Baroness Orczy (1865 – 1947) was a British novelist, playwright and artist of Hungarian origin. She was most notable for her series of novels featuring the Scarlet Pimpernel. Some of her paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy in London.
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. She submitted her novelization of the story under the same title to 12 publishers. While waiting the decision of these publishers, Fred Terry and Julia Neilson accepted the play for production in the West End. Initially, it drew small audiences, but the play ran four years in London, broke many stage records, was translated and produced in other countries, and underwent several revivals. This theatrical success generated huge sales for the novel.
She went on to write over a dozen sequels featuring Sir Percy Blakeney, his family, and the other members of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, of which the first, I Will Repay (1906), was the most popular. The last Pimpernel book, Mam'zelle Guillotine, was published in 1940. 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.
Orczy's novels were racy, mannered melodramas and she favored historical fiction. In The Nest of the Sparrowhawk (1909), for example, a malicious guardian in Puritan Kent tricks his beautiful wealthy young ward into marrying him by disguising himself as an exiled French prince. He persuades his widowed sister-in-law to abet him in this plot, in which she unwittingly disgraces one of her long lost sons and finds the other murdered by the villain. Even though this novel had no link to The Scarlet Pimpernel other than its shared authorship, the publisher advertised it as part of 'The Scarlet Pimpernel Series'.
Her work was so successful that she was able to buy an estate in Monte Carlo.
"They seek him here, they seek him there.
Those Frenchmen seek him everywhere.
Is he in Heaven? - Is he in hell?
That damned annoying Pimpernel."
(from The Scarlet Pimpernel)
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- The Scarlet Pimpernel - The classic story of the adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel in Revolutionary France.
- El Dorado (Sequal to the Scarlet Pimpernel)
- I Will Repay - This is a sequel novel to the Scarlet Pimpernel. The second Pimpernel book written by Orczy, it comes (chronologically) third in the series and should be read after Sir Percy Leads the Band and before The Elusive Pimpernel.
- The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel (11 short stories) - First published in 1919, The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel is a sequel book to the classic adventure tale, The Scarlet Pimpernel. The book consists of eleven short stories about Sir Percy Blakeney’s exploits in rescuing various aristos and French citizens from the clutches of the guillotine. The stories which are listed below, are set in 1793 but appear in no particular order. They occasionally refer to events in other books in the series.
- The Old Man in the Corner - Includes one of the earliest armchair detectives.
- The Elusive Pimpernel (4th book in the series)
- Castles in the Air - a short novel or perhaps more like a collection of short stories with memories of a French rogue in the early 19th century Paris, was published in 1921.
- Lady Molly of Scotland Yard - Lady Molly of Scotland Yard is a collection of short stories about Molly Robertson-Kirk, an early fictional female detective. The author invented two immortal turn-of-the-century detectives in The Old Man in the Corner and Lady Molly of Scotland Yard. First published in 1910, Orczy’s female detective was the precursor of the lay sleuth who relies on brains rather than brawn. This was one of the first novels to feature a female detective as the main character.
16. The Laughing Cavalier; Ancestor of the Scarlet Pimpernel - The enigmatic smile of The Laughing Cavalier of Franz Hals' famous painting invites you to wonder just what mischievousness hides behind that face. In this novel, inspired by the painting, Baroness Orczy recounts the adventures of an ancestor of her famous character, the Scarlet Pimpernel. Set in Holland during the turbulent times of 1623/1624, this is the story of a swashbuckling romanticist, whose desire for wealth and success always seems to be eclipsed by his sense of what is right and gentlemanly. The same combination of savoir-faire, insouciance, deep feeling, and humor that make the Scarlet Pimpernel such an intriguing character are already present in the DNA of the Blakeney family more than 150 years before the French Revolution. Enjoy this delightful romp through the "pages" of an historical fiction that will have you laughing right along with The Laughing Cavalier.