Catherine Sinclair


Novelist, Writer of Children's Literature, Philanthropist, Unmasker of Waverley

Catherine Sinclair was born in Edinburgh, the fourth daughter of Sir John Sinclair, 1st Baronet and Lady Diana Macdonald. She was her father's secretary from the age of fourteen till his death in 1835. She began independent authorship, her first works being children's books, prompted by interest in her nephew. This work was a popular and a notable example of the genre, and a departure from the moralising approach of contemporary works. Sinclair wrote brightly and wittily, and displayed much skill in characterisation and description. Several of her books were popular in America such as Charlie Seymour; Lives of the Cæsars, or the Juvenile Plutarch; Holiday House: A Book for the Young (written in 1839 and once very popular with children); Modern Superstition; and Memoirs of the English Bible.

Sinclair's activities in Edinburgh included charitable works such as the establishment of cooking depots in old and new Edinburgh, and in the maintenance of a mission station at the Water of Leith. She was instrumental in securing seats for crowded thoroughfares, and she set the example in Edinburgh of instituting drinking fountains.

She is noted as being the discoverer of Sir Walter Scott's authorship of "The Waverley Novels" which were originally written anonymously.

She died at the vicarage, Kensington, the residence of her brother, Archdeacon John Sinclair on 6 Aug. 1864, and was interred in the burying-ground of St. John's Episcopal Church, Edinburgh.

A monument was erected to her memory on the SE corner of St Colme Street in Edinburgh's New Town. The monument takes the form of a miniature version of the Scott Monument as she was a major contributor to the funding of that monument.

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