Ouida

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Maria Louise Ramé
Ouida (Maria Louise Ramé).jpg
Born (1839-01-01)1 January 1839
Bury St. Edmunds, England
Died 25 January 1908(1908-01-25) (aged 69)
Viareggio, Italy
Pen name Ouida
Occupation Novelist
Nationality French-British

Signature

Ouida (1 January 1839[1] – 25 January 1908) was the pseudonym of the English novelist Maria Louise Ramé (although she preferred to be known as Marie Louise de la Ramée).

Biography[edit]

Maria Louise Ramé was born at Bury St. Edmunds, England.[2] Her mother was English and her father was from France; his first language was French[citation needed].[2][3] She derived her pen name from her own childish pronunciation of her given name "Louise".[4] Her opinion of her birthplace fluctuated; she wrote:

That clean, quiet antiquated town, that always puts me in the mind of an old maid dressed for a party; that lowest and dreariest of Boroughs, where the streets are as full of grass as an acre of pasture land. Why, the inhabitants are driven to ringing their own doorbells lest they rust from lack of use.[5]

Caricature of Ouida (Punch, 20 August 1881)

She moved into the Langham Hotel, London in 1867. There, according to the hotel promotional materials, she wrote in bed, by candlelight, with the curtains drawn and surrounded by purple flowers.[6] She ran up huge hotel and florists bills, and commanded soirees that included soldiers, politicians, literary lights (including Oscar Wilde, Algernon Swinburne, Robert Browning and Wilkie Collins), and artists (including John Millais).[4] Many of her stories and characters were based upon people she invited to her salons at The Langham.[6] Ouida was described by William Allingham in his diary of 1872 as of short stature, with a "sinister, clever face" and with a "voice like a carving knife."[7]

For many years Ouida lived in London, but about 1871 she moved to Italy. In 1874, she settled permanently with her mother in Florence, and there long pursued her work as a novelist. At first she rented an 'apartment' at the Palazzo Vagnonville. Later she removed to the Villa Farinola at Scandicci, south of Bellosguardo, three miles from Florence, where she lived in great style, entertained largely, collected objets d'art, dressed expensively but not tastefully, drove good horses, and kept many dogs, to which she was deeply attached. She lived in Bagni di Lucca for a period, where there is a commemorative plaque on the outside wall. She declared that she never received from her publishers more than £1600. for any one novel, but that she found America 'a mine of wealth.' In 'The Massarenes' (1897) she gave a lurid picture of the parvenu millionaire in smart London society. This book was greatly prized by Ouida, and was very successful in terms of sales. Thenceforth she chiefly wrote for the leading magazines essays on social questions or literary criticisms, which were not remunerative.[7] As before, she used her locations as inspiration for the setting and characters in her novels. The British and American colony in Florence was satirised in her novel, Friendship (1878).[8] Ouida considered herself a serious artist. She was inspired by Byron in particular, and was interested in other artists of all kinds. Sympathetic descriptions of tragic painters and singers occurred in her later novels. Her work often combines romanticism with social criticism. In her novel, Puck, a talking dog narrates his views on society. Views and Opinions includes essays in her own voice on a variety of social topics.

Although successful, she did not manage her money well. A civil list pension of £150 a year was offered to her by the prime minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, on the application of Alfred Austin, George Wyndham, and Walburga, Lady Paget, which she reluctantly accepted after request by her friend, Lady Howard of Glossop, on 16 July 1906.[9]

She continued to live in Italy until her death on 25 January 1908, at 70 Via Zanardelli, Viareggio, of pneumonia[4] She is buried in the English Cemetery in Bagni di Lucca, Italy.

Tomb of Ouida in Bagni di Lucca's English cemetery

Literary career[edit]

During her career, Ouida wrote more than 40 novels, children's books and collections of short stories and essays. She was an animal lover and rescuer, and at times owned as many as thirty dogs. Ouida's work had several phases.

Her first novel, Held in Bondage was published in 1863, when she was 24.[4] (She later claimed to have written Idalia, a well-known novel, at the age of 16. It featured a heroine who was a rebel/ingenue sympathetic to Italian independence.[citation needed]

In her early period, her novels were considered "racy" and "swashbuckling", a contrast to "the moralistic prose of early Victorian literature" (Tom Steele),[4] and a hybrid of the sensationalism of the 1860s and the proto-adventure novels being published as part of the romanticisation of imperial expansion. Later her work was more typical of historical romance, though she never stopped comment on contemporary society. She also wrote several stories for children.

Under Two Flags, one of her most well-known novels, described the British in Algeria. It expressed sympathy for the French colonists (called pieds noirs)—with whom Ouida deeply identified—and, to some extent, the Arabs. This book was adapted as dramatic plays, and was adapted four times as a film. The American author Jack London cited her novel Signa, which he read at age eight, as one of the eight reasons for his literary success.[10]

Influence[edit]

The British composer Frederic Hymen Cowen and his librettists Gilbert Arthur à Beckett, H.A. Rudall, and Frederic Edward Weatherly acquired the rights to Ouida's 1875 novel Signa to create an opera for Richard D'Oyly Carte's Royal English Opera House to succeed Arthur Sullivan's Ivanhoe in 1891. Between Cowen not being ready with his work and the collapse of Carte's venture, Cowen eventually took his finished Signa to Italy with an Italian translation of the original English text by G.A. Mazzucato. After many delays and production troubles, Cowen's Signa was first performed in a reduced three act version at the Teatro Dal Verme, Milan on 12 November 1893. After further revision and much cutting, it was later given in a two act version at Covent Garden, London on 30 June 1894, at which point Cowen wondered if there was any sense left in the opera at all. Ouida's impression of the work is unknown.[citation needed]

