Elizabeth von Arnim

Elizabeth von Arnim (31 August 1866 – 9 February 1941), born Mary Annette Beauchamp, was an Australian-born British novelist. By marriage she became Countess von Arnim-Schlagenthin, and after her second marriage she was styled as Elizabeth Russell, Countess Russell. Although known in her early life as Mary, after the publication of her first book, she was known to her readers, eventually to her friends, and finally even to her family as Elizabeth[1] and she is now invariably referred to as Elizabeth von Arnim. She also wrote under the pen name Alice Cholmondeley.

Elizabeth von Arnim
Pencil sketch of Elizabeth von Arnim
Pencil sketch of Elizabeth von Arnim
BornMary Annette Beauchamp
31 August 1866
Kirribilli Point, Australia
Died9 February 1941 (aged 74)
Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Resting placeTylers Green, Bucks, England
Pen nameElizabeth
Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin
(m. 1891; his death 1910)

John Russell, 2nd Earl Russell
(m. 1916; his death 1931)


She was born at her family's holiday home in Kirribilli Point, Australia. When she was three years old, the family returned to England where she was raised. Her parents were Henry Herron Beauchamp (1825–1907), merchant, and Elizabeth (Louey) Weiss Lassetter (1836–1919). Arnim had four brothers, a sister, and a cousin from New Zealand, Kathleen Beauchamp, who later married John Middleton Murry and wrote under the pen name, Katherine Mansfield.[2]

In 1891, Elizabeth married Henning August, Graf von Arnim-Schlagenthin, a Prussian aristocrat, whom she had met during an Italian tour with her father. They lived in Berlin and eventually moved to the countryside where, in Nassenheide, Pomerania (now in Poland), the Arnims had their family estate. The couple had five children, four daughters and a son. The children's tutors at Nassenheide included E. M. Forster and Hugh Walpole.[3]

In 1908, Arnim left Nassenheide to return to London.[2] Count von Arnim died in 1910, and later that year she moved to Randogne, Switzerland, where she built the Chalet Soleil and entertained literary and society friends.[4] From 1910 until 1913, she was a mistress of the novelist H.G. Wells.[2]

In 1916, she married John Russell, 2nd Earl Russell, elder brother of Bertrand Russell. The marriage ended in acrimony, with Elizabeth fleeing to the United States and the couple separating in 1919, although they never divorced. In 1920, she embarked on an affair with Alexander Stuart Frere Reeves (1892–1984), a British publisher nearly 30 years her junior; he later married another woman and named his only daughter Elizabeth in her honour.[5]

After leaving Germany, she lived, variously, in London, France and Switzerland.[6] In 1939, on the outbreak of the Second World War, she returned to the United States, where she died of influenza at the Riverside Infirmary, Charleston, South Carolina, on 9 February 1941, aged 74. She was cremated at Fort Lincoln cemetery, Maryland and in 1947 her ashes were mingled with her brother Sydney's in the churchyard of St Margaret's, Tylers Green, Penn, Buckinghamshire.[2] The Latin inscription on her tombstone reads, parva sed apta (small but apt), alluding to her short stature.[6]

Literary career

Arnim would later refer to her domineering first husband by the Biblical title the "Man of Wrath" and writing became her refuge from what turned out to be an incompatible marriage. Arnim's husband had increasing debts and was eventually sent to prison for fraud. This was when she created her pen name "Elizabeth" and launched her career as a writer by publishing her semi-autobiographical, brooding, yet satirical Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1898). Detailing her struggles both to create a garden on the estate and her attempts to integrate into German, high-class, Junker society, it was such a success that it was reprinted twenty times in its first year.[7] A bitter-sweet memoir and companion to it was The Solitary Summer (1899). Other works, such as The Benefactress (1902), Vera (1921), and Love (1925), were also semi-autobiographical. Other titles dealing with protest against domineering Junkerdom and witty observations of life in provincial Germany were to follow, including The Princess Priscilla's Fortnight (1905) and Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther (1907). She would sign her twenty or so books, after the first, initially as "by the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden" and later simply "By Elizabeth".

