Catherine Amy Dawson Scott

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Catherine Amy Dawson Scott
Portrait photo of Catherine Amy Dawson Scott. She is pale with dark darly hair that falls to her chin, a slight smile on her face as she gazes off toward the left, and is wearing an ornate flower hat, beaded necklace, and possibly a cardigan over a dress.
Catherine Amy Dawson Scott
Born(1865-08-00)August 1865
Dulwich, England
Died4 November 1934(1934-11-04) (aged 69)
OccupationWriter, playwright, poet
Literary movementCo-founder of
International PEN
Notable worksThe Haunting
SpouseHoratio Francis Ninian Scott
ChildrenMarjorie, Horatio, Edward

Catherine Amy Dawson Scott (August 1865 – 4 November 1934) was an English writer, playwright and poet. She is best known as a co-founder (in 1921) of International PEN, a worldwide association of writers. In her later years she became a keen spiritualist.[1]

Background and education[edit]

Born to Ebenezer Dawson, a brick manufacturer and his wife Catherine Armstrong. Her sister, Ellen M. Dawson, was born about 1868. Henry Dawson Lowry (Cornwall) was her cousin. Catherine Amy's mother died in January 1877, when the girl was 11 and her younger sister 7. In 1878, their father remarried and by 1881, the girls and their stepmother were living or staying with her widowed mother, Sarah Ancell, in Camberwell,[2] where Catherine A. Dawson graduated from Anglo German College.[3]


At 18, she began working as a secretary, while also writing. Her "Charades For Home Acting" (44 pp.) was published by Woodford Fawcett and Co. in 1888. "Sappho", an epic poem 210 pages long, was published by Kegan Paul, Trench and Co. in 1889, at her own expense. She followed with "Idylls of Womanhood", a collection of poems published by William Heinemann in 1892. She did not marry until she was 33, to a medical doctor Horatio Francis Ninian Scott. They lived in London (Hanover Square), where their first child, Marjorie Catharine Waiora Scott, was born in 1899, then a son, Horatio Christopher L. Scott, in March 1901. Then the family moved to West Cowes on the Isle of Wight in the summer of 1902, where they lived for the next seven years. Another child, Edward Walter Lucas Scott, nicknamed Toby, was born in June 1904.

Catherine Dawson Scott, freed from daily household duties after the birth of the third child, found country life stifling and missed literary London. She resumed writing and in 1906, at age 41, published her first novel "The Story of Anna Beames" under a pen name of Mrs. Sappho. Two years later came her second novel, "The Burden", now using the name C.A. Dawson Scott. She produced seven more books in six years until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, including in 1909 "Treasure Trove", "The Agony Column", and in 1910 "Madcap Jane". In 1910, the Scott family moved back closer to London, enabling Dawson Scott to join London's literary circle.[4] Dawson Scott continued to write and publish, including "Mrs Noakes, An Ordinary Woman" (1911) and a guide (with map) titled "Nooks And Corners of Cornwall" (1911). In 1912, Dawson Scott met poet Charlotte Mary Mew, who supposedly had read her "Macap Jane".[2] In the summer of 1913, Catherine Dawson Scott asked Charlotte Mew to her home in Southall to recite a few poems to a small group of acquaintances — but the self-conscious poet only consented a year later. Mew's reading on 16 March 1914 attracted the attention of the mystic poet Evelyn Underhill, who introduced Mew journalist and critic Rolfe Scott-James, then editor of the highly regarded New Weekly.[5] At that time, Dawson Scott was also engaged in, or had just finished, editing the poems of her deceased cousin, Henry Dawson Lowry, and writing her own poems.

When World War I broke out, her husband entered the Royal Army Medical Corps[6] and was sent to France[4] while Dawson Scott, with the support of the British secretary of state for war Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, created the Women's Defence Relief Corps in late August 1914. The corps had two divisions: civil section, to substitute women for men in factories and other places of employment in order to free those men for military service; and a “semi-military” or “good citizen” section, for active recruitment of women for the armed forces, to be trained in drilling, marching and the use of arms so they could protect themselves and their loved ones on the home front in case of enemy invasion.[7] In effect, thousands of women were sent to perform land work, exploited as casual, volunteer labor.[8] When C.A. Dawson Scott and Dr. Scott returned from their military placements, they found it impossible to resume their relationship as before, after the traumatic (and alternately empowering, for Dawson Scott) experience of the war. Eventually, after 20 years of marriage, they divorced. Dr. Scott died by suicide in 1922.[9]

In the spring of 1917, Dawson Scott started the To-Morrow Club, which aimed to draw the "writers of tomorrow”, i.e. the “literary youth,” and connect them with established writers to exchange ideas, advice, and comments.[10] Dawson Scott would sometimes invite the literary agents and editors she knew to attend Club dinners, while encouraging the young writers to seize the opportunity of meeting them. The dinner meetings-cum-lectures soon became a weekly event. At the same time, Dawson Scott continued writing; she published the novel Wastralls in 1918, with which she resumed a prolific pattern of publishing a book nearly every year.

