Torment of a Battleaxe; BOOKS

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), November 15, 2009 | Go to article overview

Torment of a Battleaxe; BOOKS


Byline: Roger Lewis

Margaret Rutherford: Dreadnought With Good Manners

by Andy Merriman Aurum [pounds sterling]18.99 .[pounds sterling]17.09 inc p&p (0845 155 0713) ****

Despite her splendid spaniel jowls and solid bulk, Dame Margaret Rutherford was the most evanescent of actresses. A cross between a games mistress and a fairy in dozens of classic English comedy films, she had a captivating other-worldliness.

Everything she did was a variation on her Madame Arcati, the boisterous and hearty medium in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Simultaneously imponderable and elemental, the actress seemed to be in touch with invisible powers.

Appearing on Desert Island Discs, she claimed she'd be perfectly happy as a castaway because she would turn herself into a mermaid. For recreation she adored putting on her floral bathing costume to dive into the freezing depths of the Hampstead Heath Lido. 'There is something so cleansing mentally and emotionally in feeling yourself weightless in water,' she said.

It's little wonder she had a craving for tranquillity. As Andy Merriman makes plain in this bracing biography, her life was a long saga of madness, murder and suicide. A more melodramatic background cannot be imagined.

Soon after his wedding to Florence Nicholson in 1882, William Rutherford Benn, Dame Margaret's father, was admitted to an asylum suffering from 'depression alternating with unusual excitement and irritability'. Upon his release, his father, the Rev Julius Benn (politician Tony Benn's great-uncle), took him on a recuperative holiday to Matlock. William showed his gratitude by beating his dad to death with a chamber pot.

He escaped the noose and spent seven years in Broadmoor. Margaret was born in 1892, two years after his release, but her mother Florence hanged herself from a tree in the garden when Margaret was just two. William died in another asylum in 1921. Margaret was raised by aunts in Wimbledon and threw herself into the makebelieve of school plays. 'This was to be my life,' she said. 'There could be nothing else.' Her career, however, didn't take off until she was in her 40s. For years she gave piano and elocution lessons and had walk-on parts at the Old Vic. She appeared in weekly rep in Oxford and Croydon, and was in West End plays that quickly closed. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Torment of a Battleaxe; BOOKS
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.