- 1805-1977 (Creation)
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Name of creator
Born Norwich 14 August 1848. Lived at Shropham until at least 1913. Died Sheringham 19 May 1929. Daughter of William Simon Rackham and Mary Anne Elizabeth (née Smith). Married Fairman Joseph Mann (1836/7-1913), a farmer at Shropham, on 28 September 1871.
Her first novels were written in the 1880s after the births of her four children, with the help and encouragement of her husband's nephew Thomas Fairman Ordish. Her first book, 'The Parish of Hilby' was completed in 1883 and she became a well known author of her time, writing many novels and short stories about village life. Much of her early work concerning the rural poor is characterised by a grim realism and a complete lack of sentimentality. With the agricultural recession of the 1890s the Manns' income from their land was greatly reduced and Mary's earnings became essential to the family. The unsparing realism of her books sometimes made them difficult to publish - as the publishers Mills and Boon wrote to her agent 'The trouble with Mrs Mann is that she will write unpleasant books'. Apart from her novels she wrote numerous short stories in response to the growing demand from magazines, particularly during the First World War. Her husband died in 1913 and Mary then largely supported her two unmarried daughters. Her enormous output led to some reduction in quality, but her stories remain very readable. From about 1910 she also wrote plays, some adapted from her novels. Moved to Great Ormesby (Ormesby St Margaret), then to Sheringham, where she died at Cliff Road on 19 May 1929.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Received by the Norfolk Record Office on 17 April 2002 (ACC 2002/20 all except MC 2716 M) and 24 September 2010 (ACC 2010/175 numbered MC 2716 M). Catalogued August 2017 (JHA).
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Scope and content
This large collection contains her personal and literary correspondence, and manuscripts and proofs of many of her published works. Of special interest are
1) Letters to Mary Mann from her only son Fairman Rackham Mann (1872-1943), known as Rack, who was a fleet surgeon in the First World War, and who wrote about two hundred letters describing life on board ship and his war time experiences in Scotland and the Mediterranean (A/30).
2) Letters from Thomas Fairman Ordish (1855-1924), her husband's nephew, who was a Shakespearean scholar, a member of the Folklore Society, and friend of the Gommes. After his death, his family returned Mann's letters to Ordish in which she discusses her own works, contemporary writers, and her marriage and family (A1/41). Her children made fun of Ordish as tedious and fuddy-duddy, but Mann acknowledged the great debt she owed him for his encouragement and his help in getting her works published.
3) Letters and diaries of Mary Berthalina Mann (1874-1955), eldest daughter of Mary Mann. 'Bertie' Mann was a beautiful and talented artist who studied at the Slade in the 1890s. Her career as a commercial artist never really took off and her diaries show increasing boredom and anger at her monotonous life living with her mother and sister. In the early 1900s she met Hugh Leigh Norris (1874-1916), a friend of her brother 'Rack' who, like him served as a fleet surgeon in the First World War. Norris, who was a grandson of the Victorian writer Captain Marryat, wrote several plays and co-authored others with Mary Mann. By the time of the war he and Bertie were in love, and he had started divorce proceedings from his wife shortly before his death at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, having transferred to HMS Indefatigable about a week previously. The collection includes some of Norris's letters to Bertie, a war diary, and literary MSS.
4) Letters to Mary and Bertie Mann from Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959), artist, dated 1903-1911. (A1/34, D11)
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Copyright in Mary Mann's papers transferred to NRO with the papers except MC 2716 M.
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