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Elinor Glyn (October 17, 1864 - September 23, 1943), born Elinor Sutherland, was a Britishmarker novelist and scriptwriter who pioneered mass-market women's erotic fiction. She coined the use of It as a euphemism for sex appeal. Although her works are relatively tame by modern standards, she had tremendous influence on early 20th century popular culture, and perhaps on the careers of notable Hollywood stars such as Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson.


Elinor Glyn was born in Saint Heliermarker, Jerseymarker, Channel Islands, the younger daughter of Douglas Sutherland (1838-1865), a civil engineer of Scottish descent related to the Lords Duffus, by his wife Elinor Saunders (1841-1937), of an Anglo-French family which had settled in Canada. Following the death of her father when she was just two months old, her mother returned to the parental home in Guelphmarker, Ontariomarker, Canadamarker with her two daughters Lucy Christiana and baby Elinor. Here Elinor was schooled by her grandmother, Lucy Anne Saunders nee Willcocks (an Anglo-Irish aristocrat and daughter of Sir Richard Willcocks) in the ways of upper-class society. This training not only gave her an entrée into aristocratic circles on her return to Europe, but it led her to be considered an authority on style and breeding when she worked in Hollywoodmarker in the 1920s.

Glyn's elder sister grew up to be Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, famous as the fashion designer "Lucile". Glyn's mother apparently remarried in 1871 a Mr Kennedy, and the family returned to Jersey when Glyn was eight years old. Her subsequent education at her stepfather's house was by governesses.

At the age of twenty-eight, the green-eyed red-haired but dowryless Elinor married on 27 April 1892. Her husband was Clayton Louis Glyn (1857–1915), a wealthy but spendthrift landowner, descended from Sir Richard Carr Glyn an 18th century Lord Mayor of London (according to her grandson Anthony Glyn). The couple had two daughters, Margot and Juliet, but the marriage foundered on mutual incompatibility. Glyn began writing in 1900, starting with a book based on letters to her mother. Her marriage was troubled, and Glyn began having affairs with various British aristocrats. Her Three Weeks, about an exotic Balkan queen who seduces a young British aristocrat, was allegedly inspired by her affair with Lord Alistair Innes Ker, brother of the Duke of Roxburghe, and scandalized Edwardian society. She had a long lasting affair between 1906 and 1916 with George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston. She was famously painted by society painter Philip de Laszlo at the age of 48.

As her husband fell into debt from 1908, Glyn wrote at least one novel a year to keep up her standard of living. He died in 1915 after several years of illness.

Elinor Glyn died September 23, 1943 in Chelseamarker, London, survived by her two daughters. Her elder daughter Margot Elinor, Lady Davson OBE died 10 September 1966 in Rome; she married Sir Edward Davson, 1st Baronet (14 September 1875-9 August 1937) in 1921 and had issue 2 sons Geoffrey Leo Simon Davson, who inherited his father's baronetcy (created 1927) but changed his name to Anthony Glyn (13 March 1922 - 20 January 1998), and Christopher Davson.



She pioneered mass-market women's erotic fiction, though her writing would not be considered scandalous by modern standards. She coined the use of It as a euphemism for sexuality, or sex appeal. She was the celebrated author of early 20th century bestsellers as It, Three Weeks, Beyond the Rocks, and other novels which were then considered quite racy, as tame as they might seem now.

On the strength of the popularity and notoriety of her books, Glyn moved to Hollywoodmarker to work in the movie industry in 1920. She is credited with the re-styling of Gloria Swanson from giggly starlet to elegant star. Beyond the Rocks was made into a silent film released in 1922; the Sam Wood-directed film stars Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino as a romantic pair. In 1927 she helped to make a star of actress Clara Bow for whom she coined the sobriquet "the It girl".

Apart from being a scriptwriter for the silent movie industry, working for both MGM and Paramount studios in Hollywood in the mid-1920s, she had a brief career as one of the earliest female directors.

References in popular culture

A scene in Glyn's most sensational work, Three Weeks, inspired the doggerel:

Would you like to sin
With Elinor Glyn
On a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
To err with her
On some other fur?

Glyn also makes an appearance in a 1927 Lorenz Hart song, "My Heart Stood Still" from One Dam Thing After Another:
I read my Plato
Love, I thought a sin
But since your kiss
I'm reading missus Glyn!

In Evelyn Waugh's 1952 novel Men at Arms (the first of the Sword of Honour trilogy), an air force marshal recites the poem upon spotting a polar-bear rug by the fire (p. 125).

