Norman Douglas (1868 - 1952)
George Norman Douglas was a British writer, now best known for his 1917 novel
Norman Douglas was born in Thüringen, Austria. His mother was Vanda von
Poellnitz. His father was John Sholto Douglas (1845-1874), manager of a cotton
mill, who died when Norman was about six. Norman was brought up mainly at
Tilquhillie, Deeside, his paternal home. He was educated at Uppingham School
England, and then at a grammar school in Karlsruhe.
He started in the diplomatic service in 1894 but was placed on leave in unclear
circumstances (probably relating to sexual scandal). In 1897 he bought a villa
in Naples. The next year he married Elizabeth Louisa Theobaldina FitzGibbon, a
cousin. They had two children, but divorced in 1903 on grounds of Elizabeth's
He moved to Capri, spending time there and in London, and became a more
committed writer. Nepenthe, the fictional island setting of South Wind,
is Capri in light disguise. In 1912-1914 he worked for The English Review. He
met D. H. Lawrence through this connection. This led to a feud, after Lawrence
in 1922 in Aaron's Rod based a character on Douglas. In late 1916 he jumped bail
in London on a charge of indecent assault on a sixteen year old boy, and
effectively then lived in exile. He himself wrote of this in self-exculpation:
"Norman Douglas of Capri, and of Naples and Florence, was formerly of England,
which he fled during the war to avoid persecution for kissing a boy and giving
him some cakes and a shilling" (the boy in fact complained to the police).
During Douglas's years in Florence, he was associated with the publisher and
bookseller Pino Orioli, who published in Italy in his 'Lungarno' series a number
of Douglas's books and also works by other English authors, many of which (such
as the first edition of Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover), would have
been prosecuted for obscenity if published in London.
Further scandals led to Douglas leaving Italy for the south of France in 1937.
During World War II Douglas left France, and on a circuitous journey to London,
where he lived from 1942 to 1946, he published the first edition of his
Almanac in a tiny edition in Lisbon. He returned to Capri, where his circle
of acquaintances included the writer Graham Greene and the food writer Elizabeth
David. He died in Capri, apparently deliberately overdosing himself on drugs
after a long illness.