Elinor Mordaunt (also known as Evelyn May Clowes and Evelyn May Mordaunt) (7 May 1872 – 25 June 1942) was an English author, writer and traveller.
Elinor was the fifth child of John Legh Clowes and his wife the Hon. Mrs Elizabeth Caroline Clowes née Bingham and was born at Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire, England and was christened Evelyn May Clowes. Her early childhood was spent at Charlton House near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and her teenage years near Heythrop, in the Cotswolds. In 1897 she went to Mauritius as companion to her cousin Caroline (wife of George Le Hunte) and in 1898 married a planter there named Wiehe. She gave birth to two stillborn children. After a few years of marriage, Mrs Wiehe found it impossible to live with her husband and returned to England. Shortly afterwards she went to Australia, arriving 10 June 1902 and lived at Melbourne for about eight years. Her son, Godfrey Weston Wiehe, was born 9 March 1903.
It was necessary for Mordaunt to earn a living and while in Melbourne she edited a woman's fashion paper, wrote short stories and articles, made blouses, designed embroideries–and gardens, acted as a housekeeper, and did artistic work. Her health was not strong, but she undertook any kind of work which would provide a living for herself and her infant son. At times she had a hard struggle, but she gained an experience of life which was of the greatest use to her as an author.
Mordaunt's first book, the Garden of Contentment, was published in England in 1902 under her pen-name 'Elenor Mordaunt'. At Melbourne she published a volume of sketches, Rosemary, That's for Remembrance (1909), and in 1911 appeared On the Wallaby through Victoria, by E. M. Clowes, an interesting account of conditions in that state at that period. Returning to England on 14 July 1909 she soon began a long series of volumes of fiction. She changed her name by deed poll to Evelyn May Mordaunt on 1 July 1915 .She established a reputation as a writer of short stories for magazines. Mrs Mordaunt travelled in the East Indies and adjacent islands and used her experiences in her fiction, and in travel books such as The Venture Book, The Further Venture Book, and Purely for Pleasure. Her autobiography, Sinabada, published in 1937, includes an account of her early life in Australia with appreciative reference to the kindnesses she had received. In 1933 she married R. R. Bowles. Her son by her first marriage was alive when she was writing Sinabada; she mentions that he had married and had children.
Possibly her best work was put into her short stories, often showing a grim sense of tragedy and humour. A collection of them appeared in 1934, The Tales of Elinor Mordaunt. In addition to the volumes included in Miller, she was also the author of Death it is, Judge Not, Hobby Horse, Roses in December, Tropic Heat, Here Too is Valour, and Blitz Kids. Mordaunt was revealed as the author of a pseudonymous novel called Gin and Bitters, referencing the debate in the London publishing world over whether Somerset Maugham had based the character of Alroy Kear in Cakes and Ale on Hugh Walpole. The book was removed from sale in the UK, apparently under pressure from Maugham.
On 27 January 1933 at Tenerife, Canary Islands, she was married to Robert Rawnsley Bowles, aged 66, a retired barrister from Gloucestershire. In her own words, the marriage 'ended in tragedy'. She died on 25 June 1942 at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford.
- Maugham, S. Cakes and Ale (introduction to Modern Library edition). Random House (1950), p. xi.
- Serle, Percival (1949). "Mordaunt, Elinor". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
- Sally O'Neill, 'Mordaunt, Evelyn May (1872–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, MUP, 1986, pp 582–583.