Catherine A. Dawson Scott remains best known founding of the International PEN Club in 1921, a successor to the To-Morrow Club. The PEN Club dedicated itself to fostering a community of writers who would defend the role of literature in an ever-evolving society.[9] John Galsworthy was asked to serve as PEN Club's first President and for most of the 1920s, Dawson Scott's daughter, Marjorie, served as its secretary,.[4][11] PEN was a shortened acronym for Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists, and though it was intended as apolitical, both its membership and leadership has been leftist-liberal.[12]

In addition to her organizing activities and original writing, Dawson adapted her 1921 novel The Haunting, in conjunction with some of her cousin Henry Dawson Lowry's writing, into the libretto for the opera Gale by Ethel Leginska. The opera premiered in Chicago at the Civic Opera House, with John Charles Thomas in the lead, on 23 November 1935.[13]

Psychical research[edit]

In Dawson Scott's book From Four Who Are Dead: Messages to C. A. Dawson Scott (1926), she writes that "certain small, unusual faculties had begun to develop" by her late 30s.[14] She noted that, while resting after a meal, she realized she could amuse herself by closing her eyes, thus seeing a dark tunnel in her head, and then exploring that tunnel. After a woman she had known lost her husband, Dawson Scott asserted that she had psychic powers to communicate with the dead. She supported this notion by elevating the legacy of her grandfather's cousin, the spiritualist Edmund Dawson Rogers, who co-founded the British National Association of Spiritualists, founded and edited the spiritualist journal Light, and co-founded the Society for Psychical Research in the latter part of the 19th century.

In 1929, Dawson Scott founded The Survival League, a spiritualist organization which sought to unite all religions to study psychical research. H. Dennis Bradley was its first chairman.[15] Dawson Scott wrote, "Many members of my family had [...] seen phantasms, and auras, had had prophetic dreams and so on."[14] She went on to serve as the Organising Secretary for the successor to The Survival League, the International Institute for Psychical Research. The IIPR had been formed in 1934 "for the purpose of investigating psychic phenomena on strictly scientific lines."[3] The group met for tea and to hold spiritualist seances and discuss possible methods of investigation, as well as individual cases.[3]


  • Charades for Home Acting. (1888)
  • Sappho. A Poem (1889)
  • Madcap Jane or Youth. T. Nelson & Sons (1890)
  • Idylls of Womanhood. Poems. (1892)
  • The Story of Anna Beames (1907)
  • The Burden. (1908)
  • Nooks & Corners of Cornwall. (1911)
  • Alice Bland, and The Golden Ball. Two one act plays (1912)
  • Tom, Cousin Mary, and Red Riding Hood. Three One Act Plays (1912)
  • Beyond. Poems. (1912)
  • Wastralls. W. Heinemann (1918)
  • The Headland. Heinemann (1920)
  • The Rolling Stone. A.A. Knopf (1920)
  • The Haunting (1921). (New edition: Tabb House (March 1985), ISBN 0-907018-38-6)
  • Bitter Herbs. Poems. A.A. Knopf (1923)
  • The Turn of a Day. H. Holt (1925)
  • The Vampire. A Book of Cornish and Other Stories. R. Holden & Co., Ltd (1925)
  • Blown by the Wind (1926)
  • From Four Who Are Dead: Messages to C. A. Dawson Scott (1926)
  • (as editor with Ernest Rhys): Twenty-Seven Humorous Tales (1926)
  • (with Ernest Rhys): 26 Adventure Stories, Old and New. (1929)
  • (as editor with Ernest Rhys): Mainly Horses. Tales by Various Authors. (1929)
  • The Seal Princess. George Philip & Son Ltd (1930)
  • (as editor): The Guide to Psychic Knowledge (1932)
  • The House In The Hollow Or Tender Love. Benn (1933)


  1. ^ Kemp, Sandra; Mitchell, Charlotte; Trotter, David. (1997). Edwardian Fiction: An Oxford Companion. Oxford University Press. p. 92
  2. ^ a b "Charlotte Mew Chronology with mental, historical and geographical connections linking with her own words, and listing her essays, stories, poems and friends". Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Woodlandway" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Founding History of PEN International - Independent Chinese PEN Center". Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Julia Copus essay: 'A Self Among the Crowd'". Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  6. ^ "0780 SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 26 August 1914" (PDF). Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Women join British war effort - Aug 29, 1914". Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  8. ^ "badge, civilian, British, Women's Defence Relief Corps". Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Founder Of The Pen - from the Tablet Archive". Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  10. ^ Dawson Scott, C. A (1913). C.A. Dawson Scott - Marjorie Watts papers. OCLC 702138298.
  11. ^ "Slideshow: Memories of a Wartime Childhood. By Marjorie Ann Watts - Camden Review". Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  12. ^ Birkett, Jennifer (15 October 2006). "Margaret Storm Jameson and the London PEN Centre: Mobilising Commitment". E-rea. 4 (2). doi:10.4000/erea.256. Retrieved 27 October 2016 – via
  13. ^ Margaret Ross Griffel (21 December 2012). Operas in English: A Dictionary. Scarecrow Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-8108-8325-3.
  14. ^ a b "Dawson Scott, Catharine Amy, (died 4 Nov. 1934)", Who Was Who, Oxford University Press, p. 22, 1 December 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u208426
  15. ^ Nelson, G. K. (2013 edition). Spiritualism and Society (Routledge Revivals). Routledge. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-415-71462-4

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
International President of PEN International
Succeeded by