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Old 11-16-2021, 10:46 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Title: Manor
Format: Short story
Author: Karl Heinrich Ulrich
Nationality: German
Written: 1884
Published: 1884
Impact: ?
Synopsis: We’ve had the first female vampire, the first black vampire and even the first transgender vampire. Now, a hundred years before Anne Rice (almost) comes the very first gay vampire. Despite my expectations, the title does not refer to an old, crumbling house around which vampires shuffle and stalk, but is the name of the protagonist, a sailor who saves another one, Har, from drowning, and the two become friends, and in time, more than that. Manor leaves on a whaling voyage, and to Har’s dismay is drowned when the ship founders. But later Manor comes to Har and sucks his blood, as they develop a curious kind of homosexual relationship.

The village isn’t having that. Not the gay liaison; they don’t mind that. But they draw the line at vampires, and set out to destroy Manor. He’s not so easy to kill though, being strong and vital even if he is pale and ghostly-like. He’s restricted to nocturnal roaming, and stays in his coffin during the day, when the “community”, as they’re described in the summary I’m reading, try to stake him but the attempt fails because the stake needs to have a head, like that of a nail, to work, in a departure from traditional vampire lore. Also slightly different, Manor sucks the blood from Har via his nipple, rather than from his neck, and it seems too that Har is aware of, and willing to deal with the vampire, as long as he loves him.

The matter-of-fact way the villagers deal with the news that there is a vampire in their midst is quite amusing:

“To the people of Wagoe she [Har’s mother] said, "The insecurity of your graves has exposed one of us to danger. A man here is leaving his grave every evening, coming over to us and sucking his fill of blood from this poor youth."
"We'll try to secure it properly," the people of Wagoe said.

Well that’s all right then. Also hilarious is their reaction upon opening Manor’s grave (with, I should also mention, a stake “as tall as a man” - what were they going to do with it, pole vault over him??)

"One of the people of Wagoe said, "Look, he hasn't moved since the day we buried him."
"That's because he gets into the same spot each time he returns," the wise woman replied.”
Ah, the wise woman! Two things, me lord, must ye know about the wise woman, First, she is…. A woman! And second…

Har’s frantic entreaty to his vampire lover is also side-splitting.
"Manor, Manor," he cried, his voice quivering. "They're going to drive a stake into your heart. Manor, wake up. Open your eyes. It's me, your Har."

What, did he think that if the vampire woke up this would be looked on as a good thing? “Oh look, he’s awake. Throw away that stake, we don’t need it now.”

In the end they nail that sucker, and poor Har dies, but whether from blood loss or a broken heart is unclear. He asks to be buried in the same grave as Manor, and for the stake to be taken out of his lover’s body. His mother says she’ll do that, but I wonder? Still, with Har now dead and presumably with Manor forever, what reason would the vampire have to trouble the living? Or maybe they both end up haunting the village. It doesn’t say.
I guess for its time the story couldn’t be too graphic - it’s not graphic at all - and there’s actually no mention of sex in it, so perhaps it’s more implied than shown. Still, even the implication would have got Ulrichs into trouble, so it’s a brave effort to create the world’s first homosexual vampire. It is unintentionally funny though.


Title: The True Story of the Vampire
Format: Short story
Author: Count Stanislaus Eric Stenboch
Nationality: Swedish
Written: 1894
Published: 1894
Impact: ?
Synopsis: And now the first Scandivanian account, written by a Swedish author, of a vampire, which appeared apparently in Stoker’s later collection, Dracula’s Guest, published in and seems to be the second homosexual vampire story. Count Vardalek visits the castle of Baron Woopsy sorry I mean Wrondki (those nobles must stick together) and develops a passion for the younger Gabriel, who wastes and sickens under Vardelek’s attentions till he dies.

The opening lines of the story seem to mock Stoker, though his seminal novel would not be published for another three years:

“VAMPIRE STORIES ARE GENERALLY located in Styria; mine is also. Styria is by no means the romantic kind of place described by those who have certainly never been there. It is a flat, uninteresting country, only celebrated by its turkeys, its capons, and the stupidity of its inhabitants. Vampires generally arrive by night, in carriages drawn by two black horses.”

