Louisa Durrell

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Louisa Florence Durrell, born Louisa Florence Dixie (16 January 1886 – 24 January 1964), was an Anglo-Irish woman born in India during the British Raj. She married and had four children, including novelist Lawrence Durrell and naturalist Gerald Durrell. She was featured as the character of "Mother" in her son Gerald Durrell's autobiographical Corfu Trilogy, published from 1954 to 1978, about the family's years in Corfu from 1935 to 1939.

Biography[edit]

Louisa Florence Dixie was born in 1886 to an Anglo-Irish Protestant family in Roorkee, India, where her family were colonials in the years of the British Raj. There she met and married her husband Lawrence Samuel Durrell, an English engineer also born in India. Together, they travelled all over India for Lawrence's engineering work.

They had four children together, three sons and a daughter: Lawrence, Leslie, Margaret, and Gerald. The children started school in India, but the boys were sent to England for further education, Lawrence going to boarding school at the age of eleven.

Louisa was actively interested in spiritualism and cookery. She was unusual for mingling more than many colonials with Indians to learn of local spirits and cuisine. She did not conform to the views of social segregation of her time between the groups.

Her husband died of a brain tumour in 1928 when she was 42 and Louisa decided to move her family to England. They settled in Bournemouth in 1932.[1]

In 1935 she moved again with her children, accompanying her eldest son Lawrence and his new wife Nancy to the island of Corfu. Her youngest son Gerald Durrell later became a naturalist; he wrote memoirs about this formative period of his childhood on Corfu, where flora and fauna abounded, and he brought animals home. He portrayed his mother Louisa, in what is known as the Corfu Trilogy, as the family's well-meaning but slightly eccentric matriarch. These works are My Family and Other Animals (1954), Birds, Beasts and Relatives (1969), and The Garden of the Gods (1978).

In 1939 at the outbreak of World War II, Louisa returned to England with her three younger children. She lived for periods with her daughter Margaret, who had a boarding house in Bournemouth. She also lived with Gerald at his home at the Jersey Zoo, which he founded with monies gained from his books. She died in Bournemouth in 1964.

Representation in other media[edit]

Gerald Durrell's trilogy has been adapted several times for British TV and radio series. Louisa was portrayed by Hannah Gordon in the 1987 BBC TV series My Family and Other Animals; by Imelda Staunton in the 2005 BBC remake; by Celia Imrie in the 2010 two-part BBC Radio drama; and by Keeley Hawes in the ITV drama The Durrells in 2016.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Botting, Douglas (1999). Gerald Durrell: The Authorised Biography. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-255660-X.