Marie Corelli

Kirsten MacLeod

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Marie Corelli

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In her lifetime, Marie Corelli (b. 1855–d. 1924) was one of the most famous and highly paid writers of the day, enjoying an international readership. Her 1895 novel, The Sorrows of Satan, sold over 50,000 copies in its first seven weeks and has been credited with being the first modern best seller. Though she lapsed into obscurity after her death, in the late Victorian and Edwardian era she outstripped the combined sales of Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Corelli’s oeuvre includes thirty-one novels, several volumes of short stories, a volume of poetry, and a number of collections of essays and tracts. Her works both spanned and combined a range of genres, including the gothic, romance, historical, and society novels. Her energetic writing style, exotic and mysterious locales, and religious eclecticism appealed to a broad cross-class popular readership on a number of levels. Corelli’s reception among professional critics and reviewers, who characterized her work as florid and sensational, however, was poor. This perception was one shared, with a few exceptions, by the handful of biographers, critics, and scholars who wrote about her between her death in 1924 and the 1990s. As a consequence, much of this early writing on Corelli is characterized by an ill-concealed distaste for her work. With the development of the discipline of book history and the growth in interest in popular literature and culture brought about by the rise of cultural studies, Corelli has begun to receive serious critical attention. This attention has focused strongly on Corelli as cultural phenomenon and on the sociohistorical context of her works, though there is a growing interest in critically reevaluating her aesthetic in terms of its relationship to canonical genres and figures.

Article.  9225 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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