Although the story is narrated by a female, it also seems that the Count (the real one, the author) is referring to the public’s perception of his widely-known eccentricities when he says (or she says) “It is to tell how I came to spend most of my useless wealth on an asylum for stray animals that I am writing this.” Take that, polite society!

Count Stanislaus’s vampire seems to be a reluctant one, one who cannot die though he wishes to, and who seems to regret taking life, as he says about Gabriel (playing the piano): “My darling, I fain would spare thee; but thy life is my life, and I must live, I who would rather die. Will God not have any mercy on me? Oh! oh! life; oh, the torture of life!” Or perhaps, more accurately, oh the torture of having to read this! Yeah, it’s a very basic story, and if you know vampires there are zero surprises, twists or deviations from the legend. The only difference being that, as I say above, this vampire seems tortured by what he has to do.

The author himself was strange. As already mentioned, he kept a menagerie of animals, and also always travelled with a dog and a monkey, as well as a life-sized doll, which he seemed to think was alive, and his son. No, seriously. When he hadn’t got it with him, he would enquire about its health, and the rumour was that he had paid a priest a fortune to “educate” it. He was also said to sleep in a coffin, though how true this is I don’t know.

But as far as writing vampire stories goes, I’ve read his, and, no pun intended, it sucks.


Title: Lilith
Format: Novel
Author: George MacDonald
Nationality: Scottish
Written: 1895
Published: 1895
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Tres weird. In the synopsis I can find no mention at all of a vampire; this seems to be a fantasy/horror novel with plenty of disparate elements, many of which are taken from Christian belief (hence the title I guess) but I can’t see a simple undead creature anywhere. Not sure why it’s included. Look, it’s a novel: I’m not going to go reading the whole thing in the hope there may be a vampire or vampires lurking somewhere, but it does concern me that MacDonald uses as the medium of his protagonists’ passage from one world to the next a mirror, when a rather more famous novel had already used this only twenty years before.


Title: The Blood of the Vampire
Format: Novel
Author: Florence Marryat
Nationality: English
Written: 1897
Published: 1897
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Published the same year, this novel was inevitably going to suffer from comparison to Dracula, which would ride head and shoulders over all vampire novels and stories written to that point, and many after it. Its protagonist is Harriet, a female Jamaican vampire, who comes to Belgium and meets two English women, one of whom, Margaret, is dubious about allowing her to hold her baby, and finds herself drained. Baroness Gobelli invites her to England; meanwhile she spends more time with Margaret’s child, who gets progressively more ill. Eventually the baby dies, and the doctor summoned to investigate the cause can’t figure it out. It does transpire though that he knew Harriet’s father.

When Harriet gets to England she has the same effect on the Baroness’s young son, who also sickens and dies. Baroness Gobrelli accuses her of having “black blood” and “vampire blood”, and Harriet, having met and falling in love with a man, is frightened and returns to Belgium to seek the advice of the doctor. He tells her that her mother was a slave and her father performed medical experiments on his own slaves (whether or not that includes her mother I don’t know) until they revolted and killed him. He warns Harriet never to marry, but of course she is in love and goes ahead anyway. When she wakes up on her wedding morning to find her new husband dead, she is overcome with grief and takes poison.

Is this the first vampire novel or story without a self-aware vampire, I wonder? I’d have to check back, but whether deliberate by their own hand or made by another, I think every other vampire so far as at least known and recognised what they are. Harriet does not, and is horrified by the possibility she could be responsible for these deaths. She has to face that when she is presented with the still-warm corpse of her husband of a few hours on the morning after their wedding, and is so grief-stricken that she kills herself. But is she even a vampire? Well, we assume so, and it’s postulated that it’s a hereditary thing, unlike many or most of the vampires we’ve read about up to now. It’s also allied, rather uncomfortably, to her black heritage, which surely says something about racism.

