Quick Draw: Is Barbara Cartland definitely still dead?

In 'Quick Draw', Sophie Quick gives short-and-sweet answers to obscure literary questions you never actually asked.

Dame Barbara Cartland in 1987. Photo: Allan Warren (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Well, Barbara's been pretty busy for a dead person. Not as busy as before the announcement of her death, 16 years ago (the legendary romance novelist authored more than 400 books in the last 20 years of her life), but still way more industrious than you’d expect from someone who is supposed to be resting in peace on a sprawling private estate in Hertfordshire under an oak tree planted by Queen Elizabeth I.

During a career of 78 years, the English socialite, gossip columnist and queen of romance authored more than 700 books. After claiming to have died at age 98 in 2000, Barbara laid low for more than a decade. Then in 2013 she sprang into action again, releasing a bunch of new novels in a series called the Barbara Cartland Pink Collection. Today more than 130 Pink Collection books, drawn from a staggering 160 manuscripts found unpublished at the time of her death, are available for purchase at barbaracartland.com.

During her lifetime, Dame Barbara Cartland composed her novels while reclining on a chaise longue, stroking her Pekingese and dictating to a secretary. She may or may not have adjusted this method in deathtime, but the Cartland universe seems to be pretty much the same as ever: dashing heroes are still sweeping idealistic virgins off their feet. Famously, Barbara’s leading ladies never had sex before marriage. 'As long as the plots keep arriving from outer space, I’ll go on with my virgins,' the great lady once said, hinting that supernatural elements may have spurred her extraordinary productivity and caused the sad sex lives of her characters. Could the same sex-negative paranormal phenomena be behind Barbara’s amazing posthumous hustle?

Or maybe there’s a simpler explanation. Barbara Cartland reportedly broke off an engagement in the early 1920s after finding out about sexual intercourse. Maybe she cancelled her own death after finding out about rigor mortis.

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