espite the fact that some of her short children's books sold more than one hundred thousand copies in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, Julia Horatia Ewing (née Gatty), who had a profound influence on generations of British children, is hardly a household name today. Ewing, the daughter of a clergyman in Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, was named after one of the family's heroes, Horatio Lord Nelson, who died on the deck of H. M. S. Victory at Trafalgar in the arms of her maternal grandfather, Alexander John Scott, a chaplain in the Royal Navy.
At Ewing's urging, in 1866 her mother began Aunt Judy's Magazine, which published most of her children's stories, including her best-selling Jackanapes (1879). Her major works include Aunt Judy's Tales (1859), Aunt Judy's Letters (1862), Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances (1869), The Brownies and Other Tales (1870), A Flat Iron for a Farthing (1872), Six to Sixteen (1875), Jan of the Windmill (1876), A Great Emergency, Daddy Darwin's Dovecott (1884), and A Story of a Short Life (1885).
Shortly after her marriage in 1867, to Major Alexander ("Rex") Ewing of the Army Pay Department, the couple moved to Fredericton, New Brunswick, and remained there two years, an experience that inspired the Canadian settings and military themes of some of her stories. Her poor health prevented her following her husband to other overseas postings, such as Malta. When the Major was posted to England, the couple lived for a time at Aldershott, where she wrote Six to Sixteen. The term "Brownies" and the name of the Second World War fighter aircraft the "Spitfire" probably both derive from Ewing's writings, the former from the 1870 story "The Brownies," and the latter from the protagonist's dog in Jackanapes. She died, probably of cancer of the spine, at the age of 44.
Last modified 3 September 2007