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Marie Louise de la Ramée
Photograph by Adolphe Beau, c. 1867–1871
Photograph by Adolphe Beau, c. 1867–1871
BornMaria Louise Ramé
(1839-01-01)1 January 1839
Bury St Edmunds, England
Died25 January 1908(1908-01-25) (aged 69)
Viareggio, Italy
Pen nameOuida

Maria Louise Ramé (1 January 1839[1] – 25 January 1908), going by the name Marie Louise de la Ramée and known by the pseudonym Ouida (/ˈwdə/ WEE-də), was an English novelist. Ouida wrote more than 40 novels, as well as short stories, children's books and essays. Moderately successful, she lived a life of luxury, entertaining many of the literary figures of the day.

Under Two Flags (1867), one of her most famous novels, described the British in Algeria. It expressed sympathy for the French colonists – with whom Ouida deeply identified – and, to some extent, the Arabs. The novel was adapted for the stage, and was filmed six times. Her 1872 novel A Dog of Flanders is considered a children's classic in much of Asia.[2] The American author Jack London cited her novel Signa as one of the reasons for his literary success. Her lavish lifestyle eventually led her to penury, and her works were put up for auction to pay her debts. She died in Italy from pneumonia. Soon after her death, her friends organized a public subscription in Bury St Edmunds, her birthplace, where they had a fountain for horses and dogs installed in her name.

Early years[edit]

Maria Louise Ramé was born at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England.[3] Her mother, Susan Sutton, was a wine merchant's daughter;[4] her father was from France.[3][5] She derived her pen name from her own childish pronunciation of her given name "Louise".[6] 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."[7]


Caricature of Ouida (Punch, 20 August 1881)

She moved into the Langham Hotel, London,[a] in 1867. There, according to the hotel promotional materials, she wrote in bed, by candlelight, with the curtains drawn to keep out daylight and surrounded by purple flowers.[8] She ran up huge hotel and florists' bills of up to 200 pounds per week and commanded soirées that included soldiers, politicians, literary lights (including Oscar Wilde, Algernon Swinburne, Robert Browning and Wilkie Collins), and artists (including John Millais).[6] Many of her stories and characters were based upon people she invited to her salons at The Langham.[8] 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."[9]

For many years Ouida lived in London, but in 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.[citation needed] She lived in Bagni di Lucca for a period, where there is a commemorative plaque on an 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.[9] 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).[10][page needed] 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. She was an animal lover and rescuer, and at times owned as many as thirty dogs.

Tomb of Ouida in Bagni di Lucca's English cemetery

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 a request by her friend, Lady Howard of Glossop, on 16 July 1906.[10][page needed]

She continued to live in Italy until her death on 25 January 1908, at 70 Via Zanardelli, Viareggio, of pneumonia.[6] She is buried in the English Cemetery in Bagni di Lucca, Italy.

Animal rights[edit]

Ouida was an advocate of animal rights and a staunch anti-vivisectionist.[11] She authored The New Priesthood: A Protest Against Vivisection, in 1897.[12]

Ouida authored articles denouncing animal experimentation in The Gentleman's Magazine and The Fortnightly Review.[11] She opposed the fur trade and hunting.[11]

Literary career[edit]

Blue plaque erected in 1952 by London County Council at 11 Ravenscourt Square, Hammersmith, London W6

During her career, Ouida wrote more than 40 novels, children's books and collections of short stories and essays. Her work had several phases.

In 1863, when she was 24, she published her first novel, Held in Bondage.[6] (She later claimed to have written her well-received 1867 novel Idalia at the age of 16. It featured a rebellious ingénue heroine who was sympathetic to Italian independence.)[13]

In her early period, her novels were considered "racy" and "swashbuckling", a contrast to "the moralistic prose of early Victorian literature" (Tom Steele),[6] 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 commenting on contemporary society. She also wrote several stories for children.

Under Two Flags (1867), one of her most famous 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. The novel was adapted for the stage, and was filmed six times.[14] The American author Jack London cited her novel Signa (1875), which he read at the age of eight, as one of the eight reasons for his literary success.[15]


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 opera 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.

