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Merrick, Leonard


MERRICK, LEONARD (1864–1939), English novelist, and short-story writer. Born of a London family named Miller, Merrick at first tried to make a career on the stage. His first novel, Violet Moses (1891), crude in technique, especially in its portrayal of Jewish types, was not included in his collected works. He won attention in 1898 with The Actor-Manager, followed by The Quaint Companions (1903), the story of a black tenor and his white wife; he also wrote Conrad in Quest of his Youth (1903), and The Position of Peggy Harper (1911). Merrick's best achievement was his three volumes of short stories, The Man Who Understood Women (1908), A Chair on the Boulevard (1921), and While Paris Laughed (1918), where he excelled in the delineation of French Bohemian types as seen through English eyes. Merrick developed a humorous and satiric style, but his stories were later criticized as too contrived. He never won popularity, but was highly regarded by his fellow writers, a number of whom, including Wells, Hewlett, Barrie, and Pinero, wrote prefaces to the collected edition of his works, issued in 1918. In 1945 George Orwell wrote an introduction to a never published reprint of Merrick's The Position of Peggy Harper. Merrick still attracts interest because of his willingness to deal with unusual themes, such as the issue of miscegenation in Peggy Harper.

add. bibliography:

E.W. McDiarmid, Leonard Merrick, 1864–1939 (1980); odnb online.

[Lewis Sowden]

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