Elizabeth von Arnim (31 August 1866 – 9 February 1941), born Mary Annette Beauchamp, was an English novelist. Born in Australia, she married a German aristocrat, and her earliest works are set in Germany. Her first marriage made her Countess von Arnim-Schlagenthin and her second Elizabeth Russell, Countess Russell. After her first husband's death, she had a three-year affair with the writer H. G. Wells, then later married Frank Russell, elder brother of the Nobel prize-winner and philosopher Bertrand Russell. She was a cousin of the New Zealand-born writer Katherine Mansfield. Though known in early life as May, her first book introduced her to readers as Elizabeth, which she eventually became friends and finally to family. Her writings are ascribed to Elizabeth von Arnim.[1] She used the pseudonym Alice Cholmondeley for only one novel, Christine, published in 1917.[2]

Early life

She was born at her family's home on Kirribilli Point in Sydney, Australia, to Henry Herron Beauchamp (1825–1907), a wealthy shipping merchant, and Elizabeth (nicknamed Louey) Weiss Lassetter (1836–1919). She was called May by her family. She had four brothers and a sister.[3] One of her cousins was the New Zealand-born Kathleen Beauchamp, who wrote under the pen name Katherine Mansfield. When she was three years old, the family moved to England, where they lived in London but also spent several years in Switzerland.[1][4]

Arnim was the first cousin of Mansfield's father, Harold Beauchamp, making her the first cousin once removed of Mansfield. Although Elizabeth was older by 22 years, she and Mansfield later corresponded, reviewed each other's works, and became close friends.[5] Mansfield, ill with tuberculosis, lived in the Montana region of Switzerland (now Crans-Montana) from May 1921 until January 1922, renting the Chalet des Sapins with her husband John Middleton Murry from June 1921. The house was only a "1/2 an hour's scramble away" from Arnim's Chalet Soleil at Randogne. Arnim visited her cousin's niece often during this period.[5] They got on well, although Mansfield considered the much wealthier Arnim to be patronizing.[6] Mansfield satirized Arnim as the character Rosemary in a short story, "A Cup of Tea", which she wrote while in Switzerland.[5][7]

Arnim studied at the Royal College of Music, principally learning the organ.[8]

Personal life

The von Arnim-Schlagenthin family manor in Nassenheide, Pomerania, (now Rzędziny), c. 1860

On 21 February 1891, Elizabeth married the widowed German aristocrat Count Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin [de] (1851–1910) in London,[9] whom she had met on a tour of Italy with her father two years earlier.[2] He was the eldest son of the late Count Harry von Arnim, the former German Ambassador to France. At first they lived in Berlin, then in 1896 moved to what was then Nassenheide, Pomerania (now Rzędziny in Poland), where the Arnim family had a landed estate.[10] They had four daughters and a son, born between December 1891 and October 1901.[11] In 1899, Henning von Arnim was arrested and imprisoned for fraud but was later acquitted.[12]

At the time of the 1901 United Kingdom census, on 1 April 1901, Arnim was in England, staying with her uncle Henry Beauchamp at The Retreat, Bexley, without any of her children.[13] Her son Henning Bernd was born in London in October 1902.[14]

The children's tutors at Nassenheide included E. M. Forster, who worked there for several months in the spring and summer of 1905.[11] Forster wrote a short memoir of the months he spent there.[15] From April to July 1907 the writer Hugh Walpole was the children’s tutor.[16]

In 1908, Elizabeth von Arnim moved to London with the children.[2] The couple did not consider this a formal separation, although the marriage had been unhappy, owing to the Count's affairs, and they had slept in separate bedrooms for some time. In 1910, financial problems meant the Nassenheide estate had to be sold. Later that year, Count von Arnim died in Bad Kissingen, with his wife and three of their daughters by his side.[3][17] In 1911, Elizabeth moved to Randogne, Switzerland, where she had the Chalet Soleil built, and entertained literary and society friends.[18] From 1910 until 1913, she was a mistress of the novelist H. G. Wells.[4]

In 1916, the Arnims' daughter Felicitas, who had been at boarding schools in Switzerland and Germany, died of pneumonia aged sixteen in Bremen. She had been unable to return to England because of travel and financial controls caused by the First World War.[19]

