1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ouida

OUIDA, the pen name—derived from a childish attempt to pronounce “Louisa”—of Maria Louise [de la] Ramée (1839–1908), English novelist, born at Bury St Edmunds, where her birth was registered on the 7th of January 1839. Her father, Louis Ramée, was French, and her mother, Susan Sutton, English. At an early age she went to live in London, and there began to contribute to the New Monthly and Bentley's Magazine. In 1860 her first story, afterwards republished as field in Bondage (1863), appeared in the New Monthly under the title of Granville de Vigne, and this was followed in quick succession by Strathmore (1865), Chandos (1866) and Under Two Flags (1867). The list of Ouida’s subsequent works is a very long one; but it is sufficient to say that, together with Moths (1880), those already named are not only the most characteristic, but also the best. In a less dramatic genre, her Bimbi: Stories for Children (1882) may also be mentioned; but it was by her more flamboyant stories, such as Under Two Flags and Moths, that her popular success was achieved. By purely literary critics and on grounds of morality or taste Ouida’s novels may be condemned. They are generally flashy, and frequently unwholesome. It is impossible, however, to dismiss books like Chandos and Under Two Flags merely on such grounds. The emphasis given by Ouida to motives of sensual passion was combined in her with an original gift for situation and plot, and also with genuine descriptive powers which, though disfigured by inaccurate observation, literary solecisms and tawdry extravagance, enabled her at her best to construct a picturesque and powerful story. The character of “Cigarette” in Under Two Flags is full of fine touches, and this is not an isolated instance. In 1874 Ouida made her home in Florence, and many of her later novels have an Italian setting. She contributed from time to time to the magazines, and wrote vigorously on behalf of anti-vivisection and on Italian politics; but her views on these subjects were marked by characteristic violence and lack of judgment. She had made a great deal of money by her earlier books, but had spent it without thought for the morrow; and though in 1907 she was awarded a Civil List pension, she died at Viareggio in poverty on the 25th of January 1908.