Why Did I ?
Marie Corelli's own commentary
on her weird novel The Young Diana
with prefatory comment by Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Preface by J.A.S.
In the vernacular of the web, Marie Corelli was fond of "flaming" the journalistic world. In the commentary below, she purports to speak of the high merits of her own novel, The Young Diana, in a parody of the self-promotion, such as she was frequently faulted for by a press who did not like her, therefore did not like her books. Finding one of her enemy journalists reviewing his own book quite glowingly, & publishing his review in the journal he edited, Marie was able to advertise her latest novel while at the same time seeing what she could do to fan the fires of journalists' open hostility to her person & her works. Underlying her lampoon is a valid editorial of a double-standard which permitted a tedious propagandistic book to win praise from the journalist who wrote it & from his friends as well, when far less agregious acts of self-agrandizement had caused these journalists to fault Marie in the most ungentlemanly of terms.
It's too bad she didn't really offer more specifics about The Young Diana per se, while she was parodying self-promotion & lampooning the editor of the Observer. This variant on the Frankenstein theme revisits Elizabeth Frankenstein in the person of the Young Diana, who has been rejuvenated at the cost of her soul. The combination of weird science & occult speculation makes for quite a lively & fantastic tale, even if it does rather beg a Readers Digest version with the weird science left in & some of the lectures & philosophical asides reduced.
To a surprising degree, Marie's usual desire to uplift her reader (amidst much weirdness) vanished from this book, which is extremely cynical in tone, evidently because Marie's personal lifelong & nutty belief in immortality was weakened by the ravages of time upon her body, which would no longer permit her to ignore reality in favor of occult daydreams. A displeased audience did not require many editions of this unhappy tale of youth-regeneration leading to the monstrous, soulless immortality of a horrific femme fatale. Hence it is a little rarer than most of her novels, though well worth finding.
Marie Corelli Answers "Why?"
I should not presume to write this answer to numerous correspondents, had it not been for the precedent given by Mr. Garvin, the erudite editor of the Observer, who recently allotted several columns of his own paper to the praise of his own book. Wherefore, gladly accepting this "lead" from one who knows so much more about literary "management" than I do, I take the opportunity of replying to several letters demanding "Why" I wrote my last published novel, The Young Diana. Why? Well, because (like Mrs Garvin on himself) I think it a good idea! Moreover, I wanted to be one of the first in the field to suggest a discovery which is approaching us in the near future; which is, so to speak, "glimmering" ahead of our scientists like a brilliant streak of sunrise in a summer sky. Following the example of Mr. Garvin, who urgently recommends the public to read his book, I, with equal urgency recommend the public to read mine. I should not have dared to so so unless Mr. Garvin had shown me the way, & he is such a noted authority in journalism that I feel I cannot do wrong in copying him as much as possible. Therefore, dear public! good readers all! I assure you that The young Diana is a remarkable book. It is, really! Mr. Garvin says his is a remarkable book, & I feel that mine is equally remarkable. It is full of new ideas, happily expressed.
Garvinly speaking, it is a compendium of hope for mankind, or rather womankind, because it shows how possibly the youth & beauty of the fairer sex may be retained indefinitely, to say nothing of the prolongation of life. Nobody wants to grow old, not even Garvin; as a matter of fact nobody does grow old nowadays: witness the beautiful Queen Alexandra & the ever lithe & lissom "Tiger" Clemenceau. To read The Young Diana, you need a little intelligence, of course. So you do when you read The Economic Foundation of Peace by Garvin. His book costs 12s. net mine is only 6s. 9d. His treats of "the policy upon which the safety, the prosperity, the very physical survival of humanity depend." Mine treates likewise of all these things, vested in fair Woman, upon whom the physical existence as well as the "survival" of man depends. His, according to his friends on the press, is "a great idea brilliant presented." So is mine. It is, to quote another friend's criticism, "a practical & passionate effort to save the world alive." Oh, friends! this is exactly what my book is! only it is a practical & passionate effort to save Woman alive! beautiful & exquisite Woman! the Mother of all Man! It is "filled with cogent argument & luminous illustration" I copy Garvin critiques because I shouldn't know how to lay on the butter so felicitously as the friends of "this remarkable book by a great journalist" but I have occasionally been called "a great novelist," by semi-crazed folk, of course, & I feel justified (after Garvin) in calling attention my "remarkable book."
Garvinly speaking, "it is a timely, wise & nobly-inspired book" you see I haven't a newspaper of my own in which to blow my own small trumpet, so I catch the silvery echo of Garvin's glorious & mellow horn & trust to my readers to catch the sound & the meaning thereof! So read The Young Diana! if she had only been at the Peace Conference all would have been well! Diana is a book "which will leave the reader with a better hope of the future" (vide Observer) yes, indeed, it will! Women will radiate under its influence; beauty will have no fear of perishing; life will be a "joy for ever," & all this for six shillings & ninepence! Think of it! Had I a journal of my own I would have out-Garvined Garvin in self-adulation, but this is only a reply to my numerous correspondents who ask, "Why did you write The Young Diana?" & my answer is because, like Garvin, I seek to re-invigorate, re-form, & re-establish the world! Amen!
Preface copyright © 2001 by Jessica Amanda Salmonson. Marie Corelli's commentary "Why Did I ?" is reprinted from her rare essay collection My "Little Bit" (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1919). The dustwrapper that illustrates this page is from the UK first edition of The Young Diana: An Experiment of the Future. (Ln: Hutchinson, 1918).
You may also have cause to refer to the
Marie Corelli Filmography
about all the films based on some of her books; as well my essay on
The Life & Gothic Tales of Marie Corelli
& of course the
Bibliography of Marie's Gothic & Occult Fiction
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