Second marriage and separation, house moves, and death

In January 1916, Arnim married Frank Russell, 2nd Earl Russell, the elder brother of the philosopher Bertrand Russell. The marriage ended in acrimony, with the couple separating in 1919, although they never divorced.[20] She then went to the United States, where her daughters Liebet and Evi were living. In 1920 she returned to her home in Switzerland, using it as a base for frequent trips to other parts of Europe.[2] In the same year, she embarked on an affair with Alexander Stuart Frere (1892–1984), who later became chairman of the publishing house Heinemann. Frere, 26 years her junior, initially went to stay at the Chalet Soleil to catalog her large library, and a romance ensued. The affair lasted several years. In 1933, Frere married the writer and theater critic Patricia Wallace,[21] and Arnim was the godmother of the couple’s only daughter Elizabeth (later Elizabeth Frere Jones) who was named in her honour.[17]

In 1930, Arnim set up a home in Mougins in the south of France, seeking a warmer climate. She created a rose garden there and called the house Mas des Roses. She continued to entertain her social and literary circle there, as she had done in Switzerland. She kept this house to the end of her life, although she moved to the United States in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War.[2] She died of influenza at the Riverside Infirmary, Charleston, South Carolina, on 9 February 1941, aged 74, and was cremated at Fort Lincoln Cemetery, Maryland. In 1947 her ashes were mingled with those of her brother, Sir Sydney Beauchamp, in the churchyard of St Margaret's, Tylers Green, Penn, Buckinghamshire.[4] The Latin inscription on her tombstone reads parva sed apta (small but apt), alluding to her short stature.[22]

Literary career

Illustration by Kate Greenaway for April Baby's Book of Tunes, 1900

Arnim launched her career as a writer with her satirical and semi-autobiographical Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1898). Published anonymously, it chronicled the protagonist Elizabeth's struggles to create a garden on the family estate and her attempts to integrate into German aristocratic Junker society. In it, she fictionalized her husband as "The Man of Wrath". It was reprinted twenty times by May 1899, a year after its publication.[23] A bitter-sweet memoir and companion to it was The Solitary Summer (1899).

By 1900, Arnim's books had such success that the identity of "Elizabeth" caused newspaper speculation in London, New York and elsewhere.[24]

Other works, such as The Benefactress (1902), The Adventures of Elizabeth on Rügen (1904), Vera (1921), and Love (1925), were also semi-autobiographical. Some titles ensued that deal with protest against domineering Junkertum and witty observations of life in provincial Germany, including The Princess Priscilla's Fortnight (1905) and Fräulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther (1907). She would sign her twenty or so books, after the first, initially as "by the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden" and later simply as "By Elizabeth".

In 1909, The Princess Priscilla's Fortnight was turned into a play called The Cottage in the Air, and in 1929 into the film The Runaway Princess, directed by Anthony Asquith and starring Mady Christians.[25]

Although Arnim never wrote a conventional autobiography, All the Dogs of My Life (1936), an account of her love for her pets, contains many glimpses of her glittering social circle.[26]

Reception

Elizabeth von Arnim Monument in Buk, Poland

Arnim's 1921 novel Vera, a dark tragi-comedy drawing on her disastrous marriage to Earl Russell, was her most critically acclaimed work, described by John Middleton Murry as "Wuthering Heights by Jane Austen".[27]

Her 1922 work, The Enchanted April, inspired by a month-long holiday to the Italian Riviera, is perhaps the lightest and most ebullient of her novels. It has regularly been adapted for the stage and screen: as a Broadway play in 1925, a 1935 American feature film, an Academy Award-nominated feature film in 1992 (starring Josie Lawrence, Jim Broadbent and Joan Plowright among others), a Tony Award-nominated stage play in 2003, a musical play in 2010, and in 2015 a serial on BBC Radio 4. Terence de Vere White credits The Enchanted April with making the Italian resort of Portofino fashionable.[28] It is also, probably, the most widely read of all her works, having been a Book-of-the-Month club choice in America upon publication.[28]

Her 1940 novel Mr. Skeffington was made into an Academy Award-nominated feature film by Warner Bros. in 1944, starring Bette Davis and Claude Rains, and a 60-minute "Lux Radio Theater" broadcast radio adaptation of the movie on 1 October 1945.

