Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert
Even though Recipes won the vote by a landslide, there were still a few votes for Famous Literary Figures, which is exciting because now I can tell you about one of my all-time favorite authors. And honestly, I think you'll like her. Her name is Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert, but you might know her as Jean Plaidy, Phillippa Carr, or the mysterious Victoria Holt. I know her best as Victoria Holt, and I have collected every Victoria Holt book that I can find. My mission is to read them all before moving on to her other pseudonyms. Victoria Holt was the name under which Eleanor published her Gothic Romances, but her love of history and strong female leads shines from every page. Her characters are life-like, her plots are complex, and the historical settings are expertly researched and crafted. But that's hardly surprising since Eleanor Hibbert has been writing since she was young. Eleanor Burford was born between 1906 and 1910 in London. The reason I say "between 1906 and 1910" is because no one knows for sure when she was born. Hibbert was a private person and kept details like her birthday and maiden name a carefully-guarded secret. She was often sick as a child and couldn't go to school on a regular basis, so she taught herself to read. It wasn't long before Eleanor fell in love with history, and that love was carried with her through the end. When she was about 16, she went to a business college and learned shorthand, typing, and languages. She then took odd jobs around London, which included sorting gems for a jeweler in Hatton Garden and acting as an interpreter for French and German tourists. Eleanor married George Hibbert when she was in her early 20s. George was an older man (some sources say he was nearly 20 years her senior) who shared Eleanor's love of books and reading. Being married gave Eleanor the freedom she needed to pursue her true passion, which was writing historical novels. She wrote a psychological study of modern life that was broken into nine long novels, but, sadly, publishers rejected all nine. Eleanor then turned to publishing smaller stories in various London newspapers, and it was the editor of the Daily Mail that told her to forget about writing serious work and write something sellable....like romance. So, Eleanor did just that.
Daughter of Anna was the first novel published under her maiden name, and Eleanor then created the pseudonyms we know and love today...as well as a few that may have been forgotten.
What fascinates me the most about Eleanor Hibbert is how she lived. She was intensely private about her personal life, and she shunned society in order to dedicate every ounce of her being into her books. She lived in a little cottage on Plaidy Beach (hence Jean Plaidy), but for three months out of the year, she would live aboard a cruise ship that sailed around the world. She visited Egypt, Greece, Italy, Austraila, and more...all places she would later incorporate into her novels.
Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert died upon that cruise ship in 1993 as it sailed between Athens, Greece and Port Said, Egypt. Eleanor was buried at sea, but a headstone was erected in her honor at St Peter's Anglican Church cemetery.
At the time of her death, Eleanor had written over 200 books and sold about 10 million copies worldwide. I could honestly go on and on because there is so much more to her that I didn't get to go into, but every article has to end somewhere. For now, I'll leave you with her most famous quote.
"Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience."
To learn more about this author and her works, visit The New York Times, A Writer of History, The New York Times (2), Royal Intrigue, The Seattle Times, Brittanica, Wikipedia, and RT Book Reviews.
The portrait came from Wikipedia. The other photo is my own collection.