Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Jolly folly

Born plain Mary Mackay in Glasgow, the writer Marie Corelli was, in terms of sales and celebrity, the Jilly Cooper of the Edwardian book trade.

In her later years she settled at Mason Croft in Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, where she relished the role of the grandest of local grandes dames.

As befitted a life of such dizzying upward mobility, Corelli had constructed in her graden this charming folly, where, ensconced above the elm trees, she could muse and pen her next bestseller.

Possibly less idyllic when viewed from point of view of the servant who had to climb the stairs in all weathers to clean the grate and re-fill the coal scuttle.

Ever hospitable, Madame Corelli hosted parties on the Avon aboard her gondola, imported from Venice.

Bringing a Venetian gondola to Warwickshire betokens a certain level of style.

Madame Corelli went a step further - and imported the gondolier as well.

And that, for me , equals chutzpah.

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