George Douglas Brown was born in 1869 in the little village of Ochiltree, near Mauchline in Ayrshire. The illegitimate son of a local farmer and the unlettered daughter of an Irish labourer, he was raised by his mother and educated at the village primary school. When he progressed to secondary education the rector of Ayr Academy helped him to gain a bursary to the University of Glasgow where he graduated in 1891 with first class honours and the Snell Exhibition Scholarship to Balliol. He took a lively part in Oxford student life, but his studies in Classics were interrupted by periods of ill-health and depression. He returned to Ochiltree in1895 to look after his dying mother and graduated later that year with a third class degree and plans to take up a career as a freelance journalist in London.
Brown wrote and essay on Burns for Blackwoods Magazine and glossed the Scots words in reprints of John Galt’s novels. He produced a number of articles under the pen name ‘Kennedy King’ as well as an adventure novel called Love and Sword (1899). Wanting to write something more substantial about his own life experiences and the Scottish character, he produced a long story in 1900 about a character called Gourlay in a village to be called Barbie. Encouraged by his friends, he retreated to a cottage in Haslemere and began to develop the story into a novel. The House With The Green Shutters was duly published in 1901 under the name of ‘George Douglas’. The book was widely and well reviewed with comparisons being made to Balzac, Flaubert, Stevenson and Galt and even to Greek tragedy. Brown was delighted by this success and began to plan a study to be called The Novelist, writing down his subcritical theories for inclusion in ‘Rules of Writing’. Another novel to be called The Incompatibles was planned, but a bout of pneumonia weakened his already poor health and he died in 1902 at the age of only 33.