Later, Pietro Mascagni bought the rights for her story "Two Little Wooden Shoes", intending to adapt it for an opera. His friend Giacomo Puccini became interested in the story and began a court action, claiming that because Ouida was in debt, the rights to her works should be put up for public auction to raise funds for creditors. He won the court challenge and persuaded his publisher Ricordi to bid for the story. After Ricordi won, Puccini lost interest and never composed the opera. Mascagni later composed one based on the story, under the title Lodoletta.[citation needed]

Legacy and honours[edit]

Soon after her death, her friends organized a public subscription in Bury St Edmunds, where they had a fountain for horses and dogs installed in her name.[11] Its inscription was composed by Lord Curzon:

Her friends have erected this fountain in the place of her birth. Here may God's creatures whom she loved assuage her tender soul as they drink.

Fellow author "Rita" Humphreys (Eliza Margaret Jane Humphreys, 1850-1938) wrote a eulogy to Ouida and sent it to the press soon after her death. It was read at the unveiling of Ouida’s memorial. During Rita's youth, Ouida had been popular but the girl was forbidden to read her. She made up for it later by purchasing every book written by Ouida and keeping them in her library for the rest of her life.[12]

Bibliography[edit]

Ouida Memorial, Bury St. Edmunds
  • Two Little Wooden Shoes (1874), also published with the title Bébée
  • Afternoon (1883)
  • A House Party (1887)
  • An Altruist (1897)
  • Ariadne (1877) pdf
  • Beatrice Boville and Other Stories (1868)
  • Bimbi: Stories for Children (1882) etext
  • Cecil Castlemaine's Gage (1867)
  • A Dog of Flanders (1872), English-language film versions in 1935, 1959 and 1999 (starring Jon Voight), popular cartoon TV series in Japan in 1975; etext
  • Chandos (1866)
  • Critical Studies (1900)
  • Dogs (1897)
  • Don Guesaldo (1886)
  • Frescoes: Dramatic Sketches (1883)
  • Friendship (1878)
  • Folle-Farine (1871)
  • Guilderoy (1889)
  • Helianthus (1908)
  • Held in Bondage (1863), first published with the title Granville de Vigne
  • The Silver Christ and A Lemon Tree (1894)
  • Idalia (1867)
  • In a Winter City (1876)
  • In Maremma (1882)[1]
  • La Strega and Other Stories (1899)
  • Le Selve and Other Tales (1896)
  • The Massarenes (1897)
  • Moths (1880)
  • Moufflou and other stories (1910)
  • Muriella; or, Le Selve (1897)
  • The New Priesthood: A Protest Against Vivisection (1893)
  • Othmar (1885)
  • Pascarel (1874)
  • Pipistrello and Other Stories (1880)
  • Princess Napraxine (1884)
  • Puck (1870)
  • A Rainy June (1885)
  • Ruffino and Other Stories (1890)
  • Santa Barbara and Other Stories (1891)
  • Signa (1875)
  • The Silver Christ (1894)
  • Strathmore (1865)
  • Street Dust and Other Stories (1901)
  • Syrlin (1890)
  • The Tower of Taddeo (1892)
  • The Nürnberg Stove (1895)
  • Toxin (1895)
  • Tricotrin (1869)
  • Two Offenders and Other Tales (1894)
  • Under Two Flags (1867), film versions 1912, 1916, 1922 (directed by Tod Browning), and 1936 (starring Ronald Colman and Claudette Colbert); etext
  • Views and Opinions (1895)
  • A Village Commune (1881)
  • Wanda (1883)
  • The Waters of Edera (1900) etext

References[edit]

  1. ^ Encyclopedia, Britannica. "Ouida.". Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "Maria Louise Ramé", birth record, Bury St. Edmunds, FreeBMD, accessed 3 July 2012. Note: Does not include any information about parents.
  3. ^ The New York Times, 29 January 1908. Note: Ouida was identified as the sister of the US Civil War officer, Col. George Roy Gliddoth. She was said to have "left her home in America at a tender age under the care of a woman who adopted her as her daughter." Another article about her supposed Gliddoth family was reported in Publishers Weekly at the same time.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Cosmopolis History of The Langham". Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  5. ^ Cecil Castlemaine's Gage: And Other Novelettes. Chatto & Windus. 1899. p. 351. 
  6. ^ a b "Ouida". Guide to The Langham Hotel. langhamhotels.com. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Lee 1912.
  8. ^ Jordan and King & 2013 http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409405900.
  9. ^ Jordan and King 2013.
  10. ^ London, Jack (1917) "Eight Factors of Literary Success", in Earle Labor, (ed.) (1994) Viking Penguin. The Portable Jack London, p. 512. "In answer to your question as to the greatest factors of my literary success, I will state that I consider them to be: Vast good luck. Good health; good brain; good mental and muscular correlation. Poverty. Reading Ouida's Signa at eight years of age. The influence of Herbert Spencer's Philosophy of Style. Because I got started twenty years before the fellows who are trying to start today."
  11. ^ St Edmundsbury, Borough Council. "Ouida Memorial, Bury St Edmunds.". Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  12. ^ "Rita" The Forgotten Author,by Paul Jones L.R.P.S.
Attribution

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLee, Elizabeth (1912). "De la Ramée, Marie Louise". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 487–488. 

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