Elinor Glyn

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Not to be confused with Eleanor Glynn. ‹See Tfd›
Elinor Sutherland Glyn
Elinorglyn.jpg
Portrait of Elinor Glyn
Born Elinor Sutherland
(1864-10-17)17 October 1864
Jersey, Channel Islands, UK
Died 23 September 1943(1943-09-23) (aged 78)
Chelsea, London, England, UK
Pen name Elinor Glyn
Occupation novelist and scriptwriter
Language English
Nationality British
Period 1900-1940
Genres Romance
Literary movement Modernism
Notable work(s) Beyond the Rocks, Three Weeks, The Visits of Elizabeth
Spouse(s) Clayton Louis Glyn
Children Margot Elinor Glyn and Juliet Evangeline Glyn
Relative(s) Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon (sister)

Elinor Glyn, née Sutherland (b. 17 October 1864 – d. 23 September 1943), was a British novelist and scriptwriter who specialised in romantic fiction which was considered scandalous for its time. She popularized the concept of It. Although her works are relatively tame by modern standards, she had tremendous influence on early 20th century popular culture and perhaps on the careers of notable Hollywood stars such as Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson and Clara Bow in particular.

Personal life[edit]

Born Elinor Sutherland on 17 October 1864 in Saint Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, the younger daughter of Douglas Sutherland (1838–1865), who was a civil engineer of Scottish descent and related to the Lords Duffus,[1] through his wife Elinor Saunders (1841–1937), of an Anglo-French family, which had settled in Canada. Following the death of her father when she was just two months old, her mother returned to the parental home in Guelph, Ontario with her two daughters Lucy Christiana and baby Elinor. Here Elinor was schooled by her grandmother, Lucy Anne Saunders née Willcocks (an Anglo-Irish aristocrat and daughter of Sir Richard Willcocks), in the ways of upper-class society. This training not only gave her an entrée into aristocratic circles on her return to Europe, but it led her to be considered an authority on style and breeding when she worked in Hollywood in the 1920s.

Glyn's elder sister grew up to be Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, famous as the fashion designer "Lucile".[2] Glyn's mother apparently remarried in 1871[clarification needed], to a Mr. Kennedy, and the family returned to Jersey when Glyn was eight years old. Her subsequent education at her stepfather's house was by governesses.[3]

At the age of twenty-eight, the green-eyed, red-haired but dowryless Elinor married on 27 April 1892. Her husband was Clayton Louis Glyn (13 July 1857 – 10 November 1915), a wealthy but spendthrift barrister and Essex landowner who was descended from Sir Richard Carr Glyn, an 18th-century Lord Mayor of London.[4] The couple had two daughters, Margot and Juliet, but the marriage foundered on mutual incompatibility. Glyn began writing in 1900, starting with a book based on letters to her mother. Her marriage was troubled, and Glyn began having affairs with various British aristocrats. Her Three Weeks, about an exotic Balkan queen who seduces a young British aristocrat, was allegedly inspired by her affair with 16-years junior Lord Alistair Innes Ker, brother of the Duke of Roxburghe, and it scandalized Edwardian society.[5] She had a long lasting affair between circa 1907 and 1916 with George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston.[6] She was famously painted by society painter Philip de László at the age of 48.[7]

As her husband fell into debt from around 1908, Glyn wrote at least one novel a year to keep up her standard of living. Her husband died in November 1915, aged 58, after several years of illness.

Elinor Glyn died after a short illness, aged 78, on 23 September 1943 at 39 Royal Avenue, Chelsea, London,[8] and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.[9] She was survived by her two daughters. Her elder daughter Margot Elinor, Lady Davson OBE died 10 September 1966 in Rome; she married Sir Edward Davson, 1st Baronet (14 September 1875 – 9 August 1937) in 1921 and had two sons: Geoffrey Leo Simon Davson, who inherited his father's baronetcy (created in 1927) but changed his name to Anthony Glyn (13 March 1922 – 20 January 1998), and Christopher Davson.[10]

Genealogy[edit]

  • Margot Elinor Glyn, later Margot, Lady Davson OBE (June 1893 – 10 September 1966 in Rome); she married Sir Edward Rae Davson, 1st Baronet (14 September 1875 – 9 August 1937) in 1921 and had 2 sons:
    • Anthony Glyn (13 March 1922 – 20 January 1998), author, previously Sir Geoffrey Davson, 2nd Baronet. He was born Geoffrey Leo Simon Davson, but he changed his name to Anthony Geoffrey Ian Simon Glyn by Deed Poll in 1957. In 1937, at age 15, he inherited his father's baronetcy (created in 1927) and was known as Sir Geoffrey Davson, 2nd Baronet. In 1955, he published an entertaining if tactful biography of his maternal grandmother.[11] In 1946, he married Susan Rhys Williams, daughter of Sir Rhys Rhys Williams Bt (and thus probably his first cousin). They had two daughters: Victoria, and Caroline.[12][13] The baronetcy thus passed to his younger brother, Christopher Davson.
      • Caroline Glyn (née Davson) (1947 - 15 May 1981), author. Her first novel, Don't Knock the Corners Off, was published in 1963 when she was 15. At age 20, she became a nun with the enclosed order of Poor Clares at the Convent of St Mary, Stroud, New South Wales, Australia.