The delight of the little Harriet whipping the slaves on the plantation “as a treat” is grossly disturbing, but of course meant to be so. I’m reminded of the episode “Chain of Command” in Star Trek: The Next Generation, when a Cardassian child asks his father - who is torturing Captain Picard - about the human, and the officer smiles that humans do not love their children as Cardassians do. The parallel is obvious: reduce the object of your violence to beneath the status of human and it’s no longer wrong to punish them. You’d beat a dog (well, I wouldn’t but some people would) and have no problem with it, but beating a man or a woman? Might be a little more reluctance there. The fact that slaves have been reduced to the status of mere property means there’s no need to worry about whipping them; in fact, it’s the right thing to do.

Although Harriet is of mixed-race, it’s odd how she refers to the slaves as “niggers”, obviously not including herself in their race, believing herself above them, even though she has clearly black blood in her veins and her own mother was, as she finds out later, a slave, but being brought up on the plantation she was no doubt told she was nothing like them. Quite how she can be a vampire and not know it I don’t understand: does she go into a trance or something, lose her human identity like a werewolf, only regaining it when her hunger is sated? I haven’t read the novel, but I wonder if it says or if Marryat leaves it open to conjecture?

I feel the comparisons made with Dracula and Carmilla are unfair. These two novels bookend the latter half of the nineteenth century, written within twenty years of each other and towering like two colossi over early - and indeed, later - vampire literature, so they would of course be used as a yardstick for anything that came after (or in the case of Dracula, at the same time), but I don’t see, from the admittedly short synopsis, that many similarities between the three books. Carmilla is a female vampire, yes, but seems well aware of what she is, almost glorying in it, while Dracula is, well, male, and seems to bear no real resemblance to the vampire here, nor are the events taking place in a similar location. I wonder if those two books had not been written, and assuming Marryat doesn’t use them as inspiration (which I don’t know) would her novel have been better received?
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Old 11-16-2021, 10:58 AM   #32 (permalink)
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Yes, let the trumpets ring out in glorious fanfare! We've finally reached that moment!

Roll out the red carpet!

Let the tickertape parade begin!


Next up...


Watch this space (and your back)!
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Old 12-13-2021, 03:57 PM   #33 (permalink)
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We interrupt our timeline to bring you the sad news of the passing of a legend in vampire fiction. Anne Rice, author of The Vampire Chronicles, has died aged 80 in a hospital in California from complications following a stroke. We now present our own little tribute to this remarkable woman.

Queen of the Undead: A Tribute to Anne Rice (1941 - 2021)

While it would not be fair or accurate to say Anne Rice created the genre unofficially known as vampire literature or vampire horror, she certainly was one of the first, if not the first to drag the well-worn tropes into the twentieth century, reviving the genre at a time when really all there was were novels about Bram Stoker’s most famous creation. Her first vampire novel - in fact, her first novel - was published in 1976, only a year after Stephen King’s horror masterwork Salem’s Lot, but whereas King focussed on the evil, monstrous, terrifying aspect of his vampires and made them not in the least sympathetic, Rice took a different approach with her vampires. Indeed, in the very first book, Interview with the Vampire, in which we are introduced to her star Lestat de Lioncourt, through the recollections of his protege, Louis de Pont du Lac, there’s an immediate effort by Rice to allow us to see the world through the vampire’s eyes, to realise he’s not only the monster Stoker, LeFanu and others have painted the undead as, and most importantly, he hates what he has become.

Up to now, what vampire writing there had been had mostly concentrated on presenting the vampire as a monster, something to be destroyed, and something that wanted to destroy us. Anne Rice, while never allowing us to lose sight of the fact that vampires are evil creatures, helps us understand there is more to them that lustful blood-drinking and hunting. She shows us a species, if you will, who adore art and music, love company, travel and literature, and who enjoy the finer things life has to offer, while yet at the heart of it loathing what they have become. Even Lestat, the “brat prince” of vampire literature, who revels in his debauchery and power, becomes, over the course of five novels, bored with immortality and finally reaches a revelation about his existence which even he cannot ignore.

