Marie Corelli was the pen name of Minnie Mackay, who was most likely the illegitimate daughter of the Scottish poet and songwriter, Dr. Charles Mackay and his servant, Elizabeth Mills, whom he married after the death of his first wife. However, Corelli maintained that Mackay and Mills had adopted her from her mysterious Venetian mother.
When she found fame she greatly dissembled her past, and her mysterious persona was a great part of her appeal to her public. Her work combined elements of Romance, Gothic Fantasy, Spiritualism, and Science Fiction, and she is now regarded as an important precursor to New Age writing and thinking.
Corelli was Britain's best-selling novelist from the publication of her first novel A Romance of Two Worlds in 1886 until World War One. Her novels sold more than her contemporaries, including Kipling, H.G. Wells, and Conan Doyle, combined. Her books were avidly anticipated and read by royalty, including Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, and the middle masses alike. She was hugely popular in America.
She was staying at Oatlands Park on 19th May 1894 when she received a letter from her lifelong companion Bertha van der Vyver that her friend, the eminent critic, Edmund Yates had unexpectedly died of a heart attack whilst reviewing a play at the Garrick Theatre (recounted in Vyver's Memoirs).