Eliza Margaret Jane Gollan was born at Gollanfield in Inverness-shire, the daughter of John Gollan, a Scottish businessman. Her father travelled extensively, visiting India and Australia and Eliza received little formal education, however she was able to use her experience of Australia to write a semi-autobiographical novel ‘Sheba’ in 1889, using the pen-name ‘Rita’.
Eliza was married twice: first to the Anglo-German musician Karl Booth, with whom she had three sons; second to Anglo-Irish singer William Humphreys, with whom she had a daughter. The unhappy first marriage provided Eliza with material for 4 novels ‘Saba Macdonald’ (1906) ‘Grandmother’ (1927), ‘The Wand’ring Darling’ (1928) and ‘Jean and Jeanette’ (1929). Eliza spent her married life in Cork, Ireland, Bournemouth and Bath, Somerset. In 1910, she was listed as one of the celebrities of Bournemouth, with books published in French, German and Italian; at the time she was undertaking a tour of America.
Writing as ‘Rita’, Eliza was prolific (she wrote 120 published works) and popular (‘Peg the Rake’ (1894) sold 160,000 copies). Her stories often featured aristocratic characters, and exotic settings. She occasionally made conservative political statements, for instance with ‘A Husband of No Importance’ (1894) which expressed her disapproval of ‘new women’ novels, in which the heroine would ape the successes of men. Nevertheless Eliza was herself an example of women earning their own success, and she helped to found the Writers’ Club for Women. She was critical of ideas being imported from America, a theme she explored in her 1907 essay ‘The Increase of Vulgarity Amongst Women’.
After meeting Madame Blavatsky she became interested in Theosophy and wrote ‘Calvary: A Tragedy of Sects’ (1909) exploring religious themes. This was one of her books that was made into a film. After the First World War Eliza struggled financially, as her husband became an invalid and her style of writing went out of fashion. However Queen Mary liked her books and ordered a complete set.
Eliza’s final book was an autobiography ‘Recollections of a Literary Life’ (1936).
"Rita" The Forgotten Author. By Paul Jones L.R.P.S. can be purchased from www.amazon.com. and www.amazon.co.uk. It has been meticulously researched, and refers to many sources. 193 pages, with many illustrations, and full bibliographies of Rita's prose, plays, films, and even her music. (The above Wikipedia biography is not by Paul Jones L.R.P.S.) "Rita's" A Man of no Importance is also available from www.blurb.co.uk and www.amazon.com; but DO NOT purchase this novel from Amazon.co.uk, as the company selling it on this site has it listed at a greatly inflated price. A Man of no Importance is set in Salwych, which "Rita" based strongly on Droitwich Spa in Worcestershire, after visiting the town for treatment at its brine baths, in C1906.
- Saba Macdonald
- The Wand'ring Darling
- Jean and Jeanette
- Peg the Rake
- A Husband of No Importance
- Adrienne: A Romance of French Life
- The Iron Stair: A Romance of Dartmoor
- The Mystery of a Turkish Bath
- Dame Durden
- Countess Pharamond
- The Ending of My Day
- Darny and Joan
- The Larid O'Cockpen
- The Man in Possession
- Souls: A Comedy of Intentions
- Queer Lady Judas
- Good Mrs Hypocrite
- A Gender in Satin
- Diana of the Ephesians
- The Pointing Finger
- Miss Kate
- A Jilt's Journal
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2004) Bournemouth Celebrities 1910, from the Bournemouth Visitors' Directory.
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