Florence Marryat

Florence Marryat (9 July 1833 – 27 October 1899) was a British writer.

Marryat’s parents separated when she was a child, and her time was split between her parents’ houses. Marryat was educated entirely at home with the help of tutors, governesses and her father’s extensive library.

After her marriage to an officer of the British Army, on 13th June 1854, she travelled extensively through India, and returned to England in 1860 pregnant, and with three children (but without her husband, who only visited them occasionally). While in England, she would give birth to another four children.

Marryat started to write to distract herself from sadness in a time when her children were suffering from scarlet fever. Her first novel, Love’s Conflict (1865), was met with considerable success, and Marryat published two more novels that same year, Too Good for Him (1865) and Woman Against Woman (1865). She would continue to write for the rest of her life, and, by the mid-1870s, Marryat had become an internationally successful author. She also became a member of the Society of Authors, founded in 1884, and she ran a school of Journalism and Literary Art, during the 1890s.

Marryat was a prolific author, and was particularly known for her sensational novels: she wrote around 70 books, as well as newspaper and magazine articles, short stories and plays, and edited the monthly magazine London Society, between 1872 and 1874. Her novels were very popular, but the critical reception of her books was mixed. Many reviewers were alarmed by the topics she wrote about: adultery, alcoholism, illegitimacy, suicide, and murder, just to name a few. Marryat rejected accusations of sensationalism, maintaining that she wrote from experience.

During the 1870’s, while separated from her husband, Marryat started to live with Colonel Francis Lean of the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Her husband eventually sued for divorce in 1878, citing adultery as the grounds. They divorced in 1879, and, that same year, she married her lover, Colonel Francis Lean. They divorced shortly after, in 1881.

From 1876 to 1890, she had a career as an actress, and toured with the D’Oyly Carte company, took roles in two Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, and also performed in an adaptation of her own novel, Her World Against a Lie. During the 1880’s, Marryat collaborated with George Grossmith, writing and performing a comic touring entertainment show called Entre Nous (“Between you and me”). She later had her own one-woman show, Love Letters, and worked as a lecturer, dramatic reader and public entertainer. Over the last 14 years of her life, she had a relationship with a younger actor, Herbert McPherson. Marryat was 33 year his senior.

Marryat had converted to Roman Catholicism in 1870, but returned to Anglicanism following pressure from her first husband. In 1874, she again turned to Roman Catholicism, which probably contributed to the end of her first marriage. While working for a London newspaper in 1874, Florence interviewed a prominent clairvoyant, which marked the beginning of a lifelong belief in spiritualism.  She became a keen participant in seances, claiming to have communicated with her brother Frank, who had died in a shipwreck, and her two dead daughters.

Marryat was involved with several celebrated spiritual mediums of the late 19th century, and her late-career novels, such as There Is No Death (1891), The Spirit World (1894), The Strange Transfiguration of Hannah Stubbs (1896), and A Soul on Fire (1898), deal with spiritualism and are based on séances she attended.

Marryat died in 1899 from diabetes and pneumonia.

Books

Novels

  • Love’s Conflict (1865)
  • Too Good for Him (1865)
  • Woman Against Woman (1865)
  • For Ever and Ever (1866)
  • The Confessions of Gerald Estcourt (1867)
  • Nelly Brooke – A Homely Story (1868)
  • The Girls of Feversham (1869)
  • Veronique (1869)
  • Petronel (1870)
  • Her Lord and Master (1871)
  • The Prey of the Gods (1871)
  • Mad Dumaresq (1873)
  • No Intentions (1874)
  • Fighting the Air (1875)
  • Open! Sesame! (1875)
  • Her Father’s Name (1876)
  • My Own Child (1876)
  • A Harvest of Wild Oats (1877)
  • A Little Stepson (1878)
  • Her World Against a Lie (1878)
  • Written in Fire (1878)
  • A Broken Blossom (1879)
  • The Root of All Evil (1879)
  • Out of His Reckoning (1879)
  • The Fair-Haired Alda (1880)
  • My Sister the Actress (1881)
  • With Cupid’s Eye (1881)
  • Facing the Footlights (1882)
  • How They Loved Him (1882)
  • Phyllida (1882)
  • Peeress and Player (1883)
  • The Heart of Jane Warner (1884)
  • Under the Lillies and Roses (1884)
  • The Heir Presumptive (1885)
  • Miss Harrington’s Husband (a reissue of The Spiders of Society) (1886)
  • The Master Passion (1886)
  • The Spiders of Society (1886)
  • A Daughter of the Tropics (1887)
  • Driven to Bay (1887)
  • A Crown of Shame (1888)
  • Gentleman and Courtier (1888)
  • Mount Eden (1889)
  • On Circumstantial Evidence (1889)
  • A Scarlet Sin (1890)
  • Blindfold (1890)
  • Brave Heart and True (1890)
  • A Fatal Silence (1891)
  • The Risen Dead (1891)
  • The Lost Diamonds (with Charles Ogilvie) (1891)
  • How Like a Woman (1892)
  • The Nobler Sex (1892)
  • Parson Jones (1893)
  • A Bankrupt Heart (1894)
  • The Beautiful Soul (1894)
  • The Hampstead Mystery (1894)
  • The Dead Man’s Message – An Occult Romance (1894)
  • At Heart a Rake (1895)
  • The Dream that Stayed (1896)
  • The Strange Transfiguration of Hannah Stubbs (1896)
  • A Passing Madness (1897)
  • In the Name of Liberty (1897)
  • The Blood of the Vampire (1897)
  • A Soul on Fire (UK edition of The Dead Man’s Message) (1898)
  • An Angel of Pity (1898)
  • Why Did She Love Him? (1898)
  • A Rational Marriage (1899)
  • Iris the Avenger (1899)
  • The Folly of Alison (1899)

