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Walter Sholto Douglas married Isabella Robinson - apparently

I was researching the author, W. Sholto Douglas (Cromwell's Scotch Campaigns 1650-51, et al) when I stumbled across the remarkable story of Walter Sholto Douglas.

My first discovery was that there was a marriage between Walter Sholto Douglas and Isabella Robinson, who married secondly Rev. William Falconer.  Was this my historical author?

Well, maybe not, although she (wait for it) was a writer.

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

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.

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).

Coincidentally, I am preparing an article of people who used Douglas as pseudonym. I have not yet reached Mary Dods.

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Comment by William Douglas on October 2, 2019 at 21:30

Walter supposedly had a daughter, Adeline, who married Sir Henry Drummond Wolff.

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.

In her book Mary Diana Dods, A Gentleman and a Scholar (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), Betty T. Bennett puts forward a convincing argument that Walter Sholto Douglas was in fact a woman, Mary Diana Dods, the illegitimate daughter of the 15th Earl of Morton [Not possible: the Earl died (1774) before Mary was born (1790)]  and the close friend of Mary Shelley. Having worked successfully as a writer under the pseudonym David Lyndsay, she appears to have fashioned an entire life for herself as a man, calling herself Walter Sholto Douglas.

Betty Bennett believes that in 1826 Mary Diana Dods rescued the reputation of her unmarried friend, the coquette Isabella Robinson (1809–1869), by “marrying” her in the persona of Walter Sholto Douglas. Mary Shelley then helped the couple get passports and escape to Paris, where Adeline Douglas (Mrs Kingscote’s mother) was born soon afterwards. In Paris Mary Shelley introduced the couple to élite Anglo-French society and they mixed with intellectuals such as Stendhal and Fauriel.

Mary Diana Dods died in 1828, leaving her “wife”, Isabella Douglas, a respectable widow. Isabella’s daughter Adeline Douglas was then only about one year old and may never have known about her background. In 1840 her widowed mother married a clergyman, the Revd William Falconer. She died at the Villa Falconer near Pistoria at the age of 59 on 7 February 1869.

Henry Drummond-Wolff’s entry in Who’s Who stated that his wife was the daughter of Walter Sholto Douglas, and if Betty T. Bennett’s theory is correct, it is possible that he too was deceived about her origins.

Comment by William Douglas on October 2, 2019 at 20:44

The plot thickens.  Walter Sholto Douglas was the father of Adeline Douglas, who married diplomat Sir Henry Drummond Wolff.  Would the real Walter please stand up...

Comment by William Douglas on October 2, 2019 at 20:42

Making conections

The more information you can give about the people you mention, the more chance there is of someone else connecting with your family.

Dates and places of births, deaths and marriages all help to place families.

Professions also help.

'My great-grandmother mother was a Douglas from Montrose' does not give many clues to follow up! But a bit of flesh on the bones makes further research possible. But if we are told who she married, what his profession was and where the children were baptised, then we can get to work.

Maybe it is time to update the information in your profile?


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