Title: Mr. Roosevelt
Author: Compton Mackenzie
Mackenzie, Compton (1944). Mr. Roosevelt. New York: E.P. Dutton
Date Posted: April 14, 2013
Sir (Edward Montague) Compton Mackenzie, OBE (1883–1972) was a prolific writer of fiction, biography, histories, and memoir, as well as a cultural commentator, raconteur, and lifelong Scottish nationalist. He was one of the co-founders in 1928 of the Scottish National Party.
Compton Mackenzie was born in West Hartlepool, England, into a theatrical family of Mackenzies, but many of whose members used Compton as their stage surname, starting with his grandfather Henry Compton, a well-known Shakespearean actor of the Victorian era. His father, Edward Compton, was an actor and theatre company manager; his sister, Fay Compton, starred in many of J. M. Barrie’s plays, including Peter Pan.
Sir Compton Mackenzie is perhaps best known for two comedies set in Scotland, the Hebridean Whisky Galore (1947) and The Monarch of the Glen (1941), sources of a successful film and a television series respectively. He published almost a hundred books on different subjects, including ten volumes of autobiography, My Life and Times (1963–1971). He also wrote history, biography (Mr Roosevelt, 1943, a biography of FDR), literary criticism, satires, apologia (Sublime Tobacco 1957), children’s stories, poetry, and so on.
He was an influence on the young F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose first book, This Side of Paradise, was written while under his spell. Sinister Street, his lengthy 1913–14 bildungsroman, influenced the young and impressed established writers. Against the rules, George Orwell and Cyril Connolly read it as schoolboys. Max Beerbohm praised Mackenzie’s writing for vividness and emotional reality. Frank Swinnerton, literary critic, comments on Mackenzie’s “detail and wealth of reference”.
Following his conversion to Catholicism in 1914, he explored religious themes in a trilogy of novels, The Altar Steps (1922), The Parson’s Progress (1923), and The Heavenly Ladder (1924). Following his time on Capri, socializing with the gay exiles there, he treated the homosexuality of a politician sensitively in Thin Ice (1956).
He was the literary critic for the London-based national newspaper Daily Mail.