Although she never wrote a traditional autobiography, All the Dogs of My Life, her 1936 account of her love for her pets, contains many glimpses of the glittering social circle of which she was part.[8]


Elizabeth von Arnim Monument in Buk
Elizabeth von Arnim Monument in Buk, Poland

Her 1921 novel, Vera, a dark tragi-comedy drawing on her disastrous marriage to Earl Russell, was her most critically acclaimed work. It was described by John Middleton Murry as "Wuthering Heights by Jane Austen".[9]

Her 1922 work, The Enchanted April, inspired by a month-long holiday to the Italian Riviera, is perhaps the lightest and most ebullient of her novels and has regularly been adapted for the stage and screen: as a Broadway play in 1925; a 1935 American feature film; an Academy Award-nominated feature film in 1992 (starring Josie Lawrence, Jim Broadbent and Joan Plowright amongst others); a Tony Award-nominated stage play in 2003; a musical play in 2010; and in 2015 a serial on BBC Radio 4.

Terence de Vere White credits The Enchanted April with making the Italian resort of Portofino fashionable.[10] It is also, probably, the most widely read of all her work, having been a Book-of-the-Month club choice in America upon publication.[10]

Her 1940 novel, Mr. Skeffington, was made into an Academy Award-nominated feature film by Warner Bros. in 1944, starring Bette Davis and Claude Rains; and a 60-minute "Lux Radio Theater" broadcast radio adaptation of the movie on 1 October 1945.

Since 1983, the British publisher, Virago, has been reprinting her work with new introductions by modern writers, some of which try to claim her as a sort of feminist.[11] 'The Reader's Encyclopedia' reports that many of her later novels are "tired exercises", but this opinion is not widely held.[12]

Perhaps the best example of von Arnim's mordant wit and unusual attitude to life, is provided in one her letters: "I'm so glad I didn't die on the various occasions I have earnestly wished I might, for I would have missed a lot of lovely weather".[13]

Select bibliography

Houghton Typ 970.00.7590 - The April Baby’s Book of Tunes - Sing a song of sixpence
Illustration by Kate Greenaway for April Baby's Book of Tunes, 1900


  1. ^ Usborne, Karen (1986). "Elizabeth": The Author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden. London: Bodley Head. ISBN 9780370308876.
  2. ^ a b c d Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition (UK library card required): Arnim, Mary Annette [May] von Accessed 2014-03-05
  3. ^ Hart-Davis, Rupert (1985). Hugh Walpole. Hamish Hamilton. pp. 47–53. ISBN 0241-11406-3.
  4. ^ "Elizabeth von Arnim – Biography and Works". online-literature.com. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Obituaries: A. S. Frere". New York Times. 16 October 1984. Re-linked 2014-03-05
  6. ^ a b Vickers, Salley in the introduction to Elizabeth von Arnim, 'The Enchanted April' Penguin: 2012 ISBN 978-0-141-19182-9
  7. ^ The Independent, 8 November 2011: Elizabeth von Arnim: The forgotten feminist who’s flowering again Re-linked 2014-03-05
  8. ^ Arnim, Elizabeth von All the Dogs of My Life, Virago: 2006 ISBN 978-1844082773
  9. ^ Brown, Erica (2013). Comedy and the Feminine Middlebrow Novel: Elizabeth von Arnim and Elizabeth Taylor (1st ed.). London: Pickering & Chatto. ISBN 184893338X.
  10. ^ a b De Vere White, Terence in introduction to 'The Enchanted April', Virago: 1991 ISBN 9780860685173
  11. ^ Arnim, Elizabeth von, 'Fraulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther' Virago: 1983 ISBN 9780860683179
  12. ^ Murphy, Bruce F. (ed.), 'The Reader's Encyclopedia', 5th ed., Collins: 2008 ISBN 978-0060890162
  13. ^ Letter to Maud Ritchie, quoted by Deborah Kellaway in introduction to 'The Solitary Summer', Virago: 1993 ISBN 1853815535


