Read by David-Shaw Parker (Unabridged: 1hr 25mins)
Mary Diana Dods was born at some point in 1790. Much of the details of her life are unknown.
Accounts propose that she was one of the illegitimate daughters of George Douglas, the sixteenth Earl of Morton and that she and her older sister were raised in both Scotland and London. At the time a good education for women was a rarity but it seems Mary attended school or was home tutored.
As a writer she seems only to have published under the pseudonym of David Lyndsay. Her works appeared in periodicals such as Blackwood's Magazine and in 1822 she was asked by its founder to provide it with ‘Dramas of the Ancient World’.
Writing as a male author in Victorian England gave her freedoms which would not be extended to her own gender and, as David Lyndsay, she was able to support herself. However, by 1822 her letters show that the advent of liver disease was interfering with both work and life.
Dods thought herself a good theatre critic, was comfortable with her Scottish background and fluent in French, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.
She also assumed a male persona as the diplomat and scholar Walter Sholto Douglas, ostensibly the spouse of Isabella Robinson. The marriage was, in part, a veil for Robinson's illegitimate pregnancy. They named the child Adeline Douglas.
In 1827 her good friend and supporter Mary Shelley helped Dods and Robinson too obtain false passports, and to travel to Paris as Mr and Mrs Douglas.
In her last years she suffered further attacks of liver disease together with other unnamed mental and physical illnesses.
Her finances had always been a struggle and now her debts consigned her to a debtor’s prison. It was there, after several months within its grim walls, that Mary Diana Dods died of her ailments at some unrecorded date between November 1829 and November 1830.