Anne Rice was born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien on October 4 1941, to Irish Catholic parents in New Orleans, almost two months to the day before America was attacked by Japan and drawn into World War II. Her father in fact served in the navy, and did write one novel, while her mother - who had given her the unusual name of Howard because “she was a bit of a madwoman” according to Anne herself - was a badly-sinking alcoholic and would die before Anne was fifteen. Another source claims it was her father who gave Anne her name, but in 1947 she legally changed it to Anne O’Brien. After her mother passed in 1956, her father wasted no time replacing her, and also farming out his children to the local private school for girls, St. Joseph Academy, which she and her sister hated, and which may have influenced some of the claustrophobia of later novels such as Queen of the Damned and Lestat’s incarceration at the end of Memnoch the Devil.

A year after remarrying, her father moved the family to Texas, where Anne would meet her future husband, Stan Rice. After studying at the University of San Francisco and working at an insurance firm, Anne married Stan in 1961 and they moved back to San Francisco the next year. Though they lived in the heart of the Haight-Ashbury district and it was “the summer of love”, Anne did not get involved, her strict Catholic upbringing leaving her writing while outside “everyone was dropping acid and smoking grass. I was known as my own square”. Her refusal to get involved in the drug scene paid off (though she was emulating her mother, as both she and her husband were now alcoholics) and she graduated from San Francisco State with an M.A. in creative writing in 1970. Her first child, Michele, born in 1966 was diagnosed with leukemia and only lived six years, dying in 1972, surely the inspiration for Claudia, the frustrated vampire child in her first novel.

However, the uncompromising attitude of the Catholic Church, and its inherent hypocrisy so angered and affected Anne that she officially left the Church around this time, declaring herself an atheist. She would maintain this stance well into her fifties, and her, if you like, release from the bonds of Christianity was to characterise her novels and allow her to people them with creatures who mocked God, even hated God, also loved God but many of whom refused even to believe in one. It was only in Memnoch the Devil, the final book in the original Lestat story, that she would approach the subject head-on by doing something no other writer to my knowledge has ever done, and have her character speak face-to-face with God himself. And the Devil.

When her second child, Christopher, was born in 1978, she and Stan made the decision to give up the booze, Anne afraid that her son would suffer the same life she had done, and determined this would not be the case. When she first wrote Interview with the Vampire she says herself that she did not do much research, but based the idea on the horror movie Dracula’s Daughter, still managing so far as I can see to be the first author to present vampires as sympathetic beings the reader could relate to. After many rejections the novel was finally picked up and Anne was on her way. Two more vampire novels followed (in between some risque adult writing under pseudonyms) as The Vampire Chronicles began to grow and take shape. Eventually the series would run to ten novels, moving away from its central character to tell the stories of others, such as Marius, Pandora and Armand. She also diversified into other areas of horror, writing a trilogy about witches, a novel about a mummy and, later, religious novels based on the life of Christ.

She wasn’t an overnight sensation though. Critical reaction to Interview with the Vampire was mixed, and mostly negative, which caused her to question her choices and change tack for a few years. It was the sequel, The Vampire Lestat (which, it has to be said, is a far superior book and my favourite of the original trilogy) that changed the critics’ minds, and by the time the conclusion of what was at that time a trilogy, The Queen of the Damned was published, it made the New York Times Best Sellers list, going right to the top and staying on the list for a third of 1988. That year she and her family moved back to New Orleans, where they would remain and where most of her novels would be set. In 1998 she returned to the Catholic Church, though still disagreeing with many of its core stances, such as homosexuality and abortion rights, and this year too she had her first brush with death.

In truth, Anne Rice almost died twice, the first time being as above when she fell into a diabetic coma (unaware she even had diabetes) and then again in 2004 when she had a gastric bypass and almost died from an intestinal blockage. Whether this had any impact on her writing or not, she now chose to devote her remaining creative energies to praising God in her writing, though she didn’t by any means dismiss or disavow her supernatural works, those that had made her the famous figure she had become.

