Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sinclair, Catherine

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SINCLAIR, CATHERINE (1800–1864), novelist, fourth daughter of Sir John Sinclair (1754–1835) [q. v.] by his second wife, Diana, daughter of Alexander, lord Macdonald, was born in Edinburgh on 17 April 1800. Sir George Sinclair [q. v.], John Sinclair (1797–1875) [q. v.], and William Sinclair (1804–1878) [q. v.] were her brothers. She was her father's secretary from the age of fourteen till his death in 1835. She then began independent authorship, her first works being children's books, prompted by interest in her nephew, the Hon. G. F. Boyle, son of the Earl of Glasgow. Miss Sinclair's great and varied activity found scope in Edinburgh in philanthropic exertions, in practical support of the volunteer movement, in the establishment of cooking depots in old and new Edinburgh, and in the maintenance of a mission station at the Water of Leith. She was instrumental in securing seats for crowded thoroughfares, and she set the example in Edinburgh of instituting drinking fountains, one of which bears her name. She died at the vicarage, Kensington, the residence of her brother, Archdeacon John Sinclair on 6 Aug. 1864, and was interred in the burying-ground of St. John's Episcopal Church, Edinburgh. Her portrait was drawn in crayons by James Archer, R.S.A. (cf. Cat. Third Loan Exhib. No. 620).

Miss Sinclair wrote brightly and wittily, and displayed much skill in characterisation and description. Several of her books were popular in America. Undated and early works of Miss Sinclair's are: ‘Charlie Seymour;’ ‘Lives of the Cæsars, or the Juvenile Plutarch;’ ‘Holiday House’ (once very popular with children); ‘Modern Superstition;’ and ‘Memoirs of the English Bible.’ Her other principal works are: 1. ‘Modern Accomplishments, or the March of Intellect,’ a study of female education, 1836. 2. ‘Shetland and the Shetlanders, or the Northern Circuit,’ 1840. 3. ‘Scotland and the Scotch, or the Western Circuit,’ 1840 (republished in America, and translated into various languages). 4. ‘Modern Flirtations, or a Month at Harrowgate’ [sic], 1841. 5. ‘Scotch Courtiers and the Court,’ 1842. 6. ‘Jane Bouverie, or Prosperity and Adversity,’ 1846. 7. ‘The Journey of Life,’ 1847. 8. ‘The Business of Life,’ 1848. 9. ‘Sir Edward Graham, or Railway Speculators,’ 1849. 10. ‘Lord and Lady Harcourt, or County Hospitalities,’ 1850. 11. ‘The Kaleidoscope, or Anecdotes and Aphorisms,’ 1851. 12. ‘Beatrice, or the Unknown Relatives,’ 1852. 13. ‘Popish Legends, or Bible Truths,’ 1852. 14. ‘London Homes,’ 1853. 15. ‘Cross Purposes,’ 1853. 16. ‘The Cabman's Holiday,’ 1855. 17. ‘Torchester Abbey,’ 1857. 18. ‘Anecdotes of the Cæsars,’ 1858. 19. ‘Sketches and Short Stories of Scotland and the Scotch, and Shetland and the Shetlanders,’ 1859. 20. ‘Sketches and Short Stories of Wales and the Welsh,’ 1860.

[Scotsman, 7 Aug. 1864; Gent. Mag. 1864, ii. 654; Archdeacon Sinclair's Memoir of Sir John Sinclair; Anderson's Scottish Nation; information from Mr. Cuninghame Steele, advocate, Edinburgh.]

T. B.