SLHS Marie Corelli

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History

Born in London Mary Mackay (1855-1924), pseudonym Marie Corelli, spent the latter half of her life in Old Town, Stratford. She wrote more than 25 books and outsold works by contemporary authors including now legendary names such as Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, and Rudyard Kipling.

A well-known local eccentric, she could often be spotted cruising the River Avon in her gondola complete with her own gondolier brought over from Venice. Despite her literary success not everyone was a fan. The Spectator’s Grant Allen described her as ‘a woman of deplorable talent who imagined that she was a genius’ accusing her of melodramatic writing for the “common multitude”. When she assumed the name "Marie Corelli", at the beginning of her career, she also took on a false backstory writing to her first publisher "I am Venetian and can trace myself back to the famous musician Arcangelo Corelli" and on other occasions claimed to descend from the Doges of Venice.

She was an active member of Stratford’s community. She bought land and fought the local council to protect Shakespeare’s legacy. Indeed many of the town’s 17th century buildings would not be here had it not been for her dogged intervention -particularly properties in Henley Street and Harvard House.

Her former home, Mason Croft in Stratford’s Old Town, is now occupied by the Shakespeare Institute and is part of the University of Birmingham. A collection of her original manuscripts and photographs can be found in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust archives.

She had no children but left everything to her companion Bertha Vyver who died 17 years later.

Further Information..

  1. Official website: MarieCorelli.Org

  2. Detailed account of her benefits to Stratford: SBT: Marie Corelli-What She Did For Stratford-upon-Avon

● Prolific Victorian Writer

Masons Croft, Chapel Street

Last update: 13/02/2024

Summerhouse in 2023

Prize giving at the Boat Club after the Stratford Regatta

In her conservatory

Her house just after she died in 1924

On the river by the RSC


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