In Dorothy L. Sayers' Unnatural Death (1927), a woman is described:‘Never had he met a woman in whom 'the great It', eloquently hymned by Mrs Elinor Glyn, was so completely lacking.'

In Meredith Willson's 1957 musical The Music Man, Marian Paroo, the Librarian, asks the prudish Mrs. Shinn, the mayor's wife, if she wouldn't rather have her daughter reading the classic Persian poetry of Omar Khayyam than Elinor Glyn, to which Mrs. Shinn replies, "What Elinor Glyn reads is her mother's problem!"

In the 2001 movie The Cat's Meow, Elinor Glyn, played by Joanna Lumley, is one of the guests aboard William Randolph Hearst's yacht on the fateful weekend Thomas Ince died. Lumley, as Glyn, provides voice-over narrative at the beginning and the end of the film.

Reviewing Glyn's novel It, Dorothy Parker wrote of the heroine, "It, hell. She had Those."

In his autobiography Mark Twain describes the time he met Glyn when they had a wide-ranging and frank discussion of "nature's laws" and other matters not to be repeated.


  • The Visits of Elizabeth (1900)
  • The Seventh Commandment (1902)
  • The Reflections of Ambrosine (1903)
  • The Damsel and the Sage (1903)
  • The Vicissitudes of Evangeline (1905) aka Red Hair
  • Beyond the Rocks (1906)
  • Three Weeks (1907)
  • The Sayings of Gradmamma and Others (1908)
  • Elizabeth Visits America (1909)
  • His Hour (1910)
  • Love Itself (1912)
  • Halcyone (1912)
  • The Reason Why (1912)
  • The Sequence (1913) aka Guinevere's Lover
  • The Contrast and Other Stories (1913)
  • Your Affectionate Godmother (1914)
  • Letters to Caroline (1914)
  • Three Things (1915)
  • The Career of Katherine Bush (1916)
  • Destruction (1918)
  • The Price of Things (1919) aka Family
  • The Point of View (1920)
  • Man and Maid (1922)
  • The Elinor Glyn System of Writing (1922)
  • The Philosophy of Love (1923)
  • Six Days (1924)
  • The Great Moment (1925)
  • This Passion Called Love (1925)
  • Love's Blindness (1926)
  • It' and Other Stories (1927)
  • The Wrinkle Book, Or, How to Keep Looking Young (1927)
  • The Man and the Moment (1927)
  • Eternal Youth (1928)
  • Knowing Men (1930)
  • The Flirt and the Flapper (1930)
  • Love's Hour (1932)
  • Glorious Flames (1932)
  • Saint or Satyr? and Other Stories (1933)
  • Sooner or Later (1933)
  • Such Men Are Dangerous (1933)
  • Romantic Adventure (1936)
  • The Third Eye (1940)


  1. Papers of Elinor Glyn, 1894-1955
  2. Contrary to this source, Lucy and Lady Duff-Gordon are one and the same. Retrieved and checked 15 March 2009.
  3. Online literature: Elinor Glyn (cited above), gives further details.
  4. Online literature: Elinor Glyn (cited above), gives further details of the reception of the book.
  5. "Historic People: Montacute's Tigress: Elinor Glyn BBC, 11 February 2009, describes their affair as an eight-year-long one which collapsed circa 1915-1916, and ended with her discovery of his engagement to marry a second time. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  6. [1]. The painting was apparently commissioned by her lover Lord Curzon who also gave her the sapphires she was wearing in the portrait. According to an informant, the painting is still owned by her family. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  7. "Death Announcements (D to G), London Times" p.3( html version). Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  8. G. Chowdharay-Best. [sic: G. Chowdhury-Best]. Anthony Glyn (obituary) The Independent (as archived in, 10 February 1998.
  9. Sarah Lyall. "Sir Anthony Glyn, 75, Author Known for Spirit and Diversity" New York Times 28 January 1998.
  10. Papers of Juliet Rhys-Williams British Library of Political and Economic Science. Retrieved 15 March 2009
  11. Burke's Peerage: Rhys-Williams Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  12. Barnett, Vincent L., 'Picturization partners: Elinor Glyn and the Thalberg contract affair', Film History, vol.19 no.3, 2007.

External links


  • Elinor Glyn painted in 1912, by commission of Lord Curzon, former Viceroy of India. Retrieved 15 March 2009.

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