The extraordinary women of Compton Mackenzie

Sir Edward Montague Compton Mackenzie (West Hartlepool 1883-Edinburgh 1972) was a Scottish writer , belonging to a theatrical family of Mackenzies, many of whose members used Compton as their stage surname.

Father Edward, in fact, was a Shakespearean actor and playmaker, sister Fay a noted actress, while his nephew Anthony Pellisier was a film director.

Strenuous defender of Scottish autonomy and co-founder of the Scottish National Party, Sir Compton Mackenzie was the author of about one hundred works of different genres, including the commemorations of Whiskey Galore and Monarch of The Glen, and the novel The Four Winds of Love, perhaps his most successful work.

The passion of Mackenzie for Capri was born by looking at some of the old prints of the island. He moved to here in 1913 and stayed for ten years with his first wife, Faith Stone.
Capri, in fact, is the setting site for the two works Vestal Fire and Extraordinary Women, in which the author focuses on local people’s ways of living.

After a first stay at Hotel Faraglioni, Compton Mackenzie settled first at Villa La Caterola and then accepted Edwin Cerio’s proposal to rent in 1914 Villa La Solitaria (ten-year rent at fifty pounds per year). During this time, the marriage relationship with Faith deteriorates, but thanks to Alex Munthe’s help, a friendly relationship remains between the two spouses.

Compton then bought a villa on Cetrella’s plain where he seems to arrange galanting meetings with young islanders.

In 1918, the arrival at Capri of a group of lesbians gave Mackenzie the inspiration to write Extraordinary Women.

In 1920, the writer’s passion for the island of Capri was cooling down and he rented property on two small islands in the Channel. Due to financial difficulties, however, in 1923 Mackenzie returned to Capri with Faith.

In 1924, Faith abandoned the property La Solitaria and sold La Cetrella to Edwin Cerio to reach Compton in England.
After the death of Faith (in 1962), Compton resigned twice: first with Christina MacSween, who died about one year later, then in 1965 with her sister Lillian MacSween.

Today in the valley, of the Mackenzie property are just two pines that the author has planted and an inscription that reminds the villa owners.


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Thursday April 16th, 2015