Since 1983, the British publisher Virago has been reprinting her work with new introductions by modern writers, some of which claim her as a feminist.[29] The Reader's Encyclopedia reports that many of her later novels are "tired exercises", but this opinion is not widely held.[30]

Perhaps the best example of Arnim's mordant wit and unusual attitude to life is provided in one of her letters: "I'm so glad I didn't die on the various occasions I have earnestly wished I might, for I would have missed a lot of lovely weather."[31]

Select bibliography

Notes

  1. ^ a b Usborne 1986, p. [page needed]
  2. ^ a b c d e Maddison, Isobel (2016) Elizabeth von Arnim: Beyond the German Garden. Abingdon: Routledge.
  3. ^ a b Arnim, Jasper von (2003) Elizabeth von Arnim, von-arnim.net. Retrieved 24 July 2020
  4. ^ a b c Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition (UK library card required): Arnim, Mary Annette [May] von. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Maddison 2013, pp. 85–91This source incorrectly states that Mansfield was in Switzerland until June 1922, but all Mansfield biographies state January 1922, after which she moved to France seeking treatment for TB. Mansfield and Murry later lived in a hotel in Randogne from June to August 1922. She died in France in January 1923, aged 34.
  6. ^ Katherine Mansfield, Vincent O'Sullivan, ed., et al. (1996) The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume Four: 1920–1921, pp. 249–250. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Retrieved 20 July 2020 (Google Books)
  7. ^ Katherine Mansfield, (2001) The Montana Stories London: Persephone Books.
  8. ^ Isobel Maddison, Juliane Römhild, et al. (22 June 2017) "Reading Elizabeth von Arnim Today: An Overview", Women: A Cultural Review, Vol. 28, 2017, Issue 1–2. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  9. ^ Genealogische Handbuch des Adels., p. 30. Gotha: Justus Perthes Verlag, 1932.
  10. ^ Henning August Graf v. Arnim (1851–1910) In: Das Geschlecht von Arnim. IV. Teil: Chronik der Familie im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Published by Arnim'scher Familienverband, Degener, 2002, p. 591.
  11. ^ a b R. Sully (2012) British Images of Germany: Admiration, Antagonism & Ambivalence, 1860–1914, p. 120, New York: Springer. Retrieved 20 July 2020 (Google Books).
  12. ^ Morgan, Joyce (2021). The Countess from Kirribilli. Australia: Allen & Unwin. pp. 50–51. ISBN 9781760875176.
  13. ^ 1901 United Kingdom census, Park Hill, Bexley, ancestry.co.uk, accessed 13 July 2022 (subscription required)
  14. ^ "Henning Bernd Von Arnim-schlagenthin" in England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915: 1902; Registration Place: Strand, London, England; Volume 1b, page 606
  15. ^ E. M. Forster, (1920–1929) Nassenheide. The National Archives. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  16. ^ Elizabeth Steele (1972), Hugh Walpole, p. 15, London: Twayne ISBN 0805715606.
  17. ^ a b Römhild, Juliane (2014) Femininity and Authorship in the Novels of Elizabeth von Arnim: At Her Most Radiant Moment, pp. 16–24. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-61147-704-7
  18. ^ "Elizabeth von Arnim – Biography and Works". online-literature.com. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  19. ^ Juliane Roemhild, (30 May 1916) Elizabeth von Arnim Society. 2016 Centenary Note: Two Wartime Tragedies. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  20. ^ Derham, Ruth (2021). Bertrand's Brother: The Marriages, Morals and Misdemeanours of Frank, 2nd Earl Russell. Stroud: Amberley. pp. 257–283. ISBN 9781398102835.
  21. ^ Morgan, Joyce (2021). The Countess from Kirribilli. Australia: Allen & Unwin. p. 263. ISBN 9781760875176.
  22. ^ Vickers, Salley, in the introduction to Elizabeth von Arnim, 'The Enchanted April' Penguin: 2012 ISBN 978-0-141-19182-9
  23. ^ Miranda Kiek (8 November 2011) "Elizabeth von Arnim: The forgotten feminist who’s flowering again", The Independent. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  24. ^ Morgan, Joyce (2021). The Countess from Kirribilli. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. pp. 52–57. ISBN 9781760875176.
  25. ^ Introduction, Elizabeth von Arnim, The Princess Priscilla's Fortnight (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016)
  26. ^ Elizabeth von Arnim, All the Dogs of My Life, Virago: 2006 ISBN 978-1844082773
  27. ^ Brown, Erica (2013). Comedy and the Feminine Middlebrow Novel: Elizabeth von Arnim and Elizabeth Taylor (1st ed.). London: Pickering & Chatto. ISBN 978-1848933385.
  28. ^ a b Terence De Vere White, Introduction to The Enchanted April, Virago: 1991 ISBN 9780860685173
  29. ^ Elizabeth von Arnim, Fräulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther, Virago: 1983 ISBN 9780860683179
  30. ^ Bruce F. Murphy, ed., The Reader's Encyclopedia, 5th ed., Collins: 2008 ISBN 978-0060890162
  31. ^ Letter to Maud Ritchie, quoted by Deborah Kellaway in introduction to The Solitary Summer, Virago: 1993 ISBN 1853815535

