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The Baldwin Project: Margaret S. Gatty

Margaret S. Gatty

(1809 - 1873)

  Parables from Nature Allegorical Faith Stories


Margaret Scott had a most unusual education, as is shown in the wide scope of her knowledge, and the depth of character and reflection in her writings. Her father was the Rev. A. J. Scott, D.D., who was a chaplain on board the Victory when Nelson was shot. He did not believe in school life, for girls at any rate, and educated his daughter himself at home. In Margaret's case the plan resulted in her acquiring a liking for many things that were not then usual for a girl to know, and led directly to the writing of this book of wisdom.

She also had considerable artistic ability, which showed itself in some beautiful illuminated handwritings. She was also skilled at etching, with which she illustrated some of her own writings. Though her literary ability began to show itself at an early age (at seventeen she was translating Dante) she was forty-one before she began to publish. This first book was Joachim the Mimic.

Other books of short tales with morals followed, and in 1831 appeared the first series of Parables from [12] Nature. These stories were written after a long and careful study of natural history, both at first-hand and from books. Her collection of interesting natural objects was a continual inspiration. She had another inspiration too, and this arose from a wish that Hans Andersen had "pointed the moral" more often. She therefore determined to do what she could in this way herself. The outcome was the Parables from Nature, issued in five short series.

Margaret Scott married the Rev. Alfred Gatty, D.D., in 1839, who had his living at Ecclesfield, in Yorkshire. There Mrs. Gatty remained until her death. Her breadth of view and liberal-mindedness enabled her to help in the betterment of her husband's parish. When the use of chloroform to alleviate pain began, Mrs. Gutty became an enthusiastic disciple. She overcame the prejudices of the local doctor; she taught him how to use it; and then to encourage the ignorant and timid villagers, she took the first dose of the drug herself.

Incessantly writing, Mrs. Gatty published many books, among others A Book of Emblems, her last printed effort. Among the most popular of her works were Aunt Judy's Tales for children.

The Human Face Divine was published in 1859, and from then her pen was never still, and her name became a household word. In 1862 she finished British Seaweeds, with eighty-six coloured plates. As editor of Aunt Judy's Magazine she was able to exert her wise influence over a wider area.

But she had worked too hard, and on October 4, [13] 1873, she died of paralysis, which as "writer's cramp" and in other forms had been gradually bringing her to helplessness. She was a writer for all time, and will be revered for her moral qualities as well as for her delightful parabolic teachings. Her biography will probably never be written, for before her death Mrs. Gatty specially begged her friends not to attempt such a thing. Yet her beautiful nature is clearly revealed in her works, and he who reads her Parables from Nature perceives the warmly glowing soul of the writer as clearly as any biography could show him.

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