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In Memorium, Margaret Gatty
by [?]

In Memoriam.

MARGARET,

[Daughter of the Rev. Alexander John Scott, D.D.]

(LORD NELSON’S CHAPLAIN, AND THE FRIEND IN WHOSE ARMS HE DIED AT TRAFALGAR),

was Born June 3rd, 1809.

In 1839 she was Married to the Rev. Alfred Gatty,

OF ECCLESFIELD, YORKSHIRE,

where she Died on October the 4th, 1873, aged 64.

My mother became editor of Aunt Judy’s Magazine in May 1866. It was named after one of her most popular books–Aunt Judy’s Tales; and Aunt Judy became a name for herself with her numerous child-correspondents.

The ordinary work of editorship was heavily increased by her kindness to tyro authors, and to children in want of everything, from advice on a life-vocation to old foreign postage stamps. No consideration of the value of her own time could induce her to deal summarily with what one may call her magazine children, and her correspondents were of all ages and acquirements, from nursery aspirants barely beyond pothooks to such writers as the author of A Family Man for Six Days, and other charming Australian reminiscences, who still calls her his “literary godmother.”

The peculiar relation in which she stood to so many of the readers of Aunt Judy has been urged upon me as a reason for telling them something more about her than that she is dead and gone, especially as by her peremptory wish no larger record of her life will ever be made public. I need hardly disclaim any thought of expressing an opinion on her natural powers, or the value of those labours from which she rests; but whatever of good there was in them she devoted with real affectionate interest to the service of a much larger circle of children than of those who now stand desolate before her empty chair. And those whom she has so long taught have, perhaps, some claim upon the lessons of her good example.

Most well-loved pursuits, perhaps most good habits of our lives, owe their origin to our being stirred at one time or another to the imitation of some one better, or better gifted than ourselves. We can remember dates at which we began to copy what our present friends may fancy to be innate peculiarities of our own character. The conviction of this truth, and of the strong influence which little details of lives we admire have in forming our characters in childhood, persuade me to the hard task of writing at all of my dear mother, and guide me in choosing those of the things that we remember about her which may help her magazine children on matters about which they have oftenest asked her counsel.

Many of her own innumerable hobbies had such origins, I know. The influence of German literature on some of her writings is very obvious, and this most favourite study sprang chiefly from a very early fit of hero-worship for Elizabeth Smith, whose precocious and unusual acquirements she was stirred to emulate, and whose enthusiasm for Klopstock she caught. The fly-leaf of her copy of the Smith Remains bears (in her handwriting) the date 1820, with her name as Meta Scott; a form of her own Christian name which she probably adopted in honour of Margaretta–or Meta–Klopstock, and by which she was well known to friends of her youth.

She often told us, too, of the origin of another of her accomplishments. She was an exquisite caligraphist. Not only did she write the most beautiful and legible of handwritings, but, long before illuminating was “fashionable,” she illuminated on vellum; not by filling up printed texts or copying ornamental letters from handbooks of the art, but in valiant emulation of ancient MSS.; designing her own initial letters, with all varieties of characters, with “strawberry” borders, and gold raised and burnished as in the old models. I do not know when she first saw specimens of the old illuminations, for which she had always the deepest admiration, but it was in a Dante fever that she had resolved to write beautifully, because fine penmanship had been among the accomplishments of the great Italian poet. How well she succeeded her friends and her printers knew to their comfort! To Dante she dedicated some of her best efforts in this art. In 1826, when she was seventeen, she began to translate the Inferno into English verse. She made fair copies of each canto in exquisite writing, and dedicated them to various friends on covers which she illuminated. The most highly-finished was that dedicated to an old friend, Lord Tyrconnel, and the only plain one was the one dedicated to another friend, Sir Thomas Lawrence. The dedication was written in fine long characters, but there was no painting on the cover of the canto dedicated to the painter.