Definitions

expressing sympathy

Ouida

[wee-duh]

Ouida (January 1, 1839January 25, 1908) was the pen name of the English novelist Maria Louise Ramé (although she preferred to be known as Marie Louise de la Ramée).

Biography

Ramé was born in Bury St. Edmunds, England, to a French father and an English mother.She derived her pen name from her own childish pronunciation of her given name "Louise". Her opinion of her birthplace fluctuated; in one of her books she states
That clean, quiet antiquated town, that always puts me in the mind of an old maid dressed for a party; that lowest and dreariest of Boroughs, where the streets are as full of grass as an acre of pasture land. Why, the inhabitants are driven to ringing their own doorbells lest they rust from lack of use.
During her career, she wrote more than 40 novels, children's books and collections of short stories and essays. She was an animal rights activist and animal rescuer, and at times owned as many as thirty dogs. For many years she lived in London, but about 1874 she went to Italy, where she died.

Ouida's work went through several phases during her career. In her early period, her novels were a hybrid of the sensationalism of the 1860s and the proto-adventure novels dubbed "muscular fiction" that were emerging in part as a romanticization of imperial expansion. Later her work was more along the lines of historical romance, though she never stopped comment on contemporary society. She also wrote several stories for children. One of her most famous novels, Under Two Flags, described the British in Algeria in the most extravagant of terms, while nonetheless also expressing sympathy for the French--with whom Ouida deeply identified--and, to some extent, the Arabs. This book went on to be staged in plays, and subsequently to be turned into at least three movies, transitioning Ouida in the 20th century.

Herself physically of short stature and with a "voice like a carving knife," in her early years she adorned herself in diaphanous gowns, surrounded herself with flowers and commanded salons at the Langham Hotel (at times lying in bed) that included soldiers, politicians, literary lights, and artists. Convinced of her own ability to influence foreign policy through a combination of womanly wiles and strategic brilliance, she planted into the ears of her famous visitors suggestions that they at least to her face appeared to take seriously. The heroine of another well-known novel, Idalia (which she claimed to have written at 16), was a rebel/ingenue sympathetic to Italian independence. Later, while living in France and Italy, Ouida continued to hold court and to attract locals and expatriates alike to her gatherings.

Ouida considered herself a serious artist, and felt comparisons to merely popular contemporaries belittled her stature. She was inspired by Byron in particular, and was interested in other artists of all kinds. Sympathetic portraits of tragic painters and singers fill her later novels. Her work often combines romanticism with a critical edge, however. In one novel, Puck, a talking dog, narrates his views on society. Ouida's Views and Opinions includes essays on a variety of social topics written in Ouida's own voice as well.

Although successful, she did not manage her money well and died in poverty on January 25, 1908, in Viareggio, Italy. She is buried in the English Cemetery in Bagni di Lucca, Italy. On her death a public subscription purchased and erected a fountain for horses and dogs in Bury St Edmunds, with an inscription composed by Lord Curzon:

Her friends have erected this fountain in the place of her birth. Here may God's creatures whom she loved assuage her tender soul as they drink.

Bibliography

  • Two Little Wooden Shoes (1874), also published with the title Bébée; Gutenberg etext here
  • Afternoon (1883)
  • An Altruist (1897)
  • Ariadne (1877) pdf
  • Beatrice Boville and Other Stories (1868)
  • Bimbi: Stories for Children (1882) etext
  • Cecil Castlemaine's Gage (1867)
  • A Dog of Flanders (1872), English-language film versions in 1935, 1959 and 1999 (starring Jon Voight), popular cartoon TV series in Japan in 1975; etext
  • Chandos (1866)
  • Critical Studies (1900)
  • Dogs (1897)
  • Don Guesaldo (1886)
  • Frescoes: Dramatic Sketches (1883)
  • Friendship (1878)
  • Folle-Farine (1871)
  • Guilderoy (1889)
  • Helianthus (1908)
  • Held in Bondage (1863), first published with the title Granville de Vigne
  • A House Party (1887)
  • The Silver Christ and A Lemon Tree (1894)
  • Idalia (1867)
  • In a Winter City (1876)
  • In Maremma (1882)
  • La Strega and Other Stories (1899)
  • Le Selve and Other Tales (1896)
  • The Massarenes (1897)
  • Moths (1880)
  • Muriella; or, Le Selve (1897)
  • The New Priesthood: A Protest Against Vivisection (1893)
  • Othmar (1885)
  • Pascarel (1874)
  • Pipistrello and Other Stories (1880)
  • Princess Napraxine (1884)
  • Puck (1870)
  • A Rainy June (1885)
  • Ruffino and Other Stories (1890)
  • Santa Barbara and Other Stories (1891)
  • Signa (1875)
  • The Silver Christ (1894)
  • Strathmore (1865)
  • Street Dust and Other Stories (1901)
  • Syrlin (1890)
  • The Tower of Taddeo (1892)
  • Toxin (1895)
  • Tricotrin (1869)
  • Two Offenders and Other Tales (1894)
  • Under Two Flags (1867), film versions 1912, 1916, 1922 (starring Rudolph Valentino), and 1936 (starring Ronald Colman and Claudette Colbert); etext
  • Views and Opinions (1895)
  • A Village Commune (1881)
  • Wanda (1883)
  • The Waters of Edera (1900) etext

References

External links

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