Victorian Popular Fictions 5.1 3 Turner


“The most accomplished liar in literature”? Uncovering Marie Corelli’s Hidden Early Life

 Joanna Turner

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This article presents newly uncovered archival materials which necessitate a rewriting of the early life of Marie Corelli. The many biographies on her are focussed on rumours surrounding Corelli being illegitimate, her eccentricities, and the exposure of lies she told about her age. The most recent biographies, the latest of which was published in 1999, reformulated what had already been written about her and additionally employed analogue genealogical research methods to investigate Corelli’s parentage. They created an account of Corelli’s life which has been subsumed into twenty-first century scholarship. However, the digitisation of genealogical records, as well as of nineteenth and twentieth-century newspapers, has enabled research which renders the twentieth-century biographers’ findings inaccurate and incomplete. This article uncovers Corelli’s working-class origins; it reveals that she spent a lengthy period in America; it finds the likely location of the convent school she attended; and details that she had a fuller performing career than previously understood. It finds truth in the stories that Corelli told about herself, forcing a re-evaluation of her character and her motivation for the concealment of her early life, paving the way for future study.



Marie Corelli; class; biography; self-fashioning; genealogy; digital humanities; newspaper archives; acting.

Date of Acceptance: 27 June 2023

Date of Publication: 5 July 2023

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Turner, Joanna. 2023. “‘The most accomplished liar in literature’? Uncovering Marie Corelli’s Hidden Early Life.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 5.1: 21-36. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online) DOI:

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