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DODS, Mary Diana, otherwise Walter Sholto Douglas.

Tales of the Wild and the Wonderful.

London: Milner & Sowerby, 1867 Stock Code: 145868
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Expanded second edition of this scarce collection of historically important fairy and mythic tales by a significant writer of the Romantic period. This title was first published anonymously in 1825 and though previously attributed to George Borrow has been confidently tied to the Scottish writer, under their birth name of Mary Diana Dods (1790-1830), by Betty T. Bennett in 1980.

Dods often published anonymously and under the pseudonym of David Lyndsay, and publicly presented and wrote as Walter Sholto Douglas from 1827 onwards. The collection includes classic fairy tales, such as "The Yellow Dwarf", in which a princess's first born is promised to the eponymous character, tales of Scandinavian mythology, such as "The Lord of the Maelstrom", and stories based on classic invocations of devilry and supernatural predictions. The work chimed with the contemporary desire for Germanic fairy tales and was published in an American edition in 1826, and this second English edition in 1867 which includes two additional stories including "The Spectre-Barber", these not by Douglas but drawn from similar supernatural anthologies, and notes to "The Lord of the Maelstrom".

Douglas (17901830) was the illegitimate child of Scottish aristocrat George Douglas, 16th Earl of Morton, their illegitimacy causing their wealthy father to ignore repeated petitions for money. As a contributor to Blackwood's Magazine between 1821 and 1828 Douglas became known to Mary Shelley, and they became close friends attending the same unconventional salons in London. Shelley championed their writings and was a key supporter in the publication of the present work. In 1827 Shelley also helped them elope to Paris with a pregnant mutual friend Isabella Robinson by providing a passport under the name Walter Sholto Douglas (derived from Dod's grandfather's name). Douglas and Robinson even married under this guise, and the child when born was christened Adeline Douglas. In Paris Douglas dressed exclusively as a man and entered Anglo-French society, where they were invited to the salon of Mary Clarke and came to know many prominent writers and politicians such as Stendhal, Prosper Mérimée, and Victor Hugo. Douglas appears to have been truly enamoured with Isabella, Shelley and others noting their "sick and disconsolate manner" when Isabella was seen flirting with others (Seymour, p. 393). Despite their literary talent, and Shelley "continuing to offer their work to friendly editors in England", in 1829 Douglas was brought low by financial difficulties and illnesses both physical and mental. They were sent to debtor's Prison in Paris, and died after just a few months (ibid., p. 394), Isabella returning to England with Adeline in 1830.

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Small octavo. Original red cloth, titles to spine in gilt, Wide Wide World Library publisher's device in gilt to spine and front cover in gilt, and in blind to rear cover, frames blocked in blind to covers, edges gilt, yellow coated endpapers.


Front free endpaper sometime removed. Neat later ownership inscription of Doris Gregg of 3 Charles Street, Gomersal, in ink to the first blank. Spine cocked and lightly toned, slight rubbing to cloth, touch of wear to tips, browning to first blank, intermittent faint foxing, overall contents clean; a very good copy.


Betty T. Bennett, Mary Diana Dods: A Gentleman and a Scholar, 1991; Bleiler, Supernatural Fiction 1576; Geraldine Friedman "Pseudonymity, Passing, and Queer Biography: The Case of Mary Diana Dods", in Romanticism and Sexuality, 2001; Miranda Seymour, Mary


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