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Elizabeth von Arnim Biography

(1866–1941), Elizabeth and Her German Garden, Vera, Love, The Pastor's Wife, Father

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Richard Vaughan Biography to Rosanna Warren Biography

British novelist who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Elizabeth’, born Mary Annette BEAUCHAMP in Sydney, Australia, but brought up in England. In 1890 she married Count Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin, who appears as ‘The Man of Wrath’ in her best-known work, Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1898); it is a witty, slightly eccentric portrayal of her family life and the garden she created at Nassenheide in Pomerania, where E. M. Forster and Hugh Walpole numbered amongst her children's tutors. Debt forced the von Arnims to England in 1908, where the count died two years later. Fleeing a cheerless Britain, she built a chateau in Switzerland; at the outbreak of the First World War she returned to England, where she was briefly married to Earl Russell, brother of Bertrand Russell. Two of her finest and most complex novels came from intensely painful liaisons: Vera (1921) is a harrowing but brilliant portrayal of her marriage to Earl Russell, and Love (1925) poignantly and humorously describes a middle-aged woman's relations with a man decades her junior. The Pastor's Wife (1914) and Father (1931) are other psychologically complex novels.

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