  • Bekaert, Lisa: An Analysis of Elizabeth von Arnim‘s ‚The Benefactress‘ and Charlotte P. Gilman‘s ‚Herland‘ as New Woman writings & Henry R. Haggard‘s ‚She‘ and ‚Ayesha‘ as a masculine retort. Master’s thesis, Ghent University, 2009. ([1] PDF; 378 KB).
  • de Charms, Leslie: Elizabeth of the German Garden: A Biography – London: Heinemann, 1958.
  • DeWees, Amanda. Elizabeth von Arnim. In: An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers. Ed. Paul Schlueter and June Schlueter. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1998. 13f.
  • Eberle, Iwona: Eve with a Spade: Women, Gardens, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century. Munich: Grin, 2011. ISBN 9783640843558
  • Heberlein, Kate Browder. Arnim, Elizabeth von. In: Dictionary of British Women Writers. Ed. Jane Todd. London: Routledge, 1998. 12.
  • Hennegan, Alison. In a Class of Her Own: Elizabeth von Arnim. In: Women Writers of the 1930s: Gender, Politics and History. Ed. and with an introduction by Maroula Joannou. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999. 100–112.
  • Hollington, Michael. ‘Elizabeth’ and Her Books. AUMLA 87 (May 1997): 43–51.
  • Juengling, Kirsten and Brigitte Rossbeck: Elizabeth von Arnim; Eine Biographie – Frankfurt: Insel, 1996. ISBN 9783458335405
  • Maddison, Isobel: Elizabeth von Arnim: Beyond the German Garden – Farnham: Ashgate, 2013. ISBN 9781409411673
  • Maddison, Isobel: A Second Flowering: Elizabeth and her German Garden – London Library Magazine, Issue 15, Spring 2012
  • Maddison, Isobel: The Curious Case of Christine: Elizabeth von Arnim's Wartime Text – First World War Studies, vol 3 (2) Oct 2012 pp. 183–200
  • Oles, Ashley. The Angel in the Garden: Recovering Elizabeth von Arnim’s ‚The Pastor’s Wife‘. Master’s thesis, East Carolina University, 2012. ([2] PDF; 378 KB).
  • Roemhild, Juliane. Feminity and Authorship in the Novels of Elizabeth von Arnim. New Jersey, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press 2014.
  • Schaffer, Talia. Von Arnim [née Beauchamp], Elizabeth [Mary Annette, Countess Russell]. In: The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English. Ed. Lorna Sage, advis. eds. Germaine Greer et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 646.
  • Usborne, Karen: 'Elizabeth': The Author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden – London: Bodley Head, 1986. ISBN 9780370308876
  • Walker, Jennifer: Elizabeth of the German Garden: A Biography – Leicester: The Book Guild, 2013. ISBN 978-1846248511
  • Walsh, George. Lady Russell, 74, Famous Novelist, Author of ‘Elizabeth and Her German Garden’ Dies in a Charleston, S. C., Hospital, Obituary in New York Times, 10 February 1941.
  • Young, Katie Elizabeth. More than ‚Wisteria and Sunshine‘: The Garden as a Space of Female Introspection and Identity in Elizabeth von Arnim's The ‚Enchanted April‘ and ‚Vera‘. Master's thesis, Brigham University, 2011. ([3] PDF).

Other biographies

  • Walker, Jennifer: Elizabeth of the German Garden – A Literary Journey – Brighton, Book Guild, 2013. ISBN 9781846248511
  • Roiphe, Katie: Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910–1939 – New York: Dial Press, 2008. ISBN 9780385339377

External links

Castello Brown

Castello Brown is a house museum located high above the harbour of Portofino, Italy.

The castle's site is well suited for harbour defence, and appears to have been so used since the 15th century. According to the Record Office of Genoa, cannon batteries were constructed on the site in the early 16th century, and military engineer Giovanni Maria Olgiati drew up plans for a full fortress circa 1554. The resultant castello was completed by 1557, and, in 1575, was instrumental in turning back an attack on the town by Giò Andrea Doria. The structure was enlarged from 1622 to 1624, and survived in this form for a century and a half. The little tower was destroyed in 1798 by an English attack during Napoleon's Ligurian Republic. The castello was abandoned after the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

In 1867, the structure was purchased for 7,000 lire by Montague Yeats-Brown, then English consul in Genoa. He engaged the architect Alfredo D'Andrade, and with advice from his artist friend and fellow-consul James Harris the fort was transformed to a comfortable villa without substantial alteration in its general form. His descendants held the property until 1949, then sold it to an English couple, Colonel and Mrs. John Baber, who restored several ruined sections, until they in turn sold it in 1961 to the City of Portofino.

Elizabeth von Arnim wrote her book The Enchanted April at the castello in 1922. The 1992 movie was also filmed there.

