Présentation de l'éditeur
The Author: Emmuska Orczy was born in Tarnaörs, Heves, in Hungary, the daughter of a composer, Baron Felix Orczy, and Countess Emma Wass.
Her parents left Hungary in 1868, fearful of the threat of a peasant revolution. They lived in Budapest before moving to Brussels and then on to Paris. There, she studied music with limited success before the family moved on again; this time to London, at which point her interest turned to art. She studied at the West London School of Art, followed by Heatherley's School of Fine Art, where she met a young illustrator, Henry Montague MacLean Barstow, the son of an English clergyman who was to become her friend, lover, and husband in a happy marriage that lasted nearly fifty years. They were to have one son.
"My marriage was for close on half a century one of perfect happiness and understanding, of perfect friendship and communion of thought. The great link in my chain of life which brought me everything that makes life worth the living."
To start with there was little money and the pair worked as translator (Orczy) and illustrator, before she embarked upon a writing career in 1899 which, to start with, was not a success. By 1901, however, she had produced a second novel and a string of detective stories for a magazine which were received a little more kindly. In 1903, in co-operation with her husband, she wrote a play about an English aristocrat, Sir Percy Blakeney, whose mission in life was to rescue French aristocrats from the extreme events affecting their class during the French Revolution.
The play got off to a shaky start, but soon developed a following and eventually ran for four years in the West End of London. It was translated and revised and performed in many other countries. In tandem with the play, Orczy novelized the story and this became a huge success. There followed over ten sequels which featured the central character, Blakeney, along with his family and other members of what was referred to as the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The first of these, I Will Repay, was published in 1906 and the last, Mam'zelle Guillotine, in 1940.
She also wrote many other novels, mainly romances, but also within another genre she mastered; detective fiction. Lady Molly of Scotland Yard was one of the first novels to feature a female detective. The Old Man in the Corner stories are of particular significance, as they represented a new departure in fiction, with an ‘armchair’ detective literally attempting to reveal solutions based on logic alone.
Success brought financial reward and eventually she bought an estate, Villa Bijou in Monte Carlo, Monaco, which was to become her home and where her beloved husband died in 1943. England, however, remained important to her and in addition to working tirelessly during the First World War in aid of the recruitment of male volunteers for the services, it was in Henley-on-Thames, near London, that she died in 1947.
Many film and TV adaptations of Orczy’s work have been made, and her novels remain sought after and avidly digested by successive new generations of readers.