Anya Seton

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Anya Seton
A young white bride and groom, standing arm in arm and smiling; dark-haired bride has a voluminous veil and a white gown with short sleeves; she is holding a bouquet; groom is in formal dress and wearing a corsage; his hair is side-parted and short
Anya Seton on her first wedding day, with bridegroom Hamilton Cottier, from a 1923 publication
BornAnn Seton
(1904-01-23)January 23, 1904
Manhattan, New York
DiedNovember 8, 1990(1990-11-08) (aged 86)
Old Greenwich, Connecticut
GenreHistorical fiction
Notable worksKatherine
Green Darkness
SpouseHamilton Cottier (Husband)
Hamilton M. Chase (Husband)
ParentsErnest Thompson Seton (Father)
Grace Gallatin Seton Thompson (Mother)

Anya Seton (January 23, 1904 – November 8, 1990), born Ann Seton, was an American author of historical fiction, or as she preferred they be called, "biographical novels".[1][2]


Seton published her first novel, My Theodosia, in 1941.[2]

Seton's historical novels were noted for how extensively she researched the historical facts,[3][4] and some of them were best-sellers: Dragonwyck (1944) and Foxfire (1950) were both made into Hollywood films.[2][3] Three of her books are classics in their genre and continue in their popularity to the present: Katherine, the story of Katherine Swynford, the mistress and eventual wife of John of Gaunt, and their children, who were the direct ancestors of the Tudors, Stuarts, and the modern British royal family; Green Darkness, the story of a modern couple plagued by their past life incarnations; and The Winthrop Woman about the notorious Elizabeth Fones, niece and daughter-in-law of John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.[5] Most of her novels have been recently republished, several with forewords by Philippa Gregory. In 2003, Katherine was chosen as Britain’s 95th best-loved novel of all time in a nationwide poll conducted by the BBC.[6]

Her 1962 novel Devil Water concerns James, the luckless Earl of Derwentwater and his involvement with the Jacobite rising of 1715. She also narrates the story of his brother Charles, beheaded after the 1745 rebellion, the last man to die for the cause. The action of the novel moves back and forth between Northumberland, Tyneside, London, and the United States. Seton stated that the book developed out of her love for Northumberland. She certainly visited her Snowdon cousins at Felton. Billy Pigg, the celebrated Northumbrian piper played "Derwentwater's Farewell" especially for her. The novel shows her typical thorough research of events and places, though the accents are a little wayward. Seton said that her greatest debt of all was to Miss Amy Flagg of Westoe Village in South Shields, her father's birthplace.[7]

Personal life[edit]

The grave of Anya Seton

In 1904, Seton was born in Manhattan to English-born naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton and American travel writer Grace Gallatin Seton Thompson.[2][3] She grew up in Cos Cob, Connecticut, in a wealthy family.[2][4]

Seton married twice. Her first marriage at the age of 19 was to Rhodes scholar Hamilton Cottier. They had two children,[2] Pamela and Seton Cottier.[5] Her second marriage was to investment counselor Hamilton (Chan) M. Chase in 1930. Together they had one daughter,[2] Clemency, and they divorced in 1968.[8]

She died in Old Greenwich, Connecticut,[3] and was survived by two daughters, five grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.[4] She is interred at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich.



  1. ^ Weir, Alison (2007). Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster'. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 310.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Moser, Margaret (29 September 2006). "Love in the Time of 'Green Darkness'". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d "Anya Seton, author of historical novels". Chicago Sun-Times. 11 November 1990. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2013. (subscription required)
  4. ^ a b c "Best-Selling Novelist Anya Seton Dies". The Washington Post. 11 November 1990. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2013. (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b Fowler, Glenn (10 November 1990). "Anya Seton, Author of 'Foxfire' and Other Novels, is Dead at 86". New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  6. ^ "The Big Read Top 100". BBC. August 2004. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  7. ^ Seton, Anya (2013). Devil Water. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 557. ISBN 9780547685281.
  8. ^ William E. Finch, Jr. "Anya Seton Papers". The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich. Archived from the original on 28 November 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  9. ^ MacKethan, Lucinda Hardwick (2020). Anya Seton : a writing life. Chicago, Illinois. ISBN 978-1-64160-088-0. OCLC 1152384889.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  10. ^ "Book Review: Washington Irving". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2023-01-26.

Further reading[edit]

  • MacKethan, Lucinda H. (2020). Anya Seton: A Writing Life. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1641600866.

External links[edit]