Marie Belloc Lowndes (1868 – 1947)


OIP (3)Marie Adelaide Elizabeth Rayner Lowndes, née Belloc (5 August 1868 – 14 November 1947), was a prolific English novelist. Active from 1898 until her death, she had a literary reputation for combining exciting incident with psychological interest. Her most famous novel, The Lodger (1913), based on the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888, has been adapted for the screen five different times; the first movie version was Alfred Hitchcock’s silent film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), followed by Maurice Elvey’s in 1932, John Brahm’s in 1944, Man in the Attic in 1953, and David Ondaatje’s in 2009. Another novel of hers, Letty Lynton (1931), was the basis for the 1932 motion picture of the same name starring Joan Crawford.

Born in Marylebone, London and raised in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France, Mrs Belloc Lowndes was the only daughter of French barrister Louis Belloc and English feminist Bessie Parkes. Her brother was Hilaire Belloc, whom she wrote of in her last work The Young Hilaire Belloc (published posthumously in 1956). Her paternal grandfather was the French painter Jean-Hilaire Belloc and her maternal great-grandfather was Joseph Priestley. In 1896 she married Frederick Sawrey A. Lowndes (1868-1940).

She published a biography, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales: An Account of His Career, in 1898. From then on novels, reminiscences and plays came from her quill at the rate of one per year until 1946. In the memoir, I, too, Have Lived in Arcadia, published in 1942, Mrs. Belloc Lowndes’ mother died in 1925, fifteen years before her father, and she told the story of her mother’s life, compiled largely from old family letters and her own memories of her early life in France. She continued her autobiography in 1948 in Where love and friendship dwelt. She died 14 November 1947 at the home of her elder daughter, Countess Iddesleigh (wife of the third Earl[1]) in Eversley Cross, Hampshire. She was interred in France, in La Celle-Saint-Cloud near Versailles, where she spent her youth. (From Wikipedia)

Mrs. Belloc Lowdnes (1868 – ) made two notable contributions to the fringe of detective fiction with The Chink in the Armour (1912), a psychological study from the point-of-view of the unsuspecting object of a murder plot, and The Lodger (1913), masterly fictional analysis of the Jack-the-Ripper murders. Mrs. Lowndes has published many later novels of her two memorable tours de force, but none of them has ever had the success of the originals. (Murder for Pleasure: The Life & Times of the Detective Story, by Howard Haycraft, first published in 1942)

The strength of The Lodger derives from its focus on the tensions of domestic life rather than lurid melodrama. ….. The Lodger became a bestseller, and its popularity endured; later admirers included Ernest Hemingway and Gertrud Stein.  (Martin Edwards at The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books)

Further reading:

27056The Lodger (1913), which Lowndes developed from a previous short story of the same title first published in McClure’s Magazine in 1911, concerns a series of Jack the Ripper-style murders, and it is her finest work.” The Lodger is included in Haycraft Queen Cornerstones definitive library of Mystery Fiction.

In 1888, a series of prostitutes was brutally murdered in the East End of London. These gruesome crimes filled the press and shook England with fear and intrigue. Marie Belloc Lowndes established her considerable reputation as a crime writer through her fictional account of these murders. Dealing with not only the psychology of “The Avenger”–her version of Jack the Ripper–but also with that of his landlady, Mrs. Bunting, who never gives away his secret, Lowndes creates an atmosphere of suspense, fear, and horror. (Source: Goodreads).

The Lodger has been reviewed, among others, at Mystery File,Classic Mysteries and the crime segments.

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