Published in 1905, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" is a historical romance written by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. It is set during the French Revolution and follows the exploits of the Scarlet Pimpernel. He is the original hero with a secret identity. He is the precursor to such characters as Zorro and Batman. The story opens … [Read more...] about The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozalia Maria Jozefa Borbala Emmuska Orczy de Orci or Emmuska as she was called, was born in September of 1865 in Hungary. Three years after her birth her parent's composer Baron Felix Orczy de Orci and Countess Emma Wass de Szentegyed et Cage left there estate in Budapest because they feared a revolution by the peasants. They relocated to Brussels and then Paris. In Paris, Emmuska studied music but was not very successful. Then when she was fourteen, the family relocated again. This time to London.
There she attended the West London School of Art and the Heatherley's School of Fine Art. Although some of her paintings are on display at the Royal Academy in London Emmuska was not destined to become a painter. While at art school she met her future husband, Montague Maclean Barstow. He was the son of an English clergyman, and them two were very happily married for almost fifty years. They had one son, John Montague Orczy - Barstow who is believed to have written The Life and Exploits of the Scarlet Pimpernel a biography of the fictional Scarlet Pimpernel created by his mother.
To earn a little money when her child was a baby, Orczy began writing small detective stories for the Royal Magazine. Her stories of the Scarlet Pimpernel were a great success and led to play being produced in London's West End and a series of novels.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is a character who used subterfuge to save aristocrats from the guillotine during the French Revolution. In these stories, Orczy develops the "hero with the secret identity." This trope has often been reused since then. Characters such as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Superman/Clark Kent. The thoughtless playboy or the bumbling clod hiding their superhero identity.
Some use a particular weapon, such as a sword or bow and arrow, and also leave a calling card to mark their appearances, such as a Z for Zorro or a scarlet pimpernel. The hero can out wit and out think their foes and save the innocent.
Orczy also wrote stories that spotlighted her "Old Man in the Corner." His character is that of a detective that uses logic to solve crimes. She also wrote "The Nest of the Sparrowhawk." Published in 1909 it tells the story of a man who maneuvers to get his wealthy ward to marry him. With her literary success, she was able to buy a home in Monte Carlo. They lived there throughout the Nazi occupation. After her husband died in 1942, Orczy moved back to London, where she stayed the rest of her life.
Throughout her life, Orczy held strongly conservative views. She organized a group of Women of England's Active Service League. The main duty of the League was for women to convince every man of their acquaintance to join the military. In it's heyday, the group consisted of over twenty thousand women. Orczy believed strongly in an imperialist government and the aristocracy. She also had a strong opposition to the Soviet Union.
In November 1947 Baroness Emmuska Orczy died in Oxfordshire. She was 82 years old and still writing.