Discuss: Why Was Marie Corelli Such a Successful Novelist?

Academics from all over the UK will be coming together at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute from 30th March to 1st April to discuss popular women novelists including the prolific writer and resident of Stratford-upon-Avon, Marie Corelli.

The conference is aptly located at Marie Corelli’s Stratford home, Mason Croft, which is now home to the Shakespeare Institute, the University’s centre for the study of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Participants will explore the collective identity of popular women writers in the late 1800s and early 1900s and consider how influential they were as a group at this time.

In the early 20th century, Marie Corelli was the most widely read author and her books were published in their millions. She was adored by her readers and, at this time, her writing would have been described as risqué, but the critics loathed her. She was active in Stratford and caused controversy with her spirited local campaigns to preserve Shakespeare’s heritage and to save the houses neighbouring the Shakespeare Birthplace on Henley Street from demolition. She also bought Harvard House and oversaw its restoration for visiting Americans.

Dr Maureen Bell, conference organiser from the University of Birmingham’s Department of English, says, ‘Melodrama and sensation were a feature of popular novels during this period. In Marie Corelli’s novel ‘The Sorrows of Satan’ cosmic forces of good and evil play themselves out in high society and the literary world. In ‘Wormwood’ a chain of murder and suicide escalate as the hero is dragged deeper into the Parisian underworld of absinthe-drinkers.’

Mason Croft still contains many references to Corelli including a folly in the garden which used to be called the ‘Elizabethan Tower’. It is said to be where she wrote her novels.

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Notes to Editors

1. There is a Marie Corelli archive at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Records Office and the Shakespeare Instititute holds a few items relating to her work, including the manuscript of the novel, Life Everlasting.

2. The University of Birmingham acquired Mason Croft after the second world war.

3. The conference is organised by the Association for Research in Popular Fictions: http://www.arpf.org.uk/

For further information

Kate Chapple, Press Officer, University of Birmingham, tel 0121 414 2772 or 07789 921164.