Cholmondeley (surname)

Cholmondeley ( CHUM-lee) is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Alice Cholmondeley, a pseudonym used by Elizabeth von Arnim for her book Christine

David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley (born 1960), British peer and Lord Great Chamberlain of England

George Cholmondeley, 2nd Earl of Cholmondeley (1666–1733), English soldier

George Cholmondeley, 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley (1703–1770), British peer and Whig politician

George Cholmondeley, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley (1749–1827), British peer and politician

George Cholmondeley, 2nd Marquess of Cholmondeley (1792–1870), British peer and politician

George Cholmondeley, 4th Marquess of Cholmondeley (1858–1923), British peer and Lord Chamberlain of England

George Cholmondeley, 5th Marquess of Cholmondeley (1883–1968), British peer and Lord Great Chamberlain of England

George Cholmondeley, Viscount Malpas (1724–1764), British soldier and MP

Hugh Cholmondeley, 1st Earl of Cholmondeley (1662–1725)

Hugh Cholmondeley, 6th Marquess of Cholmondeley (1919–1980), British peer and Lord Great Chamberlain of England

Hugh Cholmondeley, 2nd Baron Delamere (1811–1887), British peer and politician

Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere (1870–1931), British settler in Kenya

Hugh Cholmondeley, 5th Baron Delamere (born 1934), British peer and Kenyan landowner

Hugh Cholmondeley, 6th Baron Delamere, British peer and Kenyan

Hugh Cholmondeley (soldier) (1513–1596), English soldier

James Cholmondeley (1708–1775), British soldier and MP

Lionel Berners Cholmondeley (1858–1945), British missionary in Japan and historian

Mary Cholmondeley (1859–1925), English writer

Richard Cholmondeley (c.1460–1521), English farmer and soldier

Robert Cholmondeley, 1st Earl of Leinster (1584–1659), English Royalist

Robert Cholmondeley, 1st Viscount Cholmondeley (died 1681), English peer

Thomas Cholmondeley (disambiguation), various

William Cholmondeley, 3rd Marquess of Cholmondeley (1800–1884), British peer and politician


Christine may refer to:

Christine (name), a female name meaning follower of Christ

SS Christine, a German coastal tanker

Christine (book)

Christine is purportedly a compilation of letters from a "gifted young English girl studying in Germany just before the outbreak of the war" (Charms 188) to her mother in Britain. Written by Elizabeth von Arnim and presented under her anonymous pen-name Alice Cholmondeley, the work dated from May 28, 1914 to August 4, 1914, the letters were published in 1917. "Christine" explained her experience with German pre-war culture; however, Christine did not exist. She was a fictional character that some claim was Arnim's attempt at anti-German propaganda. These detailed letters helped to convey a picture to British citizens of the supposed state of mind of the German public during the chaotic days leading up to World War I.

Elizabeth Russell

Elizabeth Russell may refer to:

Elizabeth Hoby (1528–1609), (née Cooke and later Lady Elizabeth Russell in her second marriage), associate of Elizabeth I of England

Elizabeth Russell, Duchess of Bedford (1818–1897), bridesmaid to Queen Victoria

Elizabeth von Arnim (1866–1941), German author sometimes known by her married name

Elizabeth Russell (actress) (1916–2002), American actress

Elizabeth S. Russell (1913–2001), American geneticist

Elizabeth and Her German Garden

Elizabeth and Her German Garden is a novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, first published in 1898; it was very popular and frequently reprinted during the early years of the 20th century.The story is a year's diary written by the protagonist Elizabeth about her experiences learning gardening and interacting with her friends. It includes commentary on the beauty of nature and on society, but is primarily humorous due to Elizabeth's frequent mistakes and her idiosyncratic outlook on life.

She looked down upon the frivolous fashions of her time writing “I believe all needlework and dressmaking is of the devil, designed to keep women from study.”

The book is the first in a series about the same character. It is noteworthy for being published without a named author.

Enchanted April

Enchanted April may refer to:

The Enchanted April, the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim

a 1925 Broadway play based on the novel

Enchanted April (1935 film)

Enchanted April (1992 film)

Enchanted April (2003 play) Tony-nominated Broadway production

a 2010 musical stage adaptation by Charles Leipart and Richard Bunger Evans

Frank Russell, 2nd Earl Russell

John Francis Stanley Russell, 2nd Earl Russell, known as Frank Russell (12 August 1865 – 3 March 1931), was the elder surviving son of Viscount and Viscountess Amberley, and was raised by his paternal grandparents after his unconventional parents both died young. He was the grandson of the former prime minister John Russell, 1st Earl Russell and elder brother of the philosopher Bertrand Russell. He was married three times, lastly to Elizabeth von Arnim, who caricatured him in her novel Vera. Despite his landmark achievements in other respects, this Earl Russell is most famous for being tried for bigamy in 1901, after which he was known to Edwardian society as the "Wicked Earl".