Ouida Memorial, formerly a drinking fountain, in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

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.[16]

Spiritualist Helen Peters Nosworthy was wearing a locket containing Ouida's portrait and signature that seemed to spell out ouija during a 1890 seance in which Nosworthy asked a talking board to name itself and it responded O-U-I-J-A. Nosworthy and brother-in-law Elijah Bond were granted a patent for the ouija board the following year.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19]


Year Work Notes
1863 Held in Bondage First published with the title Granville de Vigne
1865 Strathmore
1866 Chandos
1867 Cecil Castlemaine's Gage
1867 Idalia
1867 Under Two Flags Film versions in 1912 (two), 1915 (shorts), 1916, 1922 (directed by Tod Browning), and 1936 (starring Ronald Colman and Claudette Colbert)
1868 Randolph Gordon and Other Stories
1868 Beatrice Boville and Other Stories
1869 Tricotrin
1870 Puck
1871 Folle-Farine
1872 A Leaf in the Storm, and other stories Includes A Leaf in the Storm, A Provance Rose, A Dog of Flanders, and A Branch of Lilac
1872 A Dog of Flanders English-language film versions in 1935, 1959 and 1999 (starring Jon Voight); popular cartoon TV series in Japan in 1975
1874 Pascarel
1874 Two Little Wooden Shoes Also published with the title Bébée; film version in 1920
1875 Signa
1876 In a Winter City
1877 Ariadne
1878 Friendship
1880 Moths
1880 Pipistrello and Other Stories
1881 A Village Commune
1882 Bimbi: Stories for Children
1882 In Maremma
1883 Afternoon
1883 Frescoes: Dramatic Sketches
1883 Wanda
1884 Princess Napraxine
1885 A Rainy June
1885 Othmar
1886 Don Guesaldo
1887 A House Party
1889 Guilderoy
1890 Ruffino and Other Stories
1890 Syrlin
1891 Santa Barbara and Other Stories
1892 The Tower of Taddeo
1893 The New Priesthood: A Protest Against Vivisection
1894 The Silver Christ
1894 The Silver Christ and A Lemon Tree
1894 Two Offenders and Other Tales
1895 The Nürnberg Stove
1895 Toxin Appeared as a short story in The Illustrated London News, Summer number, 1895, pp. 2–18.
1895 Views and Opinions
1896 Le Selve and Other Tales
1897 An Altruist
1897 Dogs
1897 Muriella; or, Le Selve
1897 The Massarenes
1899 La Strega and Other Stories
1900 Critical Studies
1900 The Waters of Edera
1901 Street Dust and Other Stories
1908 Helianthus
1910 Moufflou and other stories



Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ The hotel's loyalty programme is named after the author; see [1]


  1. ^ "Ouida". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 15 January 2008.
  2. ^ Amino, Amine. "Let's Discuss: Dog of Flanders". Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Maria Louise Rame", birth record, Bury St. Edmunds, FreeBMD, accessed 14 September 2019. Note: Does not include any information about parents.
  4. ^ Schroeder, Natalie, and Shari Hodges Holt (2008). Ouida the Phenomenon: Evolving Social, Political, and Gender Concerns in her Fiction. Newark: University of Delaware Press, p. 14. ISBN 9780874130331.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b c d e "The Langham, London". Cosmopolis. 6 February 2004. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  7. ^ Cecil Castlemaine's Gage: And Other Novelettes. Chatto & Windus. 1899. p. 351.
  8. ^ a b "Ouida". Guide to The Langham Hotel. langhamhotels.com. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  9. ^ a b Lee 1912.
  10. ^ a b Jordan & King 2016.
  11. ^ a b c Hamilton, Susan (2004). Animal Welfare & Anti-vivisection 1870-1910: Frances Power Cobbe, Volume 1. Routledge, pp. lii–liii. ISBN 0-415-32142-5
  12. ^ Morse, Deborah Denenholz; Danahay, Martin A. (2007). Victorian Animal Dreams: Representations of Animals in Victorian Literature and Culture, p. 28. ISBN 978-0-7546-5511-4
  13. ^ Ouida (2010). A House Party, Don Gesualdo, And A Rainy June (1887). Kessinger Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1166536787.
  14. ^ Leibfried, Philip, Films of the French Foreign Legion, Duncan, OK: BearManor Media, 2011.
  15. ^ 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."
  16. ^ Mallach, Alan (2002). Pietro Mascagni and His Operas. Boston Massachusetts: Northeastern University Press. p. 211. ISBN 9781555535247.
  17. ^ Kröger, Lisa; Melanie R. Anderson (31 October 2022). "Out of the Shadows: On the Forgotten Mothers of the Occult". LitHub. Retrieved 7 October 2023.
  18. ^ St Edmundsbury, Borough Council. "Ouida Memorial, Bury St Edmunds". Retrieved 15 January 2008.
  19. ^ "Rita" The Forgotten Author, by Paul Jones L.R.P.S.

General and cited references[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bigland, Eileen. Ouida: The Passionate Victorian, Jarrolds, 1950.
  • Elwin, Malcolm. Victorian Wallflowers, Jonathan Cape, 1934. (chapter 9)
  • Ffrench, Yvonne. Ouida: A Study in Ostentation, Cobden-Sanderson, 1938.
  • Lee, Elizabeth. Ouida. A Memoir, T. Fisher Unwin, 1914.
  • Stirling, Monica. The Fine and the Wicked: The Life and Times of Ouida, Victor Gollancz, 1957.

External links[edit]