Mary Diana Dods: A Gentleman and a Scholar

Mary Diana Dods: A Gentleman and a Scholar

by Betty T. Bennett
     
 
In the 1820s Mary Shelley, the celebrated author of Frankenstein, had among her many acquaintances two intriguing friends. One, the author of David Lindsay, had published admired books, poems, and short stories. The other, Walter Sholto Douglas, husband of Mary Shelley's dear friend Isabella Robinson Douglas, was an aspiring diplomat. In 1830 traces of both men

Overview

In the 1820s Mary Shelley, the celebrated author of Frankenstein, had among her many acquaintances two intriguing friends. One, the author of David Lindsay, had published admired books, poems, and short stories. The other, Walter Sholto Douglas, husband of Mary Shelley's dear friend Isabella Robinson Douglas, was an aspiring diplomat. In 1830 traces of both men suddenly and completely disappeared from Mary Shelley's life, but not from historical evidence. Betty T. Bennett came across both men as she conducted research in the Shelley correspondence, Through years of investigation, Bennett uncovered the improbable truth: David Lyndsay and Walte Sholto Douglas were the same person and, despite historical and legal evidence to the contrary, that person was a woman-Mary Diana Dods, illegitimate daughter of a Scottish aristocrat. Now, nearly two centuries later, her story is revealed as a tale of imagination and defiance, with a sly grin at posterity.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While editing the letters of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein , for publication, American University dean Bennett found references to David Lyndsay and Walter Sholto Douglas and began to seek information about them for footnotes, thus embarking on a search that yielded only cursory conclusions. During the 1820s, Shelley encountered Mary Diana Dods, who wrote under the pseudonym David Lyndsay, and her friend Isabella Robinson, a beautiful coquette. When Robinson became pregnant out of wedlock, Dods donned male attire and posed for several years as her husband, Walter Sholto Douglas. The book is at times enlightening in its discussion of 19th-century mores, but is otherwise rife with tedious paraphrasing of documents. Bennett fails to shed light on the motivation behind the Dods/Lyndsay/Douglas charade, with the result that Dods remains a figure of little interest. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Booknews
A slightly revised edition, originally published by William Morrow & Company in 1991. Recounts the author's discovery, after years of research in the Shelley correspondence, of a carefully-hidden secret: two of Mary Shelley's intriguing men friends who suddenly disappeared in 1830 apparently were the same person--a woman by the name of Mary Diana Dods--whose daring clandestine marriage to another woman defied researchers for nearly two centuries. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780688087173
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/01/1991
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
320

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