“I had experienced an old-fashioned, strict Roman Catholic childhood in the 1940s and 1950s ... we attended daily Mass and Communion in an enormous and magnificently decorated church.... Stained-glass windows, the Latin Mass, the detailed answers to complex questions on good and evil—these things were imprinted on my soul forever.... I left this church at age 18.... I wanted to know what was happening, why so many seemingly good people didn't believe in any organized religion yet cared passionately about their behavior and value of their lives.... I broke with the church.... I wrote many novels that without my being aware that they reflected my quest for meaning in a world without God.

"In the moment of surrender, I let go of all the theological or social questions which had kept me from [God] for countless years. I simply let them go. There was the sense, profound and wordless, that if He knew everything I did not have to know everything, and that, in seeking to know everything, I'd been, all of my life, missing the entire point. No social paradox, no historic disaster, no hideous record of injustice or misery should keep me from Him. No question of Scriptural integrity, no torment over the fate of this or that atheist or gay friend, no worry for those condemned and ostracized by my church or any other church should stand between me and Him. The reason? It was magnificently simple: He knew how or why everything happened; He knew the disposition of every single soul. He wasn't going to let anything happen by accident! Nobody was going to go to Hell by mistake.”

Without meaning to speak ill of the dead, especially someone I truly respected, I have to say this comes across as the next best thing to apologism for the Church and all the horror and evil it has presided over, even orchestrated down the centuries. It’s a blase, incredibly naive and in some ways insulting viewpoint to say “oh it’s all right cos God knows everything.” Bullshit.

But as I say, I don’t want to speak ill. I just wanted to say I completely and categorically disagree with and do not support her view expressed above.

After the death of her husband in 2002 Rice left New Orleans in 2005, with remarkable foresight or just pure dumb luck managing to miss Hurricane Katrina by months or weeks, and followed Christopher to California. In 2010 she had again had it with Christianity, as she explained the difference she saw between being a Christian and following Christ:

"Today I quit being a Christian.... I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."[83][84] Shortly thereafter, she clarified her statement: "My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

In contrast to her 1998 statement, it’s hard not to applaud and agree with this. Far too many so-called Christians don’t know what it is or what it is meant to be to be one, and have no intention of following any of the teachings of Jesus other than those that suit their own agenda. Makes me thank God I’m an atheist.

For me personally, Rice was a window into the world of horror, vampire horror and somewhat historical fiction, as I had not been a horror fan and had not seen or read Salem’s Lot, and I think I may have read Dracula beforehand, but I’m not sure. If I did, it was the only vampire novel I had read. Once I began Interview with the Vampire I was hungry for more (sorry) but at the time I read it, though it was far from its original publication date (1986 I think) it was the only one available by her, so when I saw a sequel (technically a prequel I guess) bearing the name of the anti-hero of that first novel, I didn’t need any further prompting to grab it excitedly from the shelf at Eason Book Shops and shell out my hard-earned on it. Incidentally, for those interested, I found Interview with the Vampire almost by accident, after having listened to the Sting song “Moon Over Bourbon Street” and reading that he had based it on the novel, which I then went out to find, so thanks, Sting: you did at least one good turn for me in your life.

The film adaptations of her work had a mixed reception. Even the box-office draw of Tom Cruise in the title role couldn’t win the movie of Interview with the Vampire an Academy Award, though it did very well in the box office and was a hit; it’s poorly remembered though and was quickly drowned out by movies such as the seventh in the Star Trek franchise, Generations and the truly awful The Santa Clause as Christmas approached. It did win two BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Awards) and Kirsten Dunst in her first role did well out of it, as did Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas, but few people will cite it now who are not fans. Personally I thought Cruise did a very good job, considering that Rice had slated him as “about as much my Lestat as Edward G. Robinson!” It might, though, be telling that the film’s lack of enduring appeal may have prevented Cruise from reprising the role in The Queen of the Damned, which fared much worse.

