Ruck, Berta (1878–1978)

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Ruck, Berta (1878–1978)

British novelist and illustrator. Name variations: Amy Roberta Ruck; Mrs. Oliver Onions. Born Amy Roberta Ruck in Murree, India, in 1878; died in Aberdovey, Merioneth, Wales, on August 11, 1978; daughter of Arthur Ashley Ruck (a British army officer and later chief constable) and Elizabeth Eleanor D'Arcy; attended the Lambeth School of Art, Slade School of Art, and an art college in Paris; married Oliver Onions (a writer who later changed his name to George Oliver), in 1909; children: two sons.

Selected writings:

His Official Fiancée (1914); The Wooing of Rosamond Fayre (1915); The Girls at His Billet (1916); In Another Girl's Shoes (1916); Three of Hearts (1917); Sweethearts Unmet (1919); Disturbing Charm (1919); Bridge of Kisses (1920); Sweet Stranger (1921); Arrant Rover (1921); Subconscious Courtship (1922); The Wrong Mr. Right (1922); Sir or Madam? (1923); Dancing Star (1923); Clouded Pearl (1924); Leap Year Girl (1924); Lucky in Love (1924); The Immortal Girl (1925); Kneel to the Prettiest (1925); Pearl Thief (1926); Her Pirate Partner (1927); The Maid of a Minx (1927); Money for One (1928); The Youngest Venus (1928); One of the Chorus (1929); The Unkissed Bride (1929); Offer of Marriage (1930); Today's Daughter (1930); Missing Girl (1930); Post-War Girl (1930); Wanted on the Voyage (1930); Dance Partner (1931); The Lap of Luxury (1931); It Was Left to Peter (1932); This Year, Next Year, Sometime—(1932); Change for Happiness (1933); Sudden Sweetheart (1933); Eleventh Hour Lover (1933); Understudy (1933); Best Time Ever(1934); Sunburst (1934); A Story-Teller Tells the Truth (1935); Star in Love (1935); Sunshine Stealers (1935); Half-Past Kissing Time (1936); Spring Comes to Miss Lonelyheart (1936); Love on Second Thoughts (1937); Mock-Honeymoon (1937); Love Comes Again Later (1938); Wedding March (1938); Money Isn't Everything (1939); Romance Royal (1939); Jade Earrings (1941); Spinster's Progress (1942); Footlight Fever (1942); A Smile for the Past (1959); A Trickle of Welsh Blood (1967); Shopping for a Husband (1967); An Asset to Wales (1970); Ancestral Voices (1972).

Berta Ruck was born in 1878 in Murree, India, the oldest of eight children of a British army officer serving there. When she was two years old, her family moved to Wales, where she lived with her paternal grandmother in Merionethshire until 1888. Ruck attended St. Winifred's School in Bangor, and had a brief job as a nanny in Germany. With the aim of becoming a book illustrator, she attended the Lambeth School of Art, and received a scholarship to the Slade School of Art. After studying at another art school in Paris for a year, she started a job illustrating stories in the Idler and Jabberwock.

Ruck switched to a writing career after becoming convinced she could create stories every bit as good as those she was illustrating. She began contributing to magazines such as Home Chat and received encouragement from writer and friend Edith Nesbit . Ruck married Oliver Onions, a writer known for his ghost and detective stories, in 1909. Three years later, a publisher noticed a story of hers in Home Chat, and asked her to make it into a novel. The book His Official Fiancée (1914) was instantly successful in Britain as well as in the United States, and set the stage for her long career as a novelist. She was prolific, publishing up to three books a year over the next 50-odd years; her last novel was published in 1967, when she was 89.

Ruck's books were updated romantic fairy tales, often set in Wales, with Cinderella plots featuring worthy but poor or ignored heroines who triumph over travail and finally marry rich, adoring men. She also wrote several autobiographical books, including A Story-Teller Tells the Truth (1935), A Smile for the Past (1959), A Trickle of Welsh Blood (1967), An Asset to Wales (1970) and Ancestral Voices (1972). She was very popular throughout her long life; in the 1920s, a Berta Ruck Birthday Book was published, and she spoke to the troops during World War II. Ruck, who died when she was 100, attributed her longevity to her lifelong passion for swimming outdoors in all sorts of weather; in winter, she often had to first break the ice on the water.


The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. Twentieth Century Authors. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1942.

Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer, Bayville, New York