Life

By the mid-1870s she was living the comfortable life of a successful author in St John’s Wood and wished to be known (in her personal life, at least) as Mrs Lean, in honour of one Colonel Francis Lean. Thomas Ross Church, presumably embarrassed by her audacity, sued for divorce in 1878, citing his wife’s adultery as the necessary grounds. Newspaper reports of the case failed to make the connection between her personal and professional personas and she was thus spared much painful publicity. The hearing uncovered a desperately unhappily married couple who disagreed fundamentally over religion. Florence had converted to Roman Catholicism in 1870, but returned to Anglicanism following pressure from her husband. In 1874 she again turned to Rome, which probably marked the end of their marriage.

She and Francis Lean married on 5th June 1879, but it was to be short-lived, as they separated in 1881.  She gives her age as 39 on the marriage certificate (she was really 45), indicating that honesty was not a strong point of their relationship.

Urged by doctors to take a break from writing, and newly single, Florence embarked upon a career on the stage.  She toured with the D’Oyly Carte company, taking roles in two Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, appeared in The Palace of Truth with Herbert Beerbohm Tree, and also performed in an adaptation of her own novel, Her World Against a Lie at the Adelphi Theatre. Towards the end of the 1880s, she toured with George Grossmith in a two-handed revue called Entre Nous, and later performed in her own one-woman show, Love Letters.

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