Wilson, Romer (1891–1930)
Wilson, Romer (1891–1930)
English novelist . Name variations: Florence Roma Muir Wilson; (pseudonym) Alphonse Marichaud. Born Florence Roma Muir on December 16, 1891, in Sheffield, England; died of tuberculosis on January 11, 1930, in Lausanne, Switzerland; daughter of Arnold Muir (a solicitor) and Amy Letitia (Dearden) Wilson; educated at West Heath School, Kent, England; studied law at Girton College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, 1911–14; married Edward Joseph H. O'Brien (an anthologist), in 1923; children: one son.
Martin Schüler (1918); If All These Young Men (1919); The Death of Society: A Novel of Tomorrow (Hawthornden Prize winner, 1921); The Grand Tour of Alphonse Marichaud (1923); Dragon's Blood (1926); Greenlow (1927); Latterday Symphony (1927); The Social Climbers (play, 1927); All Alone: The Life and Private History of Emily Jane Brontë (1928); The Hill of Cloves: A Tract on True Love, with a Digression upon an Invention of the Devil (1929); Tender Advice (published posthumously, 1935).
Green Magic: A Collection of the World's Best Fairy Tales from All Countries (1928); Silver Magic: A Collection of the World's Best Fairy Tales from All Countries (1929); Red Magic: A Collection of the World's Best Fairy Tales from All Countries (1930).
Romer Wilson was born in England in 1891. Until the age of 16, she and her family lived in a manor house near the moors at Sheffield. The house and its heritage impressed Wilson's active imagination, as did summer holidays at chilly seasides and occasional trips to the Continent. Wilson attended boarding school at West Heath School in Kent, in the Thames Valley, and in the gentle landscape of the English Midlands. She stayed at West Heath (which, later in the century, schooled Lady Diana , princess of Wales) for four years, then studied law at Girton College of Cambridge University in Cambridge. She completed college in three years, describing it as boring and leaving with mediocre marks; however, one of her professors suggested she consider writing as a career. On her graduation in 1914, she looked forward to a social life, but her expectations were frustrated by World War I. Again experiencing boredom, Wilson drafted her first novel Martin Schüler in 1915. She completed the first half of the book in three weeks but tore it up in disgust. A friend salvaged the manuscript, but Wilson did not continue work on it until 1917, when she finished it in another three-week period. It was accepted for publication that same year.
During the war, Wilson did a variety of war work, such as selling potatoes for the Board of Agriculture. She wrote the novel If All These Young Men followed shortly thereafter by the play The Social Climbers. Although both met with success, Wilson complained, according to Twentieth Century Authors, that If All These Young Men was understood by "no Americans and very few Englishmen." Wilson had also played at writing a private magazine produced on a typewriter and using the pen name of Alphonse Marichaud. Her own name had been shortened from Florence Roma Muir Wilson to Romer Wilson with the publication of Martin Schüler. In addition, she wrote The Death of Society, for which she was awarded the Hawthorn-den Prize of 1921.
Wilson then traveled to Paris for three weeks and wrote The Grand Tour of Alphonse Marichaud. She again visited the Continent with the manuscript proof in hand; in Portofino, Italy, she met Edward J. O'Brien, an anthologist from the United States. They were married in 1923, and returned to Portofino after their honeymoon. Although they both loved Portofino, a shortage of houses for rent led them to live in Rapallo, Italy. By 1928, Wilson had moved to Locarno, Switzerland. In the meantime, she had been commissioned to write a biography of Emily Brontë , which forced her to call up memories of the wild English landscape and the country lifestyle that had vanished with World War I. Romer Wilson died of tuberculosis in Lausanne, Switzerland, at age 39. She had one son and was in the process of writing two novels at the time of her death. One of the novels, near completion, was published posthumously as Tender Advice.
Wilson had told Twentieth Century Authors, "I cannot, and never shall be able to write what I think people want. I cannot write for the public." A painstaking author, she apparently rewrote each of her books twice. In an assessment of her work, Maria Aline Seabra Ferreira writes: "Romer Wilson's novels, which possess a pronounced philosophical bent, address some of the most pressing concerns of the time in which she lived." Comparing her work to that produced during the same period by such writers as Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, Mary Agnes Hamilton , D.H. Lawrence, Richard Aldington, and Ford Madox Ford, Ferreira concludes that Wilson's works "mourn the passing of a civilization destroyed by World War I" and "dramatize the desirability of recovering the values embodied by the countryside."
Ferreira, Maria Aline Seabra. "Romer Wilson," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 191: British Novelists Between the Wars. Detroit, MI: The Gale Group, 1998, pp. 344–348.
Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. Twentieth Century Authors. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1942.
Gillian S. Holmes , freelance writer, Hayward, California