CORELLI, Marie (1855-1924). Pseudonym of Mary Mackay, novelist.
Series of twenty Autograph Letters Signed to [?Sidney] Walton, 80 pages 8vo, all from Mason Croft, Straford-on-Avon, February 1915 to 31 August 1916. A compact group of characteristically outspoken and friendly letters.
Agreeing to give talks at Harrow School, in Leeds and in Darlington, etc. ('How would you like me to speak on Byron' [24 February 1915];' I cannot promise to give the Lecture in autumn - it's too far ahead!' [5 April 1915]; 'of course I'll speak at Harrow on October 2d - if we're all here, and not invaded or blown up by Zeppelins!! - or gas-poisoned!' [10 June 1915]; ); laying down her requirements ('a clear platform (that is, nobody on it) - a table 30 to 31 inches high, covered with a plain dark cloth, and a reflector lamp - that is, one that throws a strong steady light down on the paper.' Discussing arrangements for accommodation, revealing her plan to have the train stop at Harrow ('I am rather a "persona Grata" with the Great Central Rly').
She thanks Walton and his colleagues for their friendly welcome ('including the "blessed boys"!') and for an article he had written about her; presses the cause of her protégé, Maurice Courbet [professor Courbet to Larrenes] ('he is a Parisian - but he had his "Institut de Declamation" in Antwerp, and was bombarded out of it. ... his accent is perfect - and Belgian pronunciation is not advisable!')
She also mentions [John] Murray's publication of the Nottingham Lecture as a booklet; vents her spleen on the headmaster of Eton ('How I should like to be "Queen Elizabeth" for a day just now! The Head-Master of Eton should have no head left on his trunk! - it should be stuck on Tower Hill as the head of a traitor to England!' And she rails against newspaper editors and especially against the publishers of 'charity books'.
'... Queen Mary is the most ignorant person that exists in matters of art and literature - and her "Gift-Book" which a mere olla podrida of authors off-scourings is, as you say "a good thing" for the publishers who are "playing" snob for a title. I'm quite frank about it - and my contempt is measureless! ...'
And extols her own contribution to Shakespeare's memory, particularly in the year of his tercentenary (1916):
'... I have received a circular from Mr. Gollanz, very earnestly soliciting my subscription towards the "Shakespeare Hut" scheme! Now, if my money be deemed worth of such association, my name also cannot hurt! and it is but fair, - in fact simple justice to me, that after all I have done for Shakespeare's honour in Shakespeare's Town, My "homage" should be included in the book he is editing. A Sonnet is the only simple offering I make ...'. [17 March 1916]
Marie Corelli had never made a public speech before 1899, but when she began to deliver her lectures she immediately achieved a degree of respect which she had been unable to attain as a novelist. Immense crowds flocked to hear her, sometimes of over 3000, many of whom had to be turned away. Many years later Winston Churchill recalled in a letter to her 'a speech the rhetorical excellence of which almost disarmed my opposition to Female Suffrage'. This was not quite the view of Michael Sadler, who is mentioned several times in these letters: '... everyone listened very respectfully and solemnly. It was like a well-given mediocre sermon without a text or "and now" at the end of it. ... it was like taking moral camphor. The thought was banal. Much of the argument doubtful. All the social generalisation shallow and indiscriminating. But the tone was good - rather like Everyman. She read every word as though it were authoritative'. [Quoted rather selectively from M.E. Sadler - A Memoir, by his son (Constable 1949)].
A day after Marie Corelli's death Sidney Walton, presumably the recipient of these letters, wrote his reminiscences of her for the Yorkshire Evening Post (22 April 1924). Sydney [sic] Walton was also the author of an article about Marie Corelli as a hostess in Christian World
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