ELLA D'ARCY (1851-1939)

Ella D’Arcy was born in London in 1851 to Irish parents and educated in Germany and France. Initially, D’Arcy studied to become a visual artist but problems with her eyesight lead her to turn to fiction writing as an alternative. Before her appearance in The Yellow Book’s first volume, D’Arcy had published some of her work in Charles Dickens’s All the Year Round, as well as in Blackwood’s Magazine and Temple Bar.

Previous publishers had refused to publish D’Arcy’s short story “ Irremediable” because they felt her treatment of marriage was inappropriate. Her story, which describes the dire reality of a loveless marriage from the male perspective, lead the editor of Blackwood’s to insist that “marriage was a sacrament and should not be treated so summarily” (Mix 234). Her fiction style won acclaim, however, from Henry Harland and The Yellow Book circle. She worked with Harland as assistant editor for the periodical’s three-year run. D’Arcy was also a long-time friend of the writer Charlotte Mew, a Yellow Book contributor herself, who was in love with D’Arcy.

Both D’Arcy’s style and subject matter were ground-breaking, challenging traditional morality as much as conventional narrative styles. Her writing also questioned the standard representations of women. Of her place in English fiction, William C. Frierson has said that “the intimate and unromantic detail which characterized her presentations forecast the unsentimental analyses of the late English realists” (qtd. in Mix 235). In 1895, D’Arcy saw the publication of her first collection of short stories, Monochromes. This was followed in 1898 by another entitled Modern Instances. She published the novel The Bishop’s Dilemma that same year. D’Arcy also translated André Maurois’s biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ariel, into English. D’Arcy died in 1939.

© 2010, Ruth Knecthel

Ruth Knechtel completed her Doctorate at York University in Toronto. She has published in English Literature in Transition and Victorians Institute Journal. In addition, Ruth is in the process of building The New Woman Online, a searchable environment including rare documents related to the concept of nineteenth and twentieth century womanhood. Currently, she teaches at the University of Manitoba.

Selected Publications by D’Arcy

Selected Publications about D’Arcy


 MLA citation:
 Knechtel, Ruth. "Ella D'Arcy (1851-1939)." The Yellow Nineties Online . Ed. Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University, 2010. Web. [Date of access]. http://1890s.ca/HTML.aspx?s=darcy_bio.html