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Bloom, Ursula (1893–1984)

Bloom, Ursula (1893–1984)

British author of historical and romance novels totaling 564 volumes. Name variations: (pseudonyms) Deborah Mann, Sheila Burns, Mary Essex, Rachel Harvey, Sara Sloane, Lozania Prole (joint). Born Ursula Bloom in Chelmsford, England, in December 1893; died in Nether Wallop, Hampshire, England, on October 29, 1984; daughter of Mary and J. Harvey Bloom; educated at home; married Arthur Denham-Cooke, in November 1916 (died 1918); married Charles Gower Robinson, in November 1925; children: (first marriage) one son, Pip Denham-Cooke (b. November 1917).

Selected works:

The Great Beginning (1924); (autobiography) Life Is No Fairy Tale (1976).

"This is a true story—my own. Much has happened to me—a clergyman's daughter, brought up in one of the loveliest parts of England, near Stratford-on-Avon. Personally I am rather glad that it cannot happen again," wrote Ursula Bloom, who was two years old when her family settled in Whitchurch, a village of 120 people, where her father was granted a parish. The post was probationary, as J. Harvey Bloom had just come off a two-year suspension for extramarital affairs. His stipend was small, but the Blooms had servants and nannies "for appearances." To supplement his income, he wrote fiction, and both he and his wife Mary Bloom substituted at Trinity College in Stratford. Ursula's education fell to her mother. She learned to read by age three and played violin at orchestra level but was taught no math or geography. For amusement, she wrote stories. "Tiger" was published in 1900, thanks to neighbor Marie Corelli , but, wrote Bloom, "unfortunately my parents butted in" and edited all the personality out.

Bloom's father walked a straight path until she was nine. Then, on errands with him, she was often left sitting outside on the stoop of a strange woman's house. Afraid to hurt her mother, Bloom was silent and guilt-ridden until she began to experience chronic high fevers at ages 14 and 15; during one fever, she revealed her father's indiscretions. On doctor's orders that Ursula be removed from the source of her great distress, Mary Bloom left her husband. Though the couple never divorced, her father continued his affairs without censure from the church.

In Stratford, Ursula became the head of the household when Mary Bloom, ill from surgery for breast cancer, was bedridden. Since her father gave them only a small sum, Bloom took a job as a cinema pianist and played two shows a day, up to four hours per show. Brother Joscelyn, away at school, was called home to work in a local bank. With the advent of World War I, Joscelyn enlisted, and Ursula and Mary moved to Walton. When Mary's cancer spread, Bloom took odd piano-playing jobs and cared for her mother full time. "Too frequently," she remembered, "I had to fill up with just bread, and, believe me, you get a bit sick of it." As a contrast to her poverty, army captain Arthur Denham-Cooke courted Bloom with elegant dinners and car rides. In May 1916, he proposed, and she enjoyed the thought that her burdens might ease. "I told him that I was not in love, in the accepted sense," Bloom said. But she was "deeply fond of him, and would do anything that I could to make him happy."

In fact, both Denham-Cooke's wealth and life were tightly controlled by his mother, who refused to attend the November wedding. Within months, Bloom learned that her husband was an alcoholic whose career was in jeopardy. The day after Bloom's mother died, Denham-Cooke was demoted and transferred to Holland. Only his family's influence gained his return to England in time for his son Pip's November 1917 birth. Though Bloom convinced her husband to enter a treatment program, he resumed drinking the day of his release and was eventually discharged from the army. Weak from years of abuse, his body had no resistance to the Spanish Flu which took his life during the epidemic of 1918.

Though Bloom had written throughout her marriage, she had always burned her work because her husband had disapproved. In the months following his death, however, she won a publishing contract and lived off earnings as a crime reporter for the Empire News, in Harlow, outside London. Her first novel was published in 1924. "Thank God that the love of writing is such a strong driving force, which has helped me round many a corner in a difficult life," she wrote in her 1976 autobiography Life is No Fairy Tale. Bloom sometimes worked 16 hours a day, producing an average of ten books a year until 1976. In addition, she designed needlework patterns, at one craft show displaying 150 pieces.

In 1925, she met and married Charles Gower Robinson, a naval officer. Deeply in love, she followed her "Robbie" to his base ports, including three years in Portsmouth. When Bloom developed migraine headaches for which all treatments were ineffective, Robinson retired from the navy and took a job in the Foreign Office in London, hoping to ease her strain. Their London home was destroyed in the bombings of World War II and rebuilt when they returned to the city. After years of illness, Bloom consented to surgery on her trigeminal nerve. Her headaches were cured but she had permanent facial paralysis and scarring. She ceased publishing with her 1976 autobiography and died eight years later in Hampshire, England.

sources:

Bloom, Ursula. Life Is No Fairy Tale. London: Robert Hale, 1976.

May, Hal, ed. Contemporary Authors. Vol. 114. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1985.

Nasso, Christine, ed. Contemporary Authors. Vol. 25–28. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1977.

Crista Martin , freelance writer, Boston, Massachusetts

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