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Charles Marriott

(1869—1957)


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(1869–1957) married, first (1892), Dora M. M'Loughlin (d. 1917) and, secondly (1919), Bessie Wigan (d. 1949). Born in Bristol, son of a brewer, he was educated privately and at an art and technical school in South Kensington, before qualifying as a pharmacist. His career was an unusual one. From 1889 to 1901 he was the dispenser and photographer at the County Asylum, Rainhill. He published fiction from 1901 and was art critic of the Times (1924–40). He lived for some time at St Ives in Cornwall, where some of his fiction is set, and where he was friends with Mrs Havelock Ellis and Mrs Alfred Sidgwick. He was clearly thought of as a writer whose combination of a self-consciously literary style and a liking for social and aesthetic theory with mildly incendiary subject-matter might enable him to bridge the increasing gap between up-market and down-market readerships. The result, however, is a certain confusion of aim and effect centred on a recurring preoccupation with unconsummated sexual love. The hero of Marriott's first novel, The Column (1901), returns to the English countryside with a Doric column and a half-Greek daughter who at the end, still an outsider, commits suicide. The House on the Sands (1903) is a novel of ideas about an MP, his sister, her lover (a poet), and a couple of relapsed socialists who live together platonically. Their discussions of the Boer War, state ownership of industry, sex and marriage, and imperialism end in tragedy. Genevra (1904) concerns a missed opportunity: the heroine, a mature woman, hesitates while her lover's passion fades and he becomes absorbed once more in his work. The heroine of The Lapse of Vivien Eady (1906) loves a Cornish farmer, Humphrey Stott, with her heart, and Selwyn Harper, a priggish schoolteacher, with her head. This time, for once, the opportunity is seized, as it very definitely is not in The Wondrous Wife (1907): a womanly woman, Margaret Lisle, separated from her feebly unfaithful husband, loves and is loved by a manly man, Fawcett, an engineer, but decides that her husband needs her more. Now! (1910) and The Dewpond (1912) are novels of ideas, at once sympathetic to and sceptical of socialism, the former featuring a Cornish simple-life cult called Morrisonism. The Catfish (1913) concerns a passion which is in some strange way perfected even though it never comes to fruition: a shy, imaginative young man defies expectation by establishing a shop in Bristol and marrying, not the only woman in the world who understands him, but a motherly type who guesses at and is glad of what she cannot share. The artist-hero of Subsoil (1913) articulates the question raised by Marriott's own career: he believes that in art the qualities of execution which appeal to the virtuoso and the connoisseur are precisely those which separate it from life. ‘I'm trying to get down to what quite ordinary people feel about things,’ he claims, a little desperately, in the middle of an immense swirling discussion of social and aesthetic theory. Marriott's art criticism includes Eric Gill as Carver (1929) and Laura Knight: A Book of Drawings (1923). He translated from Italian and Portuguese. Hugh Walpole began a friendship with him by writing to praise his novels, which influenced his own, and was encouraged in his career as a novelist by Marriott's advice.

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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