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George Douglas Brown Biography

(1869–1902), Love and a Sword, The House with the Green Shutters, The Novelist, The Incompatibles

Scottish novelist, born in Ayrshire, the illegitimate son of a farmer, and brought up in difficult circumstances. He was educated at Glasgow University and Balliol College, Oxford. Moving to London to pursue a writing career, he began writing fiction for magazines and published pseudonymously a historical romance, Love and a Sword (1899). His single masterpiece, The House with the Green Shutters (1901), is set in the Low-lands town of Barbie, depicted as a nest of spite and petty intrigue. The central character is Gourlay, a trade magnate who has succeeded through canniness and ‘brute force of character’ in the carrying business. He is tyrannical in his dealings with his feckless wife, on whose dowry he built his business, and with his weak son and his self-effacing daughter; all are crushed by the monstrous strength of his domination. The ‘passion of his life’ is his house which he sees as a symbol of triumph over the village. Uncompromising in his rendering of cruelty and misery, Brown describes the rise and the fall of the House of Gourlay, its destruction from within and without, and the disgrace brought about by his son who, unable to meet his father's expectations, surrenders to drink. The novel was praised for its departure from the ‘Kailyard’ school of sentimental novels portraying Scottish provincial life. Among others, it was admired by F. R. Leavis and J. B. Priestley, and has influenced writers such as Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Brown died of pneumonia leaving behind the drafts for two novels, The Novelist and The Incompatibles.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bridgnorth Shropshire to Anthony Burgess [John Anthony Burgess Wilson Burgess] Biography