Baroness Orczy

Molly Of Scotland Yard

Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála “Emmuska” Orczy de Orczi was born in Tarnaörs, Heves County, Hungary on September 23rd, 1865. Her titled parents fled their estate for Budapest in 1868 fearing the threat of a peasant revolution. Thereafter they lived in Brussels, and Paris, where Emma studied music unsuccessfully. Finally, in 1880, the family moved to London and Emma attended West London School of Art and then Heatherley's School of Fine Art. Although not destined to be a painter, it was at art school that she met a young illustrator named Montague MacLean Barstow. They married in 1894. It was the start of a joyful and happy marriage «for close on half a century one of perfect happiness and understanding of perfect friendship and communion of thought.” They had very little money and Emma started to work with her husband as a translator and an illustrator to supplement his low earnings. John, their only child, was born on 25 February 1899. Emma began writing soon after his birth, producing her first novel, The Emperor's Candlesticks in 1899. Although a failure she found a small following with a series of detective stories in the Royal Magazine. Her next novel, In Mary's Reign (1901), did better. In 1903, she and her husband wrote a play based on one of her short stories about an English aristocrat, Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., who rescued French aristocrats from the French Revolution: The Scarlet Pimpernel. While waiting for a commitment from a publisher, the play started its run in the West End. It ran for four years in London and broke many stage records. This theatrical success generated huge sales for the novel. Emma wrote over a dozen sequels featuring Sir Percy Blakeney and other members of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, of which the first, I Will Repay (1906), was the most popular. None of her three subsequent plays matched the success of The Scarlet Pimpernel. She also wrote popular mystery fiction and many adventure romances. Her Lady Molly of Scotland Yard was an early example of a female detective as the main character. Other popular detective stories featured The Old Man In the Corner, a sleuth who chiefly used logic to solve crimes. Emma’s work was so successful that she was able to buy an estate in Monte Carlo. She held politically conservative views and was a staunch supporter of British imperialism and militarism. A prolific writer, publishing almost every year up to the beginning of the 1940s. She died in Henley-on-Thames on 12 November 1947.
294 printed pages


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