Mary Diana Dods, a Gentleman and a Scholar: A Gentleman and a Scholar

Betty T. Bennett, Author
Betty T. Bennett, Author William Morrow & Company $22.95 (303p) ISBN 978-0-688-08717-3
Paperback - 312 pages - 978-0-8018-4984-8
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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.)
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