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on 26 June 2014
This book fascinated me so much I decided to read more on the subject. I started with one of my favourite novels, Olivia by O. Douglas (Thos. Nelson & Son, first published 1913 as "Olivia in India.") Everything in it seemed to confirm de Courcy's view of India under the Raj. Then I reached a description of the ritual of calling cards and thought, "this sounds exactly as de Courcy described it." Reaching for de Courcy, I looked up "calling cards" in the index and was directed to pp.94-96 where I was astonished to find O. Douglas quoted almost verbatim. Which would be fine if the quotation was attributed to her and her novel. However, de Courcy describes it thus: "When Olive Douglas paid calls in 1913 she went out with a list in her hand...As she wrote, 'if the lady is not receiving, etc....'".
Now, there was no such person as Olive Douglas. Olivia was a character in a novel and her surname is never mentioned. O. Douglas was the pen name of Anna Buchan, sister of John Buchan and a popular novelist in her own right. The events described in "Olivia" are accepted as being autobiographical for Anna Buchan paid just such a visit to India as she makes Olivia do. This explanation would have been much more convincing than inventing a supposedly real person called Olive Douglas. I wonder now how many other characters she invented for the sake of the story. O. Douglas's book is not even mentioned in the bibliography. A creditable researcher and scholar would acknowledge her sources truthfully. This has shaken my faith in the accuracy of de Courcy's writing.