Ethel Lilian Voynich

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Ethel Lilian Voynich (Boole)

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Daughter of George Boole and Mary Everest Boole
Wife of Wilfrid Michael Voynich
Sister of Alicia Boole Stott; Margaret Taylor and Mary Ellen Hinton

Managed by: Private User
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About Ethel Lilian Voynich

Ethel Lilian Voynich, née Boole (May 11, 1864–July 27, 1960) was an Irish novelist and musician, and a supporter of several revolutionary causes. She was born in Cork.


Ethel Lilian Boole was born in Ireland on May 11, 1864 to the mathematician, George Boole, and the feminist philosopher Mary Everest, who was the niece of George Everest and an author for the early-20th-century periodical Crank. In 1893 Boole married Wilfrid Michael Voynich, a Polish revolutionary, antiquarian and bibliophile, the eponym of the Voynich manuscript. She is most famous for her novel The Gadfly, first published in 1897 in the United States (June) and Britain (September), about the struggles of an international revolutionary in Italy. This novel was very popular in the Soviet Union and was the top best seller and compulsory reading there, and was seen as ideologically useful; for similar reasons, the novel has been popular in the People's Republic of China as well. By the time of Voynich's death The Gadfly had sold an estimated 2,500,000 copies in the Soviet Union and was made into a movie in 1928 (Krazana) and 1955.

In 1955, the Soviet director Aleksandr Fajntsimmer adapted the novel into a film of the same title (Russian: Ovod). Composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote the score (see The Gadfly Suite). The Romance, a segment from this composition, along with some other excerpts, has since become very popular. Shostakovich's Gadfly theme was also used in the eighties, in the BBC TV series Reilly, Ace of Spies. In 1980 the novel was adapted again as a TV miniseries The Gadfly, featuring Sergei Bondarchuk as Father Montanelli.

According to historian Robin Bruce Lockhart, Sidney Reilly — a Russian-born adventurer and secret agent employed by the British Secret Intelligence Service — met Ethel Voynich in London in 1895. Ethel Voynich was a significant figure not only on the late Victorian literary scene but also in Russian émigré circles. Lockhart, who was also a British Secret Service agent, claims that Reilly and Voynich had a sexual liaison and voyaged to Italy together. During this scenic dalliance, Reilly apparently "bared his soul to his mistress," and revealed to her the story of his strange youth in Russia. After their brief affair had concluded, Voynich published in 1897 her novel The Gadfly, the central character of which, Arthur Burton, was allegedly based on Sidney Reilly's own early life. However, Andrew Cook, a noted biographer of Reilly, disputes Lockhart's version and counters instead that Reilly was perhaps informing on Voynich's radical, pro-émigré activities to William Melville of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch.


A minor planet 2032 Ethel discovered in 1970 by Soviet astronomer Tamara Mikhailovna Smirnova is named after her.


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Ethel Lilian Voynich's Timeline

Age 96