Damned by the critics but read by the Queen

In the 1890’s Marie Corelli’s novels were best sellers and although critics belittled her work as commonplace and overly melodramatic, she was read by Queen Victoria and William Gladstone.

1905 Marie Corelli photo

Born Mary Mackay, the illegitimate daughter of the Scottish poet Charles Mackay and his servant Elizabeth Mills, she changed her name to Marie Corelli in 1886 and claimed she was part Italian. She pretended to speak Italian and, after moving to Stratford upon Avon in 1899 was seen boating on the river in a gondola, complete with a gondolier she had brought over from Venice.


Corelli never married and explained:

‘…There was no need. I have three pets at home which answer

the same purpose as a husband. I have a dog which growls every

morning, a parrot which swears all afternoon and a cat that comes

home late at night..’

For 40 years the author lived with her companion Bertha Vyver. Although she never defined herself as a lesbian – and her unrequited passion for the artist Arthur Severn was well known- Corelli’s biographers have speculated that her relationship with Vyver may have been romantic and support this theory by citing the erotic descriptions of female beauty which often appear in her books.

In addition to 25 novels, Corelli wrote books of short stories, poems and numerous articles and pamphlets on themes especially popular during the Victorian period such as romance, spiritualism, mysticism, fantasy, science and religion. She died in 1924 largely unremembered but her literary legacy is once again becoming recognised.

Y Pab Methodistaidd (The Methodist Pope)

John Elias was born in 1774 near Pwllheli and in the early part of the 19th century he became one of the most popular and powerful preachers in Wales.

He was ‘John Jones’ but took his father’s name to avoid confusion at his ordination in Pwllhelli. Three other ordinands called John Jones presented for ordination the same day!

1905 John Elias PHOTOBy this time he was living at Llanfechell, near Cemaes, in Anglesey where his wife kept a shop. She died in 1828 and two years later he married the widow of Sir John Bulkeley of Bodedern in the Welsh Church at Liverpool.

After this marriage he moved to Llangefni where he is commemorated in the Moreia Chapel, Glanhwfa Road. He died in 1841 and was buried at Llanfaes, near Beaumaris.[1]


[1] National Library of Wales Dictionary of Welsh Biography

If Pa killed Ma, who’d kill Pa? Marwood.

1890 William Marwood Executioner

William Marwood, a Lincolnshire cobbler and devout Wesleyan Methodist, executed 176 people during his career as principal public executioner. And apparently slept like a child.

He is often credited with inventing the ‘long drop’ method of hanging. If the weight of the victim was taken into consideration when calculating the length of the drop, death would be instantaneous. Before Marwood took up his post, hanging carried the possibility of protracted strangulation or even decapitation. In further efforts to ‘improve’ his service, he made sure the ropes and tackle he used were made up to his personal specifications.

Marwood travelled to Ireland disguised as a clergyman to hang the Phoenix Park murderers and during his final illness in 1883 rumours circulated that he had been poisoned by Irish sympathisers as revenge for the executions. His wife Ellen survived him long enough to sell his clothes to Madame Tussaud’s but the rest of his possessions were auctioned off, including his dog Nero.[1]

[1] Bill Greenwell, Lost Lives, www.billgreenwell.com

The Madness of North Wales goes to New Welsh Review & Wales Arts Review

We are delighted to report that excerpts from a number of stories about Denbigh Hospital have been published in New Welsh Review No. 104 in May 2014. These excerpts appeared in the print edition, with a supplementary video on the website.

In the clip Rob Mimpriss, one of the authors and the editor of Dangerous Asylums, explains that the collection of these short stories was inspired by one hundred years of records from Denbigh Asylum. He talks about the North Wales Mental Health Project and reads from his story, ‘Believer, 1905’.

In addition Dangerous Asylums has also been reviewed by Nigel Jarrett in Wales Arts Review.




Music: Entertainment And Therapy

Music therapy had been much discussed by doctors in the 18th Century for the treatment of a wide range of conditions, including melancholia and mania. The London physician, Dr R. Brocklesby, had written a treatise on music therapy in 1749 (Reflections on the Power of Music) in which he discussed musical remedies for the diseases of the mind. Continue reading “Music: Entertainment And Therapy”