Love and a Sword, 1899 (as Kennedy King)
The House with the Green Shutters, 1901
George Douglas, born George Douglas Brown, was educated at the University of Glasgow and at Oxford. He then went to London, where he contributed articles to periodicals and worked as a reader for the publisher John Macqueen. Douglas’s first literary effort was a boy’s book, Love and a Sword, written under the pseudonym Kennedy King.
Douglas drew on his Scottish background for his only major novel, The House with the Green Shutters, a story of the grim and somber aspects of Scottish life. The novel was widely acclaimed as a realistic portrait of the hard life of the Scot, and Douglas’s sense of the grim rustic defeated by a world he never made caused critics to praise the work and describe Douglas as a Scottish Thomas Hardy.
The House with the Green Shutters, described by F. R. Hart as “one of the greatest of Scottish novels,” confronts head-on the tradition of Kailyard fiction, an overly sentimentalized portrait of rural Scottish life at the end of the nineteenth century. Douglas himself described the novel as “a brutal and bloody work” with “too much black for the white in it.” The novel works primarily not in its parody but because of the strength of its weak characters: the force of John Gourlay’s stubborn pride and competitiveness, the frustrated attempts of his son at independence, the incessant whimpering of his wife, the vicious inactivity of the town’s “bodies.” If the quaint, piously simplistic worldview of the Kailyarders is a failed version, so is the selfish, materialistic, faithless society of an increasingly mercantile and industrial Scotland at the dawn of a new century.
Douglas made elaborate plans to write a vast historical romance, based in the period of Oliver Cromwell, but he died before doing any significant amount of work on the project.