Margaret Gatty

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Margaret Gatty (née Scott)

Margaret Gatty (née Scott, 3 June 1809 – 4 October 1873) was an English children's author and writer on marine biology.[1]


Gatty was born in Burnham on Crouch, Essex, the daughter of the Rev. Alexander John Scott, D.D., a Royal Navy chaplain, who served under and was the trusted friend of Lord Nelson on board the HMS Victory before and during the Battle of Trafalgar.

She married the Rev. Alfred Gatty, D.D., Ecclesfield, Yorkshire in 1839 and moved into the vicarage of Church of St. Mary shortly after. She became a highly useful and popular writer of tales for young people. While her tales were targeted at young people, she hoped that they would influence the minds of adults as well.[2] Among her books may be mentioned Parables from Nature, Worlds not Realised, Proverbs Illustrated, and Aunt Judy's Tales. She also conducted Aunt Judy's Magazine, a family publication written by various members of Margaret's large family.[3]


Gatty became fascinated with marine biology, through her contact with her second cousin Charles Henry Gatty FRS FRSE FLS FGS etc.[4] There was also possibly some influence from William Henry Harvey, whom she had met while convalescing in Hastings in 1848. Following this, she wrote a book on British seaweeds which was more accessible than what had been written previously on the subject. She corresponded with many of the greatest marine biologists of her day including George Busk and Robert Brown. Margaret Gatty amassed a large collection of marine material, much of which gathered by her correspondents in far flung corners of the British Empire. This was donated to Weston Park Museum by her daughter, Horatia Katherine Francis Gatty.


While many see her interests in literature and science to be independent, she used the combination of children’s literature and scientific curiosity as a way to argue against Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. Primarily with the Parables from Nature, Gatty was able to preach to children in a way that they enjoyed that God and nature were never to be treated separately. The publication of the Parables came out right around the same time as evolutionary theories, so her writing was an influence on children's attitudes towards science.[2] Her writing tended to have a strong moral tone, and often used religion and God to influence the upbringing of children.[5] Victorian children’s literature at the time was designed to teach children lessons and morals rather than capture their attention. With the increased use of illustrations and folk and fairy tales, children were enjoying reading and were enjoying Gatty’s writing.[6]


Gatty suffered from ill health for most of her life and is thought to have suffered from undiagnosed Multiple Sclerosis. Her frequent bouts of illness resulted in a close friendship with Dr. George Johnston, a Doctor noted for advocating pain relieving medication. He advised her on the use of Chloroform during childbirth and Gatty became the first woman in Sheffield to use the drug during labour.

Gatty was the mother of Juliana Horatia Ewing, also a writer of children's books, and Alfred Scott-Gatty, who served as Garter Principal King of Arms.


  1. ^  "Gatty, Margaret". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ a b Rauch, Alan (1997). "Parables and Parodies: Margaret Gatty's Audiences in the Parables from Nature". Children's Literature 25: 138–150. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Sutherland, John (1990). The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction. Stanford University Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-8047-1842-3. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "The lives of 'the other Brontes'". The Yorkshire Post (Johnston Press New Media). 5 January 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Evans, Denise; Onorato, Mary. "Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism". enotes. Gale Cengage. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  7. ^ "Author Query for 'Gatty'". International Plant Names Index. 

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource