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Elizabeth von Arnim

Elizabeth von Arnim Elizabeth von Arnim[1†]

Elizabeth von Arnim (31 August 1866 – 9 February 1941), born Mary Annette Beauchamp, was an English novelist[1†]. She was born in Australia and her earliest works are set in Germany[1†]. Her first marriage made her Countess von Arnim-Schlagenthin and her second Elizabeth Russell, Countess Russell[1†].

Elizabeth von Arnim was born Mary Annette Beauchamp in Sydney, Australia[1†][2†]. She was a prolific writer, best known for The Enchanted April and Elizabeth and her German Garden, though the psychological thriller Vera is arguably considered her masterwork[1†][2†].

She married a German aristocrat and her earliest works are set in Germany[1†]. After her first husband’s death, she had a three-year affair with the writer H. G. Wells[1†]. She later married Frank Russell, elder brother of the Nobel prize-winner and philosopher Bertrand Russell[1†]. She was a cousin of the New Zealand-born writer Katherine Mansfield[1†].

Early Years and Education

Elizabeth von Arnim was born Mary Annette Beauchamp on August 31, 1866, at her family’s home on Kirribilli Point in Sydney, Australia[1†]. She was the sixth and last child of Henry Beauchamp, an English shipping magnate, and Elizabeth “Louey” Lassetter, an Australian[1†][3†]. She was called May by her family[1†].

When she was three years old, the family moved to England, where they lived in London but also spent several years in Switzerland[1†]. The beauty of Switzerland, especially its mountain meadows in springtime, made a lasting impression on her[1†][4†].

An intelligent and musically gifted child, she was able to develop her talents by studying at the Royal College of Music, where her principal study was the organ[1†][4†]. Her famous teacher, Sir Walter Parratt, had a lasting influence on her intellectual and musical development[1†][4†]. She was considering a career as a professional musician[1†][4†].

One of her cousins was the New Zealand-born Kathleen Beauchamp, who wrote under the pen name Katherine Mansfield[1†]. Although Elizabeth was older by 22 years, she and Mansfield later corresponded, reviewed each other’s works, and became close friends[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Elizabeth von Arnim’s career as a writer began after her marriage to Count Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin[1†]. She was introduced to the heart of Prussian society and the Wagner family, who were captivated by her organ playing[1†][4†].

Her first book, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, was published by Macmillan in 1898 and became an instant best-seller[1†][4†]. This book introduced her to readers as Elizabeth, which she eventually became to friends and finally to family[1†]. Her writings are ascribed to Elizabeth von Arnim[1†].

She used the pseudonym Alice Cholmondeley for only one novel, Christine, published in 1917[1†]. Over the years, she developed her literary career, going on to complete twenty further highly successful novels[1†][4†]. As ‘Elizabeth’, she established an international literary reputation[1†][4†].

Some of her works were adapted into films, such as Enchanted April (1991), Mr. Skeffington (1944), and Enchanted April (1935)[1†][5†][6†].

First Publication of Her Main Works

Elizabeth von Arnim was a prolific author, having written 21 books[7†]. Here are some of her main works:

Each of these works showcases von Arnim’s keen observations of life and society, her wit, and her ability to create engaging and relatable characters. Her works have been translated into several languages and some have been adapted for theatre and film[7†][9†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Elizabeth von Arnim’s novels are renowned for their charm, wit, and a touch of autobiography[10†]. Her works represent an enchanting half-forgotten world of late Edwardian Britain with memorable characters acting in stunning settings in different parts of Europe[10†][11†].

A detailed analysis of von Arnim’s novels proves that they can be interpreted as “eco literature” because they represent the most crucial eco issues[10†][11†]. Her novels reflect the complex relations between people and nature; they reveal models both of beneficial and disagreeable interaction[10†][11†]. This ecocritical perspective is particularly evident in her novels “Elizabeth and Her German Garden” (1898), “The Solitary Summer” (1899), and her autobiography “All the Dogs of My Life” (1936)[10†][11†].

