Arthur Severn, Illustration for Marie Corelli’s “The Devil’s Motor”

Date: 1910

Marie Corelli was fifty-one years old when she fell in love with Arthur Severn (1842-1931). Both were public figures: she was the most popular English novelist at the time, he an acknowledged watercolorist, and although rather unsuccessful with his paintings, coveted in artists’ circles as the youngest son of the painter Joseph Severn (the intimate friend of Keats) and as a friend of Ruskin’s, whose niece, ward, and heir Joan Agnew he married. Corelli’s acquaintance with Arthur began in 1906 when Corelli and her companion Bertha Vyver visited Ruskin’s house Brantwood in the Lake District, where the Severns lived, and it culminated in Corelli and Severn’s cooperation on The Devil’s Motor in 1910. The writer and the painter planned another joint work, a factual book on Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon, written by Corelli and illustrated by Severn. It was assigned for 1912, then postponed and finally abandoned in 1915, as the relationship between the author and the painter had become more and more strained over the years and finally ended in 1917.

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