Beauty’s Hour (1896)
By: Olivia Shakespear Edited by: Anne Margaret Daniel
‘Then something unforeseen happened: my reflected face grew blurred, and then faded out; and from the mist there grew a new face, of wonderful beauty; the face of my desire. It looked at me from the glass, and when I tried to speak, its lips moved too. Miss Whateley uttered a sound that was hardly a cry, and caught me by the shoulder. I got up then and faced her; she was white as death, and her eyes were almost vacant with terror.’
Olivia Shakespear (1863-1938) is best known today as the mistress and longtime friend of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, but she was also an important – if now neglected – author in her own right. Beauty’s Hour (1896), originally serialized in The Savoy and never before reprinted, is the story of Mary Gower, a young woman who is intelligent, charming, and witty – but too ‘plain’ to be noticed by the handsome Gerald Harman. Until she discovers that she possesses the ability to transform her physical appearance using only the force of her will. Now, as the beautiful Mary Hatherley, she will command the attention of all and can have any man she chooses. But will her terrifying power lead to unforeseen and terrible consequences?
A fascinating rediscovered Victorian text, Shakespear’s novella deserves a place alongside such works as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray. This edition features a new introduction and notes by Anne Margaret Daniel.