Belloc-Lowndes, Marie (1868–1947)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Belloc-Lowndes, Marie (1868–1947)

British author who wrote novels, short stories, plays and memoirs, 69 volumes in all. Name variations: Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, Marie Belloc, Philip Curtin, Elizabeth Rayner. Born Marie Adelaide Belloc in London, England, on August 5, 1868; died in Eversley Cross, Hampshire, England, on November 14, 1947; daughter of Elizabeth (Bessie) Rayner (Parkes) (a writer and feminist) and Louis S. Belloc (a lawyer); sister of Hilaire Belloc (a writer); educated at home; married Frederick S.A. Lowndes (a journalist) on January 9, 1896; children: one son, Charles (b. 1898) and two daughters, Susan and Elizabeth.

Selected works:

The Heart of Penelope (1904); Barbara Rebell (1905); The Pulse of Life (1907); The Lodger (1913); The End of Her Honeymoon (1914); I, Too, Have Lived in Arcadia (1941); Where Love and Friendship Dwelt (1943); Merry Wives of Westminster (1946).

As the child of a French father and a British mother, Marie Belloc loved France and England, and spoke the languages of both countries fluently. The Bellocs lived in La Celle St. Cloud, France, until Louis Belloc's death in 1872; after which mother and daughter spent equal time in Britain. Marie was educated at home and read constantly, while the literary connections of her mother, writer and feminist Bessie Parkes , introduced her to such women as George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans ) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning . Traveling unaccompanied, Marie went out on her own in her 20s, working as a journalist in England and France for the Pall Mall Gazette.

On January 9, 1896, Marie married Frederick S.A. Lowndes, and the couple settled in Westminster, at No. 9 Barton Street, where they raised their three children. Frederick, an editor for the Times, worked from three in the afternoon to three in the morning, while Marie rose at five to write for several hours. In the afternoon and evening, Belloc-Lowndes received guests and dined out with England's elite. Among her friends were Henry James, Oscar Wilde, H.G. Wells, Graham Greene, and Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith. She wrote letters and diaries of the day's events: "Yesterday I went to the Titanic enquiry," she noted, or, "I hear the King has stopped away from Goodwood because of the Morocco affair." Most commonly her writings began: "Lunched with …" or, "I had a most interesting talk with…." Her attentions were drawn to the extraordinary or unusual stories of life, a focus reflected in her more than 40 novels which often dealt with a catastrophic event (such as murder) but was more concerned with the characters' reactions to it.

Through two world wars, Belloc-Lowndes tracked the effects on the country and her own family, with her son Charles enlisted in the armed forces for both wars. Whereas the first war had inspired a sense of victorious nationalism, the second was marked more by the threat of foreign invasion and bombing; this influenced many, including Belloc-Lowndes, to move from their homes in the cities. Having always believed No. 9 Barton Street to be haunted, Belloc-Lowndes wrote to her daughter on their departure, "It will have more ghosts now—my ghost certainly."

After 30 years at the Times, Frederick Lowndes retired in 1938; Marie's letters and diaries reflect her pleasure at his more regular company. In March of 1940, he fell suddenly ill and died within days. To a friend, she wrote, "I shall always be very, very glad I was with him, and alone, when he died…. We were very unit ed." Belloc-Lowndes never had a permanent residence after Barton Street but instead rented houses or, as during the air raids in the summer of 1940, lived with or near one of her daughters. Following World War II, she remarked to her daughter Elizabeth Lowndes , "I feel, sometimes, as if I had lived a thousand years. So great are the changes since I married 50 years ago." Marie Belloc Lowndes, a bestselling author in England and abroad, grew ill in August of 1947 and died on November 14. She was at her daughter's home in Hampshire.

sources:

Lowndes, Susan, ed. Diaries and Letters of Marie Belloc Lowndes. London: Chatto and Windus, 1971.

Todd, Janet, ed. British Women Writers. NY: Continuum, 1989.

Crista Martin , freelance writer, Boston, Massachusetts