Her evocative descriptions of gardens and homes might have branded her as a writer of female domesticity but for the unsettling subtext of an impossibly sloping garden or a country house whose windows are too large[10†][12†]. This ability to create vivid, immersive settings is a testament to her skill as a writer.

The novel “Vera” obliquely refers to the author’s disastrous second marriage to an Earl, but unlike her references to her first husband, who she referred to as “The Man of Wrath,” Elizabeth saw no humor in the situation[10†]. This shows her ability to draw from personal experiences to create compelling narratives.

In conclusion, Elizabeth von Arnim’s works are a blend of charm, wit, and keen observations of life and society. Her ability to intertwine personal experiences with broader themes has resulted in novels that continue to resonate with readers today.

Personal Life

Elizabeth von Arnim’s personal life was as rich and varied as her literary career. She was first married to the German aristocrat Count Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin on 21 February 1891[1†][4†]. They met during a tour of Italy with her father[1†][4†][13†]. The couple had five children, four daughters and a son[1†][13†].

After the death of her first husband in 1910, she moved with her children to a château in Switzerland[1†][3†]. However, the outbreak of World War I forced her to return to England[1†][3†]. During this period, she had a three-year affair with the renowned writer H. G. Wells[1†][14†].

Later, she married Francis, the 2nd Earl of Russell, who was the elder brother of the philosopher and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell[1†][3†][14†]. Unfortunately, this marriage turned out to be unsuccessful, and they separated in 1919[1†][3†].

Throughout her life, Elizabeth von Arnim maintained close ties with her family and cultural roots. She was a cousin of the New Zealand-born writer Katherine Mansfield[1†][14†]. Despite the geographical distance and age difference, the two writers corresponded, reviewed each other’s works, and became close friends[1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Elizabeth von Arnim left an indelible mark on the literary world with her insightful and witty novels[1†]. Her works, often reflecting her own experiences and observations, brought her significant acclaim during her lifetime[1†]. She was regularly compared to Jane Austen for her talent and wit[1†][12†].

Despite the challenges and upheavals in her personal life, she maintained a prolific output as a writer, leaving a lasting legacy in the world of literature[1†]. Her novels, including “The Enchanted April” and “Elizabeth and her German Garden”, continue to be read and appreciated for their wit, charm, and keen observation of social norms and human relationships[1†][9†].

Elizabeth von Arnim is perhaps Australia’s greatest literary export[1†][12†]. Born in Kirribilli, she was extraordinarily successful in her lifetime[1†][12†]. Yet, with the exception of those in on the secret, von Arnim’s novels have been almost entirely forgotten[1†][12†]. Today, her works are being rediscovered and appreciated by a new generation of readers[1†][12†].

Elizabeth von Arnim passed away on 9 February 1941[1†]. However, her legacy lives on through her novels, which continue to captivate readers with their wit, charm, and keen observations of society[1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Elizabeth von Arnim [website] - link
  2. Literary Ladies Guide - Elizabeth von Arnim, Author of The Enchanted April [website] - link
  3. Encyclopedia.com - Arnim, Elizabeth von (1866–1941) [website] - link
  4. Elizabeth von Arnim - Biography: ‘Elizabeth’ (Von Arnim), 1866–1941 [website] - link
  5. IMDb - Elizabeth von Arnim - Biography [website] - link
  6. IMDb - Elizabeth von Arnim [website] - link
  7. Elizabeth von Arnim - Elizabeth von Arnim – The International Society Devoted to Scholarship on Elizabeth von Arnim [website] - link
  8. Wikisource (English) - Elizabeth von Arnim [website] - link
  9. Elizabeth von Arnim - About Elizabeth and Her Work [website] - link
  10. Literary Ladies Guide - Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim (1922) [website] - link
  11. European Proceedings - Elizabeth Von Arnim’s Early Novels In The Light Of Eco-Criticism [website] - link
  12. Sydney Review of Books - The Many Lives of Elizabeth von Arnim [website] - link
  13. Goodreads - Author: Elizabeth von Arnim (Author of The Enchanted April) [website] - link
  14. Wikiwand - Elizabeth von Arnim - Wikiwand [website] - link
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