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For the New Zealand politician see Norman Douglas

Norman Douglas
George Norman Douglas (December 8 1868 - February 7 1952) was a British writer, now best known for his 1917 novel South Wind.


Norman Douglas was born in Thüringen, Austriamarker (his surname was registered at birth as Douglass). 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, Deesidemarker, his paternal home. He was educated at Uppingham Schoolmarker England, and then at a grammar school in Karlsruhemarker. Norman's paternal grandfather was the 14th Laird of Tilquhillie. Norman's maternal great-grandfather was General James Ochoncar Forbes (1765-1843), 17th Lord Forbes.

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 Naplesmarker. The next year he married Elizabeth Louisa Theobaldina FitzGibbon, a cousin (their mothers were sisters, daughters of Baron Ernst von Poellnitz). They had two children, but divorced in 1903 on grounds of Elizabeth's infidelity. Norman's first book publication, (Unprofessional Tales (1901)) was written under the pseudonym Normyx, in collaboration with Elizabeth.

He moved to Caprimarker, 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 Naplesmarker and Florencemarker, 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. Douglas probably had a major hand in writing Orioli's autobiography, Memoirs of a Bookseller.

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. (see Impossible Woman: Memoirs of Dottoressa Moore, ed. by Greene).

His last known words to those near him were - "Get these fucking nuns away from me."


South Wind remains Douglas's most famous work, and has been frequently reprinted. However it has been argued that his best work was in his travel books which combine erudition, insight, whimsicality and some fine prose. These works include Siren Land (1911), Fountains in the Sand, described as 'rambles amongst the oases of Tunisiamarker' (1912), Old Calabria (1915), Together (Austria) (1923) and Alone (Italy) (1921).

Douglas's early pamphlets on Capri were revised in Capri (privately published, 1930). His last published work was A Footnote on Capri (1952).

In the 1920s, perhaps piqued by D. H. Lawrence's success with Lady Chatterley, Douglas published Some Limericks, an anthology of more-or-less obscene limerick with a mock-scholarly critical apparatus. This classic (of its kind) has been frequently republished, often without acknowledgement in pirate editions.

List of works

  • The Forestal Conditions of Capri (1904)
  • Three Monographs (1906),
  • Some Antiquarian Notes (1907)
  • Siren Land (1911) travel book
  • Fountains In The Sand (1912)
  • Old Calabria (1915) travel book
  • London Street Games (1916)
  • South Wind (1917) novel
  • They Went (1920) novel
  • Alone (1921) travel book
  • Together (1923) travel book
  • D.H. Lawrence and Maurice Magnus: A Plea for Better Manners (1924)
  • Experiments (1925)
  • In the Beginning (1927) novel
  • Nerinda (1929)
  • One Day (1929)
  • Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology (1927)
  • Some Limericks (1928),
  • Paneros (1930). essay on aphrodisiacs
  • Capri: Materials for a Description of the Island (1930),
  • How About Europe? (1930)
  • Three Of Them (1930)
  • Looking Back (1933) autobiography
  • An Almanac (1945)
  • Late Harvest (1946) autobiography
  • Venus in the Kitchen (1952) cookery, written under the pseudonym Pilaff Bey
  • Footnote on Capri (1952)

Norman Douglas in fiction

  • Roger Williams's Lunch With Elizabeth David (Little, Brown, 1999) is a novel about Douglas's relationship with Eric Walton, the boy he took to Calabria.
  • Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers makes frequent reference to Norman Douglas.


  • H. M. Tomlinson (1931) Norman Douglas
  • John Davenport (1955), 'Introduction' to a reprint of Old Calabria
  • Mark Holloway (1976) Norman Douglas, A Biography

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