Short story collections

  • Captain Norton’s Diary and other stories (1870)
  • A Lucky Disappointment and other stories (1876)
  • A Star and a Heart (1876)
  • Hidden Chains (1876)
  • The Poison of Asps (1876)
  • A Moment of Madness and other stories (1883)
  • The Ghost of Charlotte Cray and other stories (1883)
  • Old Contrairy and other stories (1884)
  • The Luckiest Girl in Yorkshire and other stories (1907)

Children’s stories

  • Sybil’s Friend and How She Found Him (1873)
  • The Little Marine and the Japanese Lily (1891)

Plays

  • Miss Chester (1871)

Memoirs

  • Gup – Sketches of Anglo-Indian Life (1868)
  • Life and Letters of Captain Marryat (1872)
  • Tom Tiddler’s Ground (1886)

Spiritualism

  • There is No Death (1891)
  • The Clairvoyance of Bessie Williams (1893)
  • The Spirit World (1894)

About her

  • The Regulation of Female Identity in the Novels of Florence Marryat, by Catherine Pope (Doctoral thesis, University of Sussex, 2014)
  • The Maniac in the Cellar: Sensation Novels of the 1860s, by Winifred Hughes (1980)
  • “Sensation fiction, gender and identity”, by Tara Macdonald, in The Cambridge Companion to Sensation Fiction, ed. Andrew Mangham (2013)
  • The ‘Improper’ Feminine: The Women’s Sensation Novel and the New Woman Writing, by Lyn Pykett (1992)
  • The Sensation Novel: From The Woman in White to The Moonstone, by Lyn Pykett (1994)
  • “Conflicting Interpretations of Gender: Hysteria, Masculinity, and Marriage in Florence Marryat’s Nelly Brooke”, by Greta Depledge, Critical Survey, 23 (2011), pp. 42–57
  • The Victorian Freak Show: The Significance of Disability and Physical Differences in 19th-Century Fiction, by Lillian Craton (2009)
  • Ideologically Challenging: Florence Marryat and Sensation Fiction”, by Greta Depledge, in A Companion to Sensation Fiction, ed. by Pamela K Gilbert (2011)
  • Sensation Fiction and the New Woman”, by Greta Depledge, in The Cambridge Compagnion to Sensation Fiction, ed. by Andrew Mangham (2013)
  • Acts of Memory: The Victorians and Beyond, ed. by Ryan Barnett and Serena Trowbridge (2010)
  • “‘They Suck Us Dry’: A Study of Late-Nineteenth-Century Projections of Vampiric Women”, by Sian Macfie, in Subjectivity and Literature from the Romantics to the Present Day, ed. by Philip Shaw and Peter Stockwell (1991)
  • Women’s Authorship and Editorship in Victorian Culture: Sensational Strategies, by Beth Palmer (2011)
  • Altered States: Sex, Nation, Drugs, and Self-Transformation in Victorian Spiritualism, by Marlene Tromp (2007)
  • Victorian Ghosts in the Noontide: Women Writers and the Supernatural, by Vanessa D. Dickerson (1996)

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