For all the fame and success that Ouida achieved during the height of her career, the fact remains that she was extremely guarded when it came to her personal life. She was fervently against doing interviews with press, and she refused to write a nonfictional autobiography or memoir during her life. Her desire to keep her private life out of the scrutinizing ink of the press, in part, must have contributed to the widespread rumors and speculations that proliferated concomitantly with her growth in popularity in the public sphere.
In keeping with our current celebrity culture, there were rumors about whether she was a man or woman, rumors about her friendships with men and whether she joined them in their smoking habit, rumors about her marriage status, speculation about who she had been romantically involved with, and rumors about how wealthy she was and the size of her debt from one year to the next. Amazingly, there were rumors circulating about the number of dogs she had owned, even when this piece of information was one of the few aspects of her life that she openly wrote about. Some of the rumors, such as the grossly inflated number cited for the number of dogs in her household at its peak, have outlived her, and they still survive in present times. Altogether, however, we know for a fact that Ouida was born Maria Louise Ramé on January 1, 1839 in Bury St Edmunds of Suffolk County in the United Kingdom. Hence, let us celebrate the birthday of Ouida and pay homage to this gifted author who has given us—the new, late twentieth and twenty-first century generations of Ouidaites—so many wonderful novels, novellas, and short stories to enjoy.
Likewise, let us celebrate the 150th anniversary of one of her most timeless novels, Under Two Flags (1867)—a novel so memorable that it was made into a film not once but three times. There was a 1916 (Fox Film) version directed by J. Gordon Edwards starring Theda Bara as Cigarette. There was a 1922 (Universal Film) version directed by Tod Browning starring Priscilla Dean as Cigarette. And, lastly, there was a 1936 (20th Century Fox) version directed by Frank Lloyd that starred Claudette Colbert as Cigarette and Ronald Colman as Bertie Cecil. Personally, I think we are due for a new film version of the novel. Regardless, given that 2017 marks 150 years since the book’s initial publication, I recommend reading the novel (or, if you’ve already read it, rereading it) and/or watching one of these film versions to honor the author and her work.