Louisa Florence Dixie
16 January 1886
|Died||24 January 1964 (aged 78)|
|Spouse(s)||Lawrence Samuel Durrell|
|Children||Lawrence, Margaret , Leslie, Gerald|
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 raised four children, including novelist Lawrence Durrell and naturalist Gerald Durrell. She was featured as the character of "Mother" in Gerald Durrell's autobiographical Corfu Trilogy, published from 1954 to 1978, about the family's years in Corfu from 1935 to 1939.
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. Her father, George Dixie, was the head clerk and accountant of the Ganges Canal Foundry.
In India, 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 three sons and two daughters, one of whom died in infancy. Durrell was described as an anxious mother, shunning social contact just to be with her children during their formative years. The children, Lawrence , Leslie, Margaret and Gerald started school in India but the boys were sent to England for further education. Lawrence was sent 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 her time regarding the segregation of social groups.
Her husband died of a brain tumour in 1928 in Dalhousie, India when she was 42 and Louisa decided to move her family to England. She left India with her family under dire circumstances. They settled in Bournemouth in 1932. She bought a house in the area and named it Dixie Lodge.
She moved again in 1935 with her eldest son Lawrence and his new wife Nancy to the island of Corfu taking her other children with her. Her youngest son Gerald 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 as the family's well-meaning but slightly eccentric matriarch in what is known as the Corfu Trilogy: My Family and Other Animals (1954), Birds, Beasts and Relatives (1969), and The Garden of the Gods (1978).
On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 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 founded with the proceeds from his books.
Louisa died in Bournemouth in 1964 at the age of 78.
Representation in other media
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 (also shown in the United States on PBS's Masterpiece, where it was named The Durrells in Corfu).
- Botting, Douglas (2000). Gerald Durrell: The Authorised Biography (Text Only). London: Harper Collins Publishers. p. 4. ISBN 0006387306.
- Alfandary, Rony (27 September 2018). A Psychoanalytic Study of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet: Exile and Return. Routledge. ISBN 9780429782398.
- Lillios, Anna (2004). Lawrence Durrell and the Greek World. Danvers, MA: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp. p. 38. ISBN 1575910764.
- Botting, Douglas (1999). Gerald Durrell: The Authorised Biography. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-255660-X.
- Hodgkin, Joanna (9 February 2012). Amateurs In Eden: The Story of a Bohemian Marriage: Nancy and Lawrence Durrell. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 9780748131099.