Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Corelli, Marie

(1855-1923) UK writer and occultist, born Mary Mills (later rendered as Mackay – the circumstances of her possibly illegitimate birth were shrouded in secrecy), who became a bestselling Victorian novelist with moralistic Occult Fantasies despite critical opposition and lack of writing ability. Her first book, A Romance of Two Worlds (1886), introduced the magician Heliobas, who later formed the basis for a thematically linked trilogy. It seeks to bond fading religious belief with a new scientific (or electrical) interpretation of faith, and propounds a hotchpotch of mystical and occult theories with minimal logic; but it had a passion that attracted public interest. Despite her publisher's wishes, MC later returned to the theme in Ardath, The Story of a Dead Self (1889) and The Soul of Lilith (1892). Ardath is an occult Romance involving spiritual Time Travel to attain self-fulfilment. All three novels feature astral travel, Angels, Talents and Reincarnation, reminiscent of the theosophical novels of H P Blavatsky, though considerably less cogent. The success of the novels, which hit a public increasingly fascinated with Spiritualism, pandered to MC's egotism, and her tales became even more uncontrolled. Barabbas, A Dream of the World's Tragedy (1893) is an inept account of Christ's final days. The Sorrows of Satan (1895), a fervently Christian Pact-with-the-Devil story, became her biggest seller, benefiting from the public backlash against the Decadence of the 1890s. MC saw herself as something of an evangelist, a mood which sustained her work through the 1890s but faltered in the new century, although she wrote for another 20 years.

The Sorrows of Satan was filmed in 1925 and The Young Diana (see below) in 1922. [MA]

other works: Cameos (coll 1896); The Mighty Atom (1896); Ziska, The Problem of a Wicked Soul (1897); The Master-Christian (1900); The Strange Visitation of Josiah McNason (1904; vt The Strange Visitation 1912), a Christmas Ghost Story based on Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol (1843); The Devil's Motor (1910); The Life Everlasting (1911); The Young Diana: An Experiment of the Future (1918); The Love of Long Ago (coll 1920); The Secret Power: A Romance of the Time (1921).

Marie Corelli

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.