The daughter of Anselmo Vivanti, an Italian exile, and Anna Lindau, a German writer, she was born in London. Her mother's brothers were Paul and Rudolf Lindau. Vivanti grew up in Italy, England, Switzerland and the United States. In 1890, she published Lirica, a poetry collection, with a preface by Giosuè Carducci. The following year, she published a novel Marion artista di caffè concerto.
In 1892, she married the Irish journalist and lawyer John Chartres. For the next 18 years, she lived in England and the United States and wrote only in English. Her most famous work of this period is The Devourers, published in 1910, which was inspired by her daughter Vivien, a violin prodigy. She rewrote the book in Italian as I divoratori in 1911.
Like her husband, who was a member of Sinn Fein, Vivanti supported Irish independence. She also defended the Italian cause in English newspapers during World War I. Following the war, she supported Mussolini and contributed to Italian nationalist newspapers such as Il Popolo d'Italia and L'Idea Nazionale/
In 1941, living in Italy, she was placed under house arrest because of her connections to England; for a time, her books were banned in Italy because of her Jewish parentage. Her daughter committed suicide in London later that same year. Just before her death in Turin the following year, Vivanti converted to Catholicism.
- Circe, novel (1912)
- Marie Tarnowska, novel (1915)
- L'Invasore, play (1916)
- Vae victis!, novel (1917)
- Le bocche inutili, play (1918)
- Zingaresca, short stories (1918)
- Naja tripudians (1920)
- Fosca, sorella di Messalina (1922)
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