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Marie Corelli and Bertha Vyver

"Little Girl": Marie Corelli by Barbara Grier, alias Vern Niven [From Lesbian Lives by Barbara Grier, reproduced with permission from the author] During the last years of the Victoria era and the first years of this century, the lush romantic novelist, Marie Corelli enthralled an enormous public. Dashing heroes and damsels in distress were the stock in trade of this "Best Selling" author for many many years. Amusingly her public would have been quite horrified had they known of her private life, had anyone dared print it. Early in her life, Marie's family took in an impoverished child from a good family, just one year older than Marie, called Bertha Vyver. Bertha lived with Marie all of her life (until Marie died) and later wrote the story of this unusual affair in Memoirs Of Marie Corelli, Alston Rivers, 1930. Marie called Bertha alternately "Mamasita" and Darling Ber" while Marie was called "Little Girl". Many biographies of Marie's life have been published... most of them allude to the "odd relationship" between the women. The one biographer who doesn't believe they were Lesbians and says so, is the one who produces the most convincing proof that they were assuredly overs. Eileen Biglund in her book, Marie Corelli; The Woman and the Legend, London, Jarolds, 1953, says: "Minnie (Marie's family nickname) had long been aware of her pretty face and was, as we know, extremely vain. It was a pity therefore that Bertha, in every other way a most sensible person, could not refrain from gushing about her friend's startling beauty and phenomenal brain for it took only a few doses of this fulsome flattery to make Minnie imagine herself a combiniation of Aphrodite and Pallas Athene, a belief which endured to the end of her life. Theirs was a romantic, emotional friendship which certainly led to an exchange of extravagant letters when they were apart and a great deal of hair-stroking and hand-pressing when they were together, but I cannot believe the gossip of later days which hinted at a Lesbian relationship between them... While they ngaged in verbal endearments which at times verged on the udicrous I am not only sure there was no Sapphism between them, I believe their friendship had its roots in a very real mutual affection." One hardly needs to italicize Miss Biglund's last sentence to show how silly it is. To paraphrase, they weren't queer, just loved each other madly in a true sort of way. The two ladies in question had a fascinating life together and those of you who enjoy biographies of unusual people combined with a fair amount of homosexuality will enjoy the titles mentioned in the article and also, Marie Corelli: The Story of a Friendship by William Stuart Scott, London: Hutchinson, 1955. This last named author compares the devotion of Bertha for Marie to Damon & Pythias and David & Jonathan.