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Only Happiness Here

Gabrielle Carey has just written a book about Elizabeth von Arnim, Only Happiness Here, in Search of Elizabeth von Arnim. Von Arnim was born in Australia, but set sail to England with her family when she was a very small child; we might claim her as an Australian author, but she wasn’t really. She married a German count, with whom she had five children, and then a member of the English aristocracy. Neither of these marriages seem to have roaring successes, but as Gabrielle Carey notes, she seems to have had a talent for being extremely happy. In her lifetime, von Arnim enjoyed a great deal of success, and I have to say, in my lifetime too—Elizabeth von Arnim’s books were extremely popular about 30 years ago, thanks to the inimitable Virago Press.

She simply is not a ‘forgotten writer, as Carey and the publisher suggest. But she was a most notable person, she was prolific, and imaginative, vivacious and compelling. It is fascinating to read about her many friendships, mainly with men it must be said, and her quite amazing ability to be very happy, in really difficult circumstances. Gabrielle Carey has really given her subject a lot of oxygen, brought Elizabeth von Arnim to life and created a fully formed picture of this most singular person. Louise