Sources

  • Maddison, Isobel (Spring 2012). "A Second Flowering: Elizabeth and her German Garden" (PDF). London Library Magazine. No. 15 – via Katherine Mansfield Society.
  • Maddison, Isobel (2013). "Worms of the same family: Elizabeth von Arnim and Katherine Mansfield". Elizabeth von Arnim: Beyond the German Garden. Farnham: Ashgate. ISBN 9781409411673.
  • Morgan, Joyce (2021). The Countess from Kirribilli. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781760875176.
  • Usborne, Karen (1986). "Elizabeth": The Author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden. London: Bodley Head. ISBN 9780370308876.

Further reading

  • Lisa Bekaert, An Analysis of Elizabeth von Arnim's The Benefactress and Charlotte P. Gilman's Herland as New Woman writings & Henry R. Haggard's She and Ayesha as a masculine retort. Master's thesis, Ghent University, 2009 ([1] PDF; 378 KB)
  • de Charms, Leslie: Elizabeth of the German Garden: A Biography – London: Heinemann, 1958
  • Amanda DeWees, "Elizabeth von Arnim". An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers, ed. Paul Schlueter and June Schlueter. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1998, pp. 13 ff.
  • Iwona Eberle, Eve with a Spade: Women, Gardens, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century. Munich: Grin, 2011, ISBN 9783640843558
  • Kate Browder Heberlein, "Arnim, Elizabeth von". Dictionary of British Women Writers, ed. Jane Todd. London: Routledge, 1998, No. 12
  • Alision Hennegan, "In a Class of Her Own: Elizabeth von Arnim", Women Writers of the 1930s: Gender, Politics and History, ed. and introduction by Maroula Joannou. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999, pp. 100–112
  • Michael Hollington, "'Elizabeth' and Her Books" AUMLA 87 (May 1997), pp. 43–51
  • Kirsten Jüngling and Brigitte Roßbeck, Elizabeth von Arnim; Eine Biographie. Frankfurt: Insel, 1996, ISBN 9783458335405
  • Isobel Maddison, "The Curious Case of Christine: Elizabeth von Arnim's Wartime Text", First World War Studies, vol 3 (2) October 2012, pp. 183–200
  • Ashley Oles, The Angel in the Garden: Recovering Elizabeth von Arnim's 'The Pastor's Wife', Master's thesis, East Carolina University, 2012 ([2] PDF; 378 KB)
  • Juliane Roemhild, Feminity and Authorship in the Novels of Elizabeth von Arnim. New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2014
  • Talia Schaffer, "Von Arnim [née Beauchamp], Elizabeth [Mary Annette, Countess Russell]". The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English, ed. Lorna Sage, advis. eds. Germaine Greer et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 646
  • George Walsh, "Lady Russell, 74, Famous Novelist, Author of 'Elizabeth and Her German Garden' Dies in a Charleston, S. C., Hospital". Obituary in New York Times, 10 February 1941
  • Katie Elizabeth Young, More than 'Wisteria and Sunshine': The Garden as a Space of Female Introspection and Identity in Elizabeth von Arnim's 'The Enchanted April' and 'Vera'. Master's thesis, Brigham University, 2011 (PDF)
  • Ruth Derham, Bertrand's Brother: The Marriages, Morals and Misdemeanours of Frank, 2nd Earl Russell. Stroud: Amberley Publishing, ISBN 9781398102835.

Other biographies

  • Joyce Morgan, The Countess from Kirribilli. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2021 ISBN 9781760875176
  • Carey, Gabrielle (2020). Only Happiness Here: In Search of Elizabeth von Arnim. St Lucia, Qld.: University of Queensland Press.
  • Katie Roiphe, Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910–1939. New York: Dial Press, 2008 ISBN 9780385339377
  • Jennifer Walker, Elizabeth of the German Garden – A Literary Journey. Brighton: Book Guild, 2013 ISBN 9781846248511

External links