli was the most popular, and bestselling, writer in the world. In England she was just as well known as Charles Dickens, according to one of her biographers, George Bullock (117). Another biographer claimed that while Queen Victoria was alive, Corelli was the “second most famous Englishwoman in the world” (Masters 6). More than half of her 30 novels sold over 100,000 copies each year (Casey 163), a record that outpaces Hall Caine's annual sales of 45,000, Mrs. Humphry Ward's 35,000 and H. G. Wells’ 15,000 (Masters 6). Her sales exceeded those of Rudyard Kipling's, Arthur Conan Doyle's and H. G. Wells’ combined (Casey 163). So popular were her books and her mystique, one cynic complained about the “Corelli Cult” (Stuart-Young 680). Women flocked to her and actually “fought over each other to get near her and tried to kiss the hem of her dress” (Masters 7). In the United States a new church was formed to practice the “Electric Creed” described in A Romance of Two Worlds, and a town in Colorado was called Corelli City (94).

“Marie Corelli” began her life as Mary Mills; with no existing birth certificate, she is believed to have been born on May 1, 1855, in London to Mary Elizabeth (Ellen) Mills, the mistress of Charles Mackay (Ransom 11; Federico, Idol 4). Author, poet and literary editor for the Illustrated London News, Mackay was a married man (to Rose Henrietta Vale) and father of four other children. Little Mary Mills was told he was her stepfather—his absence from her life was constant until the death of his wife and the marriage of her biological parents in 1861, at which point she becomes Mary Mackay but is known as “Minnie” (Ransom 11; Federico, Idol 7).

Living in the country at Fern Dell of Box Hill was a challenge for the young girl. No formal education was available other than the accomplishments provided by a governess, but Minnie seemed to yearn for knowledge because, as she said, “I instinctively did all I could to make myself a personality to be reckoned with.

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Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2019

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  • Introduction
    • By Brenda Ayres, Teaches for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia., Sarah E. Maier, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of New Brunswick, Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies and was named University Teaching Scholar in 2006.
  • Edited by Brenda Ayres, Sarah E. Maier
  • Book: Reinventing Marie Corelli for the Twenty-First Century
  • Online publication: 11 July 2019
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  • Introduction
    • By Brenda Ayres, Teaches for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia., Sarah E. Maier, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of New Brunswick, Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies and was named University Teaching Scholar in 2006.
  • Edited by Brenda Ayres, Sarah E. Maier
  • Book: Reinventing Marie Corelli for the Twenty-First Century
  • Online publication: 11 July 2019
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
    • By Brenda Ayres, Teaches for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia., Sarah E. Maier, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of New Brunswick, Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies and was named University Teaching Scholar in 2006.
  • Edited by Brenda Ayres, Sarah E. Maier
  • Book: Reinventing Marie Corelli for the Twenty-First Century
  • Online publication: 11 July 2019
Available formats
×