Writing career[edit]

Jackie Coogan "Nazimova" (actress) Gloria Swanson Hollywood Boulevard Picture taken in 1907 of this junction Harold Lloyd Will Rogers Elinor Glyn (Writer) "Buster" Keaton William S. Hart (Two-Gun Bill) Rupert Hughes (Novelist) Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle Wallace Reid Douglas Fairbanks Bebe Daniels "Bull" Montana Rex Ingram Peter the hermit Charlie Chaplin Alice Terry (Actress) Mary Pickford William C. DeMille Cecil Blount DeMille Use button to enlarge or cursor to investigate
This 1921 Vanity Fair caricature by Ralph Barton[16] shows the famous people who, he imagined, left work each day in Hollywood; use cursor to identify individual figures.

Glyn pioneered risqué, and sometimes erotic, romantic fiction aimed at a female readership which was radical for its time, though her writing would not be considered scandalous by modern standards. She coined the use of It, which is repeatedly yet erroneously described as a euphemism for sexuality or sex appeal. She wrote magazine articles for the Hearst press giving advice on how to keep your man and also some health & beauty tips. 'The Elinor Glyn System of Writing' (1922) gives insights into writing for Hollywood studios and magazine editors at this time.[17]

From the 1927 novel, It: "To have 'It', the fortunate possessor must have that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes... In the animal world 'It' demonstrates in tigers and cats—both animals being fascinating and mysterious, and quite unbiddable." From the 1927 movie, It: "self-confidence and indifference as to whether you are pleasing or not".[18] Glyn was the celebrated author of such early 20th century bestsellers as It, Three Weeks, Beyond the Rocks and other novels which were then considered quite racy.

On the strength of the popularity and notoriety of her books, Glyn moved to Hollywood to work in the movie industry in 1920. She is credited with the re-styling of Gloria Swanson from giggly starlet to elegant star. Beyond the Rocks was made into a silent film that was released in 1922; the Sam Wood-directed film stars Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino as a romantic pair. In 1927, Glyn helped to make a star of actress Clara Bow for whom she coined the sobriquet "the It girl". In 1928, Bow also starred in Red Hair, which was based on Glyn's 1905 novel.

Apart from being a scriptwriter for the silent movie industry, working for both MGM and Paramount Pictures in Hollywood in the mid-1920s, she had a brief career as one of the earliest female directors.[19]

References in popular culture[edit]

  • A scene in Glyn's most sensational work, Three Weeks, inspired the doggerel:
Would you like to sin
With Elinor Glyn
On a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
To err with her
On some other fur?
  • Glyn makes an appearance in a 1927 Lorenz Hart song, "My Heart Stood Still" from One Dam Thing After Another:
I read my Plato
Love, I thought a sin
But since your kiss
I'm reading missus Glyn!
  • She occasionally cites herself in the third person in her own books, as in Man and Maid (1922) when she has a character refer to "that It" as something "Elinor Glyn writes of in her books."[20]
  • In Evelyn Waugh's 1952 novel Men at Arms (the first of the Sword of Honour trilogy), an (RAF) Air Marshal recites the poem upon spotting a polar bear rug by the fire in a London club, of which he has just wangled membership (p. 125). To this, another member responds 'Who the hell is Elinor Glyn?'. The Air Marshal replies 'Oh, just a name, you know, put in to make it rhyme.' This was both a snub to the Air Marshal and a literary snubbing of Glyn by Waugh.
‘Never had he met a woman in whom 'the great It', eloquently hymned by Mrs Elinor Glyn, was so completely lacking.'
  • Among the funniest of S. J. Perelman's writings is his series of pieces, Cloudland Revisited, in which, as a middle-aged man, he re-reads and describes the risqué novels that had thrilled him as a youth. Tuberoses and Tigers deals with Glyn's Three Weeks. Perelman described it as 'servant-girl literature' and called Glyn's style 'marshmallow'. Perelman also mentions a film version of the book made by Samuel Goldwyn in 1924, in which Aileen Pringle starred. Perelman recalled Goldwyn's 'seductive' image of Pringle 'lolling on a tiger skin...'[21]
  • In the 1962 film version of Meredith Willson's musical The Music Man, Marian Paroo, the librarian, asks the prudish Mrs. Shinn, the mayor's wife, if she would not rather have her daughter reading the classic Persian poetry of Omar Khayyam than Elinor Glyn, to which Mrs. Shinn replies, "What Elinor Glyn reads is her mother's problem!"
  • In his autobiography, Mark Twain describes the time he met Glyn, when they had a wide-ranging and frank discussion of "nature's laws" and other matters not to be repeated.
  • In the 1923 film The Ten Commandments, one title card says "Nobody believes in these Commandment things nowadays—and I think Elinor Glyn's a lot more interesting."

