Gatty, Margaret (DNB00)

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GATTY, MARGARET (1809–1873), author of ‘Aunt Judy's Tales,’ youngest daughter and coheiress of the Rev. Alexander John Scott, D.D. [q. v.], Lord Nelson's chaplain in the Victory, was born at Burnham rectory, Essex, on 3 June 1809. Her mother died when she was two years old, and she was brought up at home by her father, a great lover and collector of books. At the age of ten she began to study in the print room of the British Museum, where she not only drew, but also made etchings on copper. The influence of German literature on some of her writings is very obvious, and probably had its beginning in her early admiration for Miss Elizabeth Smith. She was an excellent caligraphist, and long before illuminating was fashionable she illuminated on vellum, designing initials, reproducing the ancient strawberry borders with the gold raised and burnished as in the old models. On 8 July 1839 she married the Rev. Alfred Gatty, D.D., vicar of Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, where the remainder of her life was spent. In 1842 appeared ‘Recollections of the Life of the Rev. A. J. Scott, D.D., Lord Nelson's Chaplain. By his Daughter and Son-in-law,’ a very interesting book. She was forty-two years old when her first original work appeared. This was a series of stories brought out in 1851, under the title of ‘The Fairy Godmothers, and other Tales,’ which were most favourably received. This book was followed in 1855 by the first series of ‘Parables from Nature,’ with illustrations by herself. For some years she had made a study of seaweeds and zoophytes, and now formed the acquaintance of Dr. William Henry Harvey, the author of the ‘Phycologia Britannica.’ She was one of the first persons to show an interest in the use of chloroform on its introduction, and had it administered to herself to set a good example in Ecclesfield parish. In 1858 appeared her most popular child-book, ‘Aunt Judy's Tales,’ the title being taken from a family nickname of her daughter, Juliana Horatio Ewing [q. v.] During 1859 and 1860 she superintended the autobiography of Joseph Wolff, the Eastern traveller. By her advice he dictated his life, doing it in the third person, and ending the strange record with the formula, ‘Wolff has done.’ ‘Aunt Judy's Letters’ came out in 1862, but like many sequels was not equal in interest to the first work. In the same year she completed her book on ‘British Seaweeds,’ which was supervised by Dr. Harvey. It was written from fourteen years' experience, and was an attempt to combine scientific accuracy with the minimum of technicality. In May 1866 Mrs. Gatty established a monthly periodical for young people called ‘Aunt Judy's Magazine.’ This was a labour of love, and if the terms on which the editor lived with her contributors and child-correspondents were not very businesslike, they were at all events well adapted to so domestic a periodical. The juvenile subscribers to this magazine in 1868 and in 1876 raised two sums of 100l. each, with which two cots were endowed and maintained in the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London. The magazine was edited after Mrs. Gatty's death by her daughter, H. K. F. Gatty, until October 1885, when it came to an end; but just before its conclusion another cot was founded in memory of Mrs. Gatty and of her daughter Mrs. Ewing. The fifth and last series of the ‘Parables’ was published in 1870. Besides being reprinted in America selections from the ‘Parables’ have been translated and published in the German, French, Italian, Russian, Danish, and Swedish languages. In 1872 her last books were brought out, ‘A Book of Emblems’ and the ‘Book of Sun Dials.’

During the last ten years of her life Mrs. Gatty's health failed, and she gradually became disabled by paralysis, writing with her left hand when her right was powerless, and dictating when both failed till her speech was affected. She bore her illness with the greatest resignation. Her writings are conspicuous for truthfulness, cheerfulness, humour, and the absence of false sentiment. She saw things from the point of view of the young people, and showed a charming humour. She died at Ecclesfield vicarage on 4 Oct. 1873, and a memorial window, known as the Parable Window, was erected to her memory in Ecclesfield Church in 1874.

The following were Mrs. Gatty's works: 1. ‘Recollections of the Rev. A. J. Scott,’ 1842, with her husband. 2. ‘The Fairy Godmothers, and other Tales,’ 1851. 3. ‘Parables from Nature,’ 1855–71, 5 vols. 4. ‘Worlds not Realised,’ 1856. 5. ‘Proverbs Illustrated,’ 1857. 6. ‘The Poor Incumbent,’ 1858. 7. ‘Legendary Tales,’ with illustrations by Phiz, 1858. 8. ‘Aunt Judy's Tales,’ illustrated by Miss C. S. Lane, 1859. 9. ‘The Human Face Divine, and other Tales,’ 1860. 10. ‘The Travels and Adventures of Dr. Wolff, the Missionary,’ 1861, 2 vols., superintended by Mrs. Gatty. 11. ‘The Old Folks from Home, or a Holiday in Ireland in 1861,’ 1862. 12. ‘Melchior's Dream,’ by J. H. Gatty, ed. by Mrs. Gatty, 1862. 13. ‘Aunt Judy's Letters,’ 1862. 14. ‘British Seaweeds, drawn from Professor Harvey's “Phycologia Britannica,”’ 1863; another ed. 1872, 2 vols. 15. ‘The History of a Bit of Bread,’ by Professor J. Macé, translated from the French, 1864. 16. ‘Aunt Sally's Life,’ reprinted from ‘Aunt Judy's Letters,’ 1865. 17. ‘Domestic Pictures and Tales,’ 1866. 18. ‘Aunt Judy's Magazine,’ ed. by Mrs. Gatty, 1866–73, 6 vols. 19. ‘Proverbs Illustrated, Worlds not Realised,’ 1869. 20. ‘The Children's Mission Army,’ reprinted from ‘Mission Life,’ 1869. 21. ‘Mission Shillings,’ reprinted from ‘Mission Life,’ 1869. 22. ‘Waifs and Strays of Natural History,’ 1871. 23. ‘Aunt Judy's Song Book for Children.’ 24. ‘Select Parables from Nature, for Use in Schools,’ 1872. 25. ‘A Book of Emblems, with Interpretations thereof,’ 1872. 26. ‘The Mother's Book of Poetry,’ 1872. 27. ‘The Book of Sun Dials,’ 1872.

[Parables from Nature, with a Memoir of the Author (1885), pp. ix–xxi; A. Gatty's A Life at One Living (1884), pp. 164–7; Illustrated London News, 18 Oct. 1873, pp. 369, 370, with portrait; Aunt Judy's Mag. Christmas volume (1874), pp. 3–7; Athenæum, 11 Oct. 1873, pp. 464–5; Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 6 Oct. 1873, p. 4, and 10 Oct. p. 3; Boase's Collectanea Cornubiensia, p. 269.]

G. C. B.