23 FEBRUARY 1940, Page 20


Sia,—The recent publication of a work on Marie Corelli, by George Bullock, seems to have afforded your reviewer, Mr. Derek Verschoyle, the opportunity of reviving and hand- ing on the vendetta started forty years ago against the once- famous authoress ; and in doing so gives the rein to his own feelings about her work in highly provocative language. She wrote, he says, for a public of " commonplace sentimentalities and prejudices "; for a public " completely hypnotised " and which included Royalty, statesmen, authors and poets, who "might have been expected to know better." And he adds,

oracularly, that her books are now " unreadable except as curiosities." Marie Corelli's reviewers were the only people who saw through the " sham " and denounced her accord- ingly. But I imagine that her world-wide 'readers cared nothing for the opinions of the literary pundits who quite failed to injure her prestige. I wonder whether Mr. Verschoyle is aware that the demand for Miss Corelli's books is, apparently, as great as ever. I went, a few days ago, into the head public library of this town to find out. Of fourteen of her works kept in stock, twelve were then in borrowers' hands and the remaining two had each been out twenty times during 5939. This may, or may not, be representative of the rest of the country. And, of course, there is no evidence of the mentality of these readers of today—no doubt they are highly sentimental and prejudiced. So much for the influence of critics.

I consider it deplorable that the private lives of authors should be torn to shreds and all the soiled bits held up for exhibition. Mr. Verschoyle tells us that, apart from one or two others, Marie Corelli " inspired lasting affection apparently only in her servants." Could any woman wish for a better tribute?

May I, in conclusion, quote Austin Dobson?

Postscriptum—And you, whom we all so adore Dear Critics, whose verdicts are always so new,

One word in your ear. There were critics before .

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