Lewisham-born, Ida Pollock, the world’s oldest romantic novelist died at the age of 105 last Tuesday.
Writing under a dozen pen names, including Anita Charles, Averil Ives and Marguerite Bell, Pollock was the author of over 120 books, selling millions of copies throughout her 90-year career.
The centenarian continued to write ‘bodice-rippers’ until the last years of her life by dictating stories to her 70-year-old daughter, Rosemary Pollock, at their secluded home in Lanreath, Cornwall.
Pollock was born on 12 April 1908 to Fanny Osborn. As an illegitimate daughter, she narrowly avoided being smothered with a pillow at birth. After her mother bought her a typewriter, Pollock started writing short stories in her early teens and went on to publish her first full-length manuscript at the age of 20.
Speaking to BBC Radio Cornwall, Pollock said she knew she wanted to write from the age of 10: “Writing was the thing I loved, long before I had any romance. It was an instinctive part of life.”
Pollock also challenged critics of the romance genre, arguing that her stories provided joy for the forlorn and uninspired. In her own words: “A romance is never just a romance, there’s adventure, mystery and movement.”
Throughout her career, Pollock received daily letters of appreciation from her readers who took refuge in her characters. Rosemary Pollock says that her mother’s “heroines usually had a few troubles and were alone in the world and were drifting as perhaps she [Ida] had.”
As both a champion of her mother’s literature and a romance novelist herself, Rosemary said: “Her books had a special quality. They were much more than just happy endings – they were vivid and full of life, energy and optimism.”
On her 105th birthday, Pollock was appointed the vice-president of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, having been a founding member in the 1960s.
Pollock’s own love life was less turbulent than those of her characters; she was happily married to novelist Enid Blyton’s ex-husband, Hugh Pollock for thirty years.
The writer died peacefully in a nursing home in Lanreath last Tuesday, where she had spent her last weeks being treated for illness. Nevertheless, Pollock’s tales of infidels, virgins, chance meetings and reunited lovers will continue to rouse the hearts of many for years to come.
Pollock’s 124th and 125th regency romance novels are due for publication next year.