Gatty, Margaret (1809–1873)

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Gatty, Margaret (1809–1873)

British author and editor. Name variations: Margaret Scott; (pseudonym) Aunt Judy. Born Margaret Scott in Burnham, Essex, England, on June 3, 1809; died at Ecclesfield vicarage in Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, England, on October 4, 1873; daughter of the Reverend Alexander Scott (1768–1840) and Mary Frances (Ryder) Scott; married Reverend Alfred Gatty, D.D., vicar of Ecclesfield, in 1839; children: ten, including daughters, Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841–1885) and Horatia Gatty Eden.

Selected writings:

The Fairy Godmother and Other Tales (1851); Parables from Nature (5 vols., 1855–1871); Aunt Judy's Tales (1858); Aunt Judy's Letters (1862); Aunt Judy's Songbook for Children; The Mother's Book of Poetry (1862); British Seaweeds (1862); History of British Seaweeds (1863); The Old Folks from Home (1871); Waifs and Strays of Natural History (1871); A Book of Emblems (1872); The Book of Sun Dials (1872).

Born in Burham, Essex, in 1809, Margaret Scott Gatty was the youngest daughter of Mary Ryder Scott and the Reverend Dr. Alexander John Scott, chaplain to Admiral Horatio Nelson. Her mother died when she was two, and her father and grandfather raised her and recognized her talent for drawing and calligraphy. She drew and etched on copper and vellum, and from the age of ten she was a regular visitor to the printroom of the British Museum.

In 1839, Margaret married the Reverend Alfred Gatty, vicar of Ecclesfield in Yorkshire, sub-dean of York cathedral, and the author of various works both secular and religious. In order to offset the costs of rearing a growing family, Margaret Gatty began writing. Her first publication, co-authored with her husband, was a biography of her father's life and his time with Nelson, published in 1842. Her first individual work, The Fairy Godmother and Other Tales, appeared in 1851. This book was a moralistic collection of fairy tales the inspiration for which came from the lively and active family life she enjoyed with her ten children, eight of whom lived to adulthood. Her second book surpassed the first in populari ty. Parables From Nature, a series of five volumes, was published from 1855 to 1871. Gatty illus trated the parables, utilizing her own artis tic skills.

In 1858, Gatty published Aunt Judy's Tales under the pseudonym Aunt Judy. She followed this withAunt Judy's Letters (1862), Aunt Judy's Songbook for Children, and The Mother's Book of Poetry. As a result of the success of Aunt Judy, Gatty established Aunt Judy's Magazine in 1866. She edited and contributed to the magazine, which featured stories and articles of writers and poets of the 19th century, from 1866 to 1873. During this time, she developed a close relationship with her young subscribers. The magazine was popular due to many factors, not the least of which was Gatty's ability to see things from a child's point of view and communicate successfully with children on that basis.

Other writings included works of both fiction and nonfiction. An accomplished botanist, Gatty wrote British Seaweeds (1862) and History of British Seaweeds (1863) which she also illustrated. As a result of these authoritative works, she had both a seaweed and a sea serpent named after her. Gatty also published an account of a holiday in Ireland, The Old Folks From Home, and edited an autobiography in 1861, The Travels and Adventures of Dr. Wolff the Missionary.

Ill health forced Gatty to turn editorship of Aunt Judy's Magazine over to her daughters, Juliana Horatia Ewing and Horatia Gatty Eden , in 1873. Increasing paralysis confined her to the vicarage at Ecclesfield, where she died later that year.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland