Dixie, Florence Caroline (DNB12)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

DIXIE, Lady FLORENCE CAROLINE (1857–1905), authoress and traveller, born in London on 24 May 1857, was youngest of six children of Archibald William Douglas, seventh marquis of Queensberry, by his wife,, Caroline Margaret, daughter of General Sir William Robert Clayton. Sir John Sholto Douglas, eighth marquis [q. v. Suppl. I], was her eldest brother. She was educated for the most part at home, and showed in youth literary talents. Verses from her pen were published when she was ten. Of impulsive, adventurous temper, she in early life developed a zeal for sport and travel. A first-rate rider, a good shot and swimmer, she became, while a girl, a huntress of big game; one of the first women to take up this form of sport in recent years, she visited Africa, Arabia, and the Rocky Mountains in its pursuit.

In 1875 she married Sir Alexander Beaumont Churchill Dixie, eleventh baronet (b. 1851), and had two sons, George Douglas (b. 1876) and Albert Edward Wolston Beaumont (b. 1878), a godson of King Edward VII when Prince of Wales.

Her marriage did not check her energies as a traveller. In 1878-9 she made an exploratory journey in Patagonia, and published her experiences in 'Across Patagonia' (1880). In 1879 she was war correspondent for the 'Morning Post,' during the Zulu war in South Africa. She advocated Cetewayo's release and restoration to Zululand (a course which was ultimately adopted); her views of Zulu affairs and her experiences she described in 'A Defence of Zululand and its King' (1882) and 'In the Land of Misfortune' (1882).

Soon afterwards home politics attracted her attention. While professing advanced liberalism, including home rule all round, she vehemently denounced in letters to newspapers the tyranny of the land league agitation in Ireland of 1880-3. On 17 March 1883, when fenian outrages were exciting London, Lady Florence announced that, while she was walking by the Thames near Windsor, two men disguised as women, whom she inferred to be fenian emissaries, vainly attempted her assassination. Her statement attracted worldwide attention, but Sir William Harcourt, the home secretary, declared in the House of Commons that Lady Florence's story was unconfirmed, and nothing further followed. Her discursive interests were thenceforth mainly concentrated on the advocacy of complete sex-equality. Her aims ranged from the reform of female attire to that of the royal succession law, which, she held, should prescribe the accession of the eldest child, of whichever sex, to the throne. She desired the emendation of the marriage service and of the divorce laws so as to place man and woman on the same level. She formulated such views in 'Gloriana, or the Revolution of 1900' (1890); her stories for children, 'The Young Castaways, or the Child Hunters of Patagonia' (1890), and 'Aniwee, or the Warrior Queen' (1890), had a like purpose. In later life she convinced herself of the cruelty of sport, which she denounced in 'Horrors of Sport' (1891; new edit. 1905) and the 'Mercilessness of Sport' (1901). Lady Dixie died at Glen Stuart, Annan, on 7 Nov. 1905, and was buried in the family grave at Kinmount.

Besides the works mentioned, she published: 1. 'Abel Avenged,' a dramatic tragedy, 1877. 2. 'Waifs and Strays, or the Pilgrimage of a Bohemian Abroad,' 1884. 3. 'Redeemed in Blood,' 1889. 4. 'Little Cherie, or the Trainer's Daughter,' a Mind,' 1903. 7. 'Isola, or the Disinherited,' a drama, 1903. 8. ' Izra, or a Child of Solitude,' published posthumously, 1906. A cartoon portrait appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1884.

[The Times, 8 Nov. 1905; Who's Who, 1902.]

O. J. R. H.