Bibliography[edit]

Cover of the 1915 edition of Three Things

Elizabeth Series[edit]

  1. The Visits of Elizabeth (1900)
  2. Elizabeth Visits America (1909)

Three Weeks Series[edit]

  1. Three Weeks (1907)
  2. One Day (1909)
  3. High Noon (1910)

The Price of Things Series[edit]

  1. The Price of Things (1919) aka Family
  2. Glorious Flames (1932)

Single novels[edit]

  • The Reflections of Ambrosine (1902) aka The Seventh Commandment
  • The Damsel and the Sage (1903)
  • The Vicissitudes of Evangeline (1905) aka Red Hair
  • Beyond the Rocks (1906)
  • When the Hour Came (1910) aka His Hour aka When His Hour Came
  • The Reason Why (1911)
  • Halcyone (1912) aka Love Itself
  • The Sequence (1913) aka Guinevere's Lover
  • The Point of View (1913)
  • Letters to Caroline (1914) aka Your Affectionate Godmother
  • The Career of Katherine Bush (1916)
  • Man and Maid (1922)
  • The Great Moment (1923)
  • Six Days (1924)
  • This Passion Called Love (1925)
  • Love's Blindness (1926)
  • The Man and the Moment (1927)
  • Knowing Men (1930)
  • The Flirt and the Flapper (1930)
  • Love's Hour (1932)
  • Sooner or Later (1933)
  • Did She? (1934)
  • The Third Eye (1940)

Omnibus stories[edit]

  • The Contrast and Other Stories (1913)
  • "It" and Other Stories (1927)
  • Saint or Satyr? and Other Stories (1933) as Such Men Are Dangerous

Non-fiction[edit]

  • The Sayings of Grandmamma and Others (1908)
  • Three Things (1915)
  • Destruction (1918)
  • The Elinor Glyn System of Writing (1922)
  • The Philosophy of Love (1923) aka Love - what I think of It
  • Letters from Spain (1924)
  • The Wrinkle Book, Or, How to Keep Looking Young (1927) aka Eternal Youth
  • The Flirt and the Flapper (1930)
  • Romantic Adventure. Being the Autobiography of Elinor Glyn (1936)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Papers of Elinor Glyn, 1894–1955
  2. ^ Contrary to this source, Lucy and Lady Duff-Gordon are one and the same. Retrieved and checked 15 March 2009.
  3. ^ Online literature: Elinor Glyn (cited above), gives further details.
  4. ^ Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th Edition, Volume 1. Burke's (Genealogical Books) Ltd. 1999. p. 1161. ISBN 2-940085-02-1. Family history of Glyn Baronets. His wife is simply described as: "Elinor (d[ied] 23 Sep[tember] 1943), y[ounge]r dau[ghter] of Douglas Sutherland, of Toronto.
  5. ^ Online literature: Elinor Glyn (cited above), gives further details of the reception of the book.
  6. ^ "Historic People: Montacute's Tigress: Elinor Glyn" BBC, 11 February 2009, describes their affair as an eight-year-long one which collapsed circa 1915–1916, and ended with her discovery of his engagement to marry a second time. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  7. ^ Jssgallery.org. The painting was apparently commissioned by her lover Lord Curzon who also gave her the sapphires she was wearing in the portrait. According to an informant, the painting is still owned by her family. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  8. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 22. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 510. ISBN 0-19-861372-5. 
  9. ^ [1] Find-a-Grave entry, depicting her memorial plaque at the crematorium.
  10. ^ "Death Announcements (D to G), The Times" p.3(html version). Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  11. ^ iPad iPhone Android TIME TV Populist The Page (11 July 1955). "Books: Love & Sin on a Tiger Skin". TIME. Retrieved 2013-07-23. 
  12. ^ G. Chowdharay-Best. [sic: G. Chowdhury-Best]. Anthony Glyn (obituary) The Independent (as archived in findarticles.com), 10 February 1998.
  13. ^ Sarah Lyall. "Sir Anthony Glyn, 75, Author Known for Spirit and Diversity" New York Times 28 January 1998.
  14. ^ Papers of Juliet Rhys-Williams British Library of Political and Economic Science. Retrieved 15 March 2009
  15. ^ Burke's Peerage: Rhys-Williams Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  16. ^ Vanity Fair magazine September 1921, accessed 2009[dead link]
  17. ^ Weedon, Alexis, 'Elinor Glyn's System of Writing', Publishing History, vol. 60. pp. 31–50, 2006.
  18. ^ Bloom, Clive (2008). Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 175–176. ISBN 978-0-230-53688-3. 
  19. ^ Barnett, Vincent L., 'Picturization partners: Elinor Glyn and the Thalberg contract affair', Film History, vol. 19 no. 3, 2007.
  20. ^ Glyn, Elinor. Man and Maid,. Philadeliphia: Lippincott, 1922. Print. p. 125.
  21. ^ Perelman, S.J. Listen to the Mocking Bird. Reinhardt and Evans, London, 1950. pp. 70–78.

External links[edit]

Portraits
  • Elinor Glyn painted in 1912, by commission of Lord Curzon, former Viceroy of India. Retrieved 15 March 2009.