She is about fifty years old but has no grey hairs; she is fat and shapeless; she has a gross animal face; she dresses for sixteen, and awkwardly and unsuccessfully and pathetically imitates the innocent graces and witcheries of that dearest and sweetest of all ages; and so her exterior matches her interior and harmonizes with it, with the result – as I think – that she is the most offensive sham, inside and out, that misrepresents and satirises the human race today.
– Mark Twain
And so it was that a thick fountain pen line was scrawled through the entry “Twain, Mark” on Marie Corelli‘s Christmas card list (or so I like to imagine). If you’re racking your brains as to who she might be it’s probably because you’re not a 150-year-old consumer of lowbrow fiction; Corelli, born on this day in 1855, was one of the best-selling authors of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, now more or less forgotten. I’ll come back to her in due course as the combination of her eccentric personality, the astonishing success she enjoyed in her lifetime coupled with the obscurity into which she has subsequently sunk make her a pretty compelling character. But for now I just wanted to share this wonderful bit of invective.