Mary Diana Dods

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Mary Diana Dods (1790–1830), also known under her pseudonyms as David Lyndsay and Walter Sholto Douglas, was a Scottish writer of books, short stories and other works. Most of her works were mainly under the pseudonym David Lyndsay.

Some dramas of hers were published in Blackwood's Magazine, as were several of her stories, described as "very much in the vein of Byron's Oriental tales". Dods's Dramas of the Ancient World was written at Blackwood's invitation and appeared in 1822 as by David Lyndsay.

These were published pseudonymously for reasons explained to her father(1) in a letter of 26 June 1822: "I sometimes, about once a quarter, write a criticism for the Reviewers upon some popular work, any that happen to be the fashion, for which, I am esteem'd one of the cleverest and keenest of that race of Vipers. I am paid tolerably well, ten Guineas per sheet, but this not under my own name I dare not acknowledge the Fact lest the angry Authors whose works I am compelled to maul in the course of my vocation should return the compliment and maul me in return."

She lived under the male identity of the diplomat and scholar Walter Sholto Douglas, ostensibly the spouse of Isabella Robinson Douglas, and was a friend of Mary Shelley. Correspondence between Dods and Jane Williams in the mid-1820s suggests that they too had a close relationship. In 1827 Shelley helped the two obtain false passports, enabling them to travel to Paris under the identities of Mr and Mrs Douglas.  Mr Douglas ended up in a debtor's prison and is thought to have died of his ailments between November 1829 and November 1830.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the lack of biographical information for Lyndsay and Douglas was noticed by American scholar Betty T. Bennett, who explored this and published her findings in a book on Dods in 1991.

1.  It is claimed that Mary Diana Dods and Georgiana Dods Carter were illegitimate daughters of Sholto Douglas, 15th Earl of Morton. However, the Earl died (1774) before Mary was born (1790).    However, others suggest that it was George the 16th Earl who was the father of him and his older sister Georgiana, who were raised at two residences – Dalmahoy House, the seat of their father's Scottish estate, and another in London.
2.  Walter Sholto Douglas is claimed by Adeline Douglas as being her father. She married Henry Drummond Charles Wolff, the only child of the Revd Joseph Wolff (a Rabbi’s son who converted from Judaism to Christianity) by his first wife Lady Georgiana Mary Walpole (daughter of Horatio Walpole, the Seventh Earl of Orford). He was named after the banker Henry Drummond, who had helped his father financially.

Henry later adopted the surname Drummond-Wolff because he was embarrassed by his father’s origins and ideas, and never spoke of him.

Lady Drummond-Wolff (née Adeline Douglas) is variously described in the censuses as having been born in Brussels, Scotland, and London. Her census age also varies, making her year of birth anything between 1832 and 1840; in fact, however, not only was she older than her husband (having been born in 1826/7), but her whole existence may have been a deceit, as her alleged father, Walter Sholto Douglas, does not appear to have existed.



Sources for this article include:


• The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, Edinburgh University Press, 8 Mar 2006

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