Katherine Mansfield

Kathleen Mansfield Murry (née Beauchamp; 14 October 1888 – 9 January 1923) was a prominent New Zealand modernist short story writer who was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand and wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield. At the age of 19, Mansfield left New Zealand and settled in England, where she became a friend of writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. In 1917, she was diagnosed with extrapulmonary tuberculosis, that claimed her life at age 34.

Mr. Skeffington

Mr. Skeffington is a 1944 American drama film directed by Vincent Sherman, based on the novel of the same name by Elizabeth von Arnim.

The film stars Bette Davis as a beautiful woman whose many suitors, and self-love, distract her from returning the affections of her husband Job Skeffington. It also makes a point about Skeffington's status as a Jew in 1914 high society, and later, in relation to Nazi Germany.

It stars Claude Rains as Skeffington, along with Walter Abel, George Coulouris and Richard Waring.


Portofino (Italian pronunciation: [ˌpɔrtoˈfiːno]; Ligurian: Portofin [ˌpɔɾtuˈfiŋ]) is an Italian fishing village and holiday resort famous for its picturesque harbour and historical association with celebrity and artistic visitors. It is a comune located in the Metropolitan City of Genoa on the Italian Riviera. The town is clustered around its small harbour, and is known for the colourfully painted buildings that line the shore.

Princess Priscilla's Fortnight

Princess Priscilla's Fortnight is a 1905 comedy-drama novel by the British writer Elizabeth von Arnim, known at the time as Elizabeth Russell. It was turned into a play The Cottage in the Air in 1909.


Rzędziny [ʐɛnˈd͡ʑinɨ] is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Dobra, within Police County, West Pomeranian Voivodeship, in north-western Poland, close to the German border. It lies approximately 6 kilometres (4 mi) north-west of Dobra, 16 km (10 mi) west of Police, and 21 km (13 mi) north-west of the regional capital Szczecin.

The village was, for a time, the home of Elizabeth von Arnim, an author born in Sydney and brought up in England; her experiences were encapsulated in her first semi-autobiographical novel Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1898).

The Enchanted April

The Enchanted April is a 1922 novel by British writer Elizabeth von Arnim. The work was inspired by a month-long holiday to the Italian Riviera, probably the most widely read (as an English and American best seller in 1923) and perhaps the lightest and most ebullient of her novels.

Von Arnim wrote, and set, the book in the 15th-century Castello Brown. Critic Terence de Vere White credited The Enchanted April with making the Italian resort of Portofino fashionable.

Vera (novel)

Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim is a 1921 novel based on her disastrous second marriage, to Frank Russell. It is a frightening analysis of the naivety of a young woman, as she falls into the power of a pathologically narcissistic husband. In outline, this utterly unromantic novel anticipates Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Naive Lucy Entwhistle is swept into marriage by a widower, Everard Wemyss. His mansion, "The Willows", is pervaded by the specter of his dead wife Vera, who Lucy gradually comes to suspect committed suicide rather than endure being married to Wemyss. The story is an extraordinarily black vision of a young wife who gradually begins to understand that her husband will accept nothing less than total intellectual and emotional servitude. Many of von Arnim's other books, including the wonderful Enchanted April, are written with verve, humor, and a delight in the romantic: Vera is closer to a nightmare.When The Times Literary Supplement published a bad review of Vera, her friend John Middleton Murry consoled her by saying that it was to be expected that the reviewers would not know what to make of a novel that sounded like Wuthering Heights written by Jane Austen. Comparisons with Austen were also made by Sydney Waterlow, Hugh Walpole, and Augustine Birrell.Von Arnim herself considered Vera her "high water mark".

Von Armin

Friedrich Bertram Sixt von Armin (1851 1936), German general in World War I

Hans-Heinrich Sixt von Armin (1890-1952), German lieutenant general in World War II

Elizabeth von Arnim (1866 1941)

Von Arnim

Von Arnim is a German surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Adolf Heinrich von Arnim-Boitzenburg (1803–1868), German statesman

Arnulf von Arnim (born 1947), German classical pianist and teacher

Bernd von Arnim (died 1917), German naval officer

Bettina von Arnim (1785–1859), German writer and novelist

Elizabeth von Arnim (1866–1941), British novelist

Ferdinand von Arnim (1814–1866), German architect and watercolour-painter

Gisela von Arnim (1827–1889), German writer

Hans Georg von Arnim-Boitzenburg (1583–1641), German Field Marshal, diplomat, and politician

Hans-Jürgen von Arnim (1889–1962), German World War II general

Iris von Arnim (born 1945), German fashion designer

Ludwig Achim von Arnim (1781–1831), German poet and novelist

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