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Elizabeth von Arnim


Elizabeth von Arnim, author of Expiation, in 1916

Mary 'May' Beauchamp, known later as Elizabeth von Arnim was born in 1866 in Australia and lived there until she was five. After her family's return to England she went to two London day schools. Then, on holiday in Rome, she met Graf Henning August von Arnim, a recent widower, and married him in 1891. They lived in Berlin and had five children. After moving to Nassenheide, the house on the von Arnim estate, 'Elizabeth' anonymously published the bestselling Elizabeth and her German Garden. Several more novels followed. In 1908 she left for England, then went to live in Switzerland and wrote a dozen more books. A three-year affair with HG Wells was followed by marriage to Earl Russell, a disastrous mistake which she immortalised in Vera (1921). Expiation (1929) has until now been inexplicably omitted from the von Arnim oeuvre and never reprinted, but lays claim to be her best novel. In 1939 she went to America, where she died two years later.

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