Elizabeth von Arnim

Hello, book clubs

Elizabeth von Arnim crossed paths – and sometimes swords – with the leading artists, writers and thinkers of her era.

E.M. Forster tutored her children, and never forgave her for tormenting him as a young man.

She had a tempestuous relationship with writer H.G. Wells, who later wrote a kiss-and-tell account of their affair.

Elizabeth visited Bertrand Russell when he was imprisoned for pacifism during World War I, sometimes with society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell. Elizabeth remained friends with Bertrand Russell long after her disastrous marriage to his brother ended.

Virginia Woolf admired Elizabeth’s writing, some of which she considered as good as Dickens.

Elizabeth became close to her New Zealand-born cousin Katherine Mansfield when they lived in Switzerland in the 1920s. Yet theirs was a prickly friendship.

Elizabeth’s final novel, Mr Skeffington, became a Hollywood movie. Bette Davis was nominated for an Oscar for her role as the aging beauty Fanny Skeffington.

If you would like to hear more about Elizabeth’s remarkable literary life, biographer Joyce Morgan, author of The Countess from Kirribilli, would be happy to speak to your book group.

Contact her here

Elizabeth von Arnim

Writer’s corner

My work habits have featured in the weekly books newsletter of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Each week we ask an author about their writing rituals. This week: Joyce Morgan, author of The Countess from Kirribilli

If I’m at my desk by the crack of 10am, I’m happy. I have never been an early riser. What I grandly call my study is the spare bedroom, which I share with my bicycle. I follow a similar working day writing non-fiction as I did as a daily journalist. I love a deadline. So, I set myself a word count each day.

I write in silence and edit to music. But only to instrumental or orchestral music, otherwise I’m distracted by the lyrics. I am also inclined to procrastinate.

I’ve written my latest book amid pandemic lockdowns that I’ve barely noticed. Every day feels like a self-isolation day when I’m writing a book. On a good day, I lose track of time. But my Border Collie never does. Lochy pushes his wet nose around my study door on the dot of 5.30pm.