Friday, March 30, 2012

E. Phillips Oppenheim at The Cedars, Evington

We left the young E. Phillips Oppenheim living at Portland Towers, working unhappily in his father's business and spending his evenings writing stories.

A biography on the Good Reads site tells us how his career developed. He went on to manage the business before selling it when he was 40 in 1906. Meanwhile, he had been developing a considerable literary career:
He wrote his first book 'Expiation' in 1887 and in 1898 he published 'The Mysterious Mr Sabin', which he described as "The first of my long series of stories dealing with that shadowy and mysterious world of diplomacy." Thereafter he became a prolific writer and by 1900 he had had 14 novels published. 
While on a business trip to the United States in 1890 he met and married Elise Clara Hopkins of Boston and, on return to England, they lived in Evington, Leicestershire until the First World War, and had one daughter. His wife remained faithful to him throughout his life despite his frequent and highly publicised affairs, which often took place abroad and aboard his luxury yacht. 
During World War I he was one of the remarkable group of writers (Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton) recruited by Charles Masterman to contribute to the Allied propaganda effort.

In all, Oppenheim:
He wrote 116 novels, mainly of the suspense and international intrigue type, but including romances, comedies, and parables of everyday life, and 39 volumes of short stories, all of which earned him vast sums of money. 
He also wrote five novels under the pseudonym Anthony Partridge and a volume of autobiography, 'The Pool of Memory' in 1939. He is generally regarded as the earliest writer of spy fiction as we know it today, and invented the 'Rogue Male' school of adventure thrillers that was later exploited by John Buchan and Geoffrey Household.
E. Phillips Oppenheim is pretty much forgotten today, but he was an immensely popular figure in his day. His most popular novel, The Great Impersonation (1920) sold over a million copies and his IMDB profile lists 43 films made from his work.

The picture above shows The Cedars in Evington (now a pub and just up the road from the village's Baptist Chapel) when Oppenheim lived between 1897 and 1905. After that, like man a prosperous Leicester businessman since, he moved to Sheringham on the North Norfolk coast.

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