‘Only Happiness Here’: The Life and Work of Elizabeth von Arnim

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Born in Australia in 1866 as Mary Beauchamp, Elizabeth von Arnim was the author of 21 best-selling novels, a lover of H.G. Wells, a Prussian Countess and the wife-for a short time-of Francis Russell, brother of Bertrand. She was also Katherine Mansfield's cousin and the two writers had an intense, if occasionally prickly, relationship. 

Von Arnim's first book Elizabeth and her German Garden, published in 1898 under the pen name 'Elizabeth' was an instant best-seller; her last book, Mr Skeffington, published in 1940, just months before she died, was made into a film starring Bette Davis and Claude Rains.

In the words of Australian biographer Verna Coleman, 'Elizabeth was a mountain of vanity and had the will power to fight for what she thought her due. A powerful personality-fearless, determined, able, clever. She created a persona that took her to comparative heights for an Australian-born intruder of no class standing. Talented, musical, petite and pretty-definitely a girl from far away, even a girl from nowhere. This was the girl that was to become a tough-minded Prussian aristocrat and a dryly comic observer of European and English life.'

DR GABRIELLE CAREY published her first co-written book, Puberty Blues, in 1979. She has since written biography, autobiography, memoir, essays and articles. Her book, Moving Among Strangers: Randolph Stow and My Family (UQP 2013), was the joint winner of the 2014 Prime Minister's Award for Non-Fiction and short-listed for the 2015 National Biography Award. In 2017 Carey was awarded a NLA Fellowship to research Falling Out of Love with Ivan Southall (ASP 2018), chiefly through Southall's vast correspondence with his young readers. Carey teaches non-fiction writing at the University of Technology Sydney. She was the 2019 H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellow and is a Visiting Fellow at the School of History at ANU. Gabrielle is currently working on a biography of Elizabeth von Arnim.