Marie Corelli (May 1, 1855 - April 21, 1924), was a British novelist.
Born Mary Mackay in London, she was the illegitimate daughter of a well known Scottish poet and songwriter, Dr. Charles Mackay, and his servant, Elizabeth Mills. In 1866, the very young Mary Mackay was sent to a Parisian convent to further her education. She would only return to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland four years later in 1870.
Mary Mackay began her career as a musician, adopting the name Marie Corelli for her billing. She gave up music, turning to writing instead and in 1886 published her first novel, A Romance of Two Worlds. In her time, she was the most widely read author of fiction but came under harsh criticism from many of the literary elite for her overly melodramatic and emotional writing. Despite this, her works were collected by members of the British Royal Family, and by Winston and Randolph Churchill, amongst others.
Professional critics deplored her books. The Jacqueline Susann of her time, who shared her mansion with her livelong friend Bertha Vyver, her difficult ego and huge sales inspired some quotable moments of spite: Grant Allen called her, in the pages of The Spectator, "a woman of deplorable talent who imagined that she was a genius, and was accepted as a genius by a public to whose commonplace sentimentalities and prejudices she gave a glamorous setting;" James Agate represented her as combining "the imagination of a Poe with the style of an Ouida and the mentality of a nursemaid."
A recurring theme throughout Corelli's books was her attempt to reconcile Christianity with reincarnation, astral projection and other mystical topics. Her books were a very important part of the foundation of today's New Age religion, some of whose adherents say that Corelli was "inspired".
Corelli spent her final years in Stratford-upon-Avon. There, she fought hard for the preservation of Stratford's 17th century buildings, and donated money to help their owners remove the plaster or brickwork that often covered their original timber framed facades. Her eccentricity became legendary, however, and she caused much amusement by boating on the Avon in a gondola, complete with gondolier, that she had brought over from Venice. She died in Stratford and is buried there in the Evesham Road cemetery. Her house, Mason Croft, still stands on Church Street and is now the home of the Shakespeare Institute.
Some have claimed that she was homosexual, although this is clearly contradicted by her love passion in later years for Arthur Severn. Furthermore, the woman she lived with--and is mischaracterized by gay activists as Corelli's "long-time companion"--was actually an adopted sister, an orphan whose appearance among Corelli's family as a small child fostered a life-long friendship between the two women which was more filial than sapphic. 
A poem by Billy Bennett, entitled The Postman , makes reference to Corelli.
Some of Marie Corelli's works:
"A pretty little blonde woman who wrote torrentially and died of her 28th novel in her 70th year." Reader's Encyclopedia, 1948