After much opposition by Anne the plan was to merge the two novels in one, which was crazy given how much ground there is to cover in one of them, never mind two. The central theme of the twins was dropped, again a ridiculous decision, and basically the movie was a mess. It barely made back its budget, making a paltry ten million as compared to the first one which almost quadrupled its initial outlay. Queen of the Damned ironically lived up to its name, receiving almost universally negative reviews, triggering a poor 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and resulting in Rice advising her fans to “forget it” as it “mutilated” her work. Even the death of its other star, Aaliyah as Akasha, the eponymous queen, a few months prior to its release, could not save the movie’s reputation. After this bomb, Rice decided television was the way to go (I could have told her that) and she and Christopher were working on a series based on The Vampire Chronicles only months before her death.

I will be the first to admit I have not read all Rice’s material. Some of her novels did not resonate with me at all. I hated Violin, was not interested in Pandora and did not read any of her non-vampire novels at all. In fact, I really only read the first five of the Vampire Chronicles: Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, The Queen of the Damned, The Tale of the Body Thief and Memnoch the Devil, which for me placed a perfect seal on the story of Lestat, including Rice’s own touching little farewell to her creation, and his personal bowing out of the story. I have not read Prince Lestat yet, though I do have Blackwood Farm: I have yet to open it though.

If Rice had not written anything beyond those five novels, I think I would have been satisfied, and perhaps so too would she. Between them, they cover all but the entire story of Lestat, her central and most important figure, from his birth through his “birth to darkness” and on to his eventual redemption, even his return to mortality. It’s hard to think of a more perfect coming of full circle in literature, and to my mind she might have been better to have left it there, but that’s just my personal opinion.

What is not in doubt is that, whether she directly influenced them or not (or whether they will admit it) Rice surely set the groundwork and prepared the road for future writers of vampire fiction, such as Charlaine Harris, L.J. Smith and Stephanie Meyer, as well as already-established authors like Brian Lumley and Tanith Lee. Of course, her treatment of the vampire as an intensely sexual (and usually bisexual or homosexual) being has led to something of a glut of what can only really be described as “vampire porn”, but I suppose that will happen with any genre, especially one so rooted in sensuality and sexuality. Whatever the result or the side-effects though, it can be hardly disputed that the woman named Howard as a girl set the blueprint for the modern vampire novel, and for the fanged monsters and debonair villains to make their way from large screen to small, kicking off a vampire craze not really equalled in popularity until the sudden obsession of the public with zombies. Anne Rice taught us that vampires aren’t just monsters and, hey, they need love too.

Rest in Peace, Anne. Your work is done.

Or to paraphrase the end of Memnoch, the Devil:
Believe me, in my words, in what I have said and in what has been written down. I am here, still, the hero of my own dreams, and let me please keep my place in yours.
I am Anne Rice.
Let me pass now from fiction into legend, and from legend into history.
Adieu, mon amour.
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Old 12-13-2021, 05:10 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Her parents named her Howard?!
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Old 12-13-2021, 07:26 PM   #35 (permalink)
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They did. There's varying stories as to who was responsible, both stories give pretty damn stupid justification for saddling a girl with such a name:

About her unusual given name, Rice said:

Well, my birth name is Howard Allen because apparently my mother thought it was a good idea to name me Howard. My father's name was Howard, she wanted to name me after Howard, and she thought it was a very interesting thing to do. She was a bit of a Bohemian, a bit of mad woman, a bit of a genius, and a great deal of a great teacher. And she had the idea that naming a woman Howard was going to give that woman an unusual advantage in the world.[16]

However, according to the authorized biography Prism of the Night, by Katherine Ramsland, Rice's father was the source of his daughter's birth name: "Thinking back to the days when his own name had been associated with girls, and perhaps in an effort to give it away, Howard named the little girl Howard Allen Frances O'Brien."[17] Rice became "Anne" on her first day of school, when a nun asked her what her name was. She told the nun "Anne," which she considered a pretty name. Her mother, who was with her, let it go without correcting her, knowing how self-conscious her daughter was of her real name. From that day on, everyone she knew addressed her as "Anne",[18][19] and her name was legally changed in 1947
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