When Ella left to live in England after the death of her father Dr. Thomas C. Durant in 1885, she finally arrived into the literary social scene she had been longing for and never was able to fully realize in New York.
Once she hit London though, she was free to engage with some of the movers and shakers of the time: Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Rhoda Broughton, Lady Thackeray Ritchie. Although I can't pinpoint where or whom she associated with on a regular basis in London, due to the scant information about Ella (including lack of photos), I did find a number of letters written to her from Lady Anne Thackerary Ritchie in the Syracuse University Library collection.
Anne Ritchie was the daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, a well known author. Anne, or Anny as her close friends called her, followed in her father's footsteps. She wrote novels, essays in magazines, and was known for rewriting fairy tales such as Cinderella, with a Victorian twist. She spent her summers on the Isle of Wight at Freshwater Bay, a haven for poets - the most famous being Lord Tennyson, philosophers such as Charles Darwin, and photographers, such as Julia Margaret Cameron. She was friends with all of them.
Her numerous connections in the London literary world would have been most useful and intriguing to Ella, who was working on her play about Dante, published in 1889 by a London publishing house.
Anny's letters to Ella reveal that the two were close friends. I believe they met while William and Ella lived in London and the Isle of Wight in the mid-late 1860s. There is a photo of Anny sitting with Ella and her brother William and other family friends I presume at the Isle of Wight sometime in the late 1860s (see below). I surmise that once Ella returned to England, they met frequently for tea and had some mutual acquaintances. She tells Ella in one letter, congratulations on the sale of the family's Adirondack railroad (1889) and advises Ella not to spend her money on all of her friends. I gather Ella inherited the Durant propensity to spend lavishly on entertainment.
I can't find any reference to Ella in a collection of Anny's letters housed at Ohio University. And my query to a scholar of Anne T. Ritchie was a dead end as well. It's so frustrating to be chasing history this way. I catch snippets of clues into the lives of my characters and then hit a brick wall when it comes to details. I'm having fun doing it though. Otherwise I'd have given up by now.