Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Crowe, Catherine

CROWE, CATHERINE (1800?–1876), novelist and writer on the supernatural, was born at Borough Green in Kent about 1800. Her maiden name was Stevens. She appears to have principally resided in Edinburgh, and in her tract on spiritualism speaks of herself as having been 'a disciple of George Combe.' Her first literary work was a tragedy, 'Aristodemus,' published anonymously m 1838. She next produced a novel, 'Manorial Rights,' 1839, and in 1841 wrote her most successful work of fiction, 'Susan Hopley.' In 1844 'The Vestiges of Creation,' which Sedgwick had pronounced on internal evidence to be the work of a woman, was not unfrequently attributed to her, and she amused those in the secret by her apparent readiness to accept the honour. She was, however, employed upon quite a different class of investigation, translating Kemer's 'Seeress of Prevorst' in 1845, and publishing her 'Night Side of Nature' in 1848. This is one of the best collections of supernatural stories in our language, the energy of the authoresses own belief lending animation to her narrative. It has little value from any other point of view, being exceedingly credulous and uncritical. 'Lilly Dawson,' the most successful of her novels after 'Susan Hopley,' was published in 1847. The 'Adventures of a Beauty' and 'Light and Darkness' appeared in 1852, 'Linny Lockwood' in 1854. She also wrote another tragedy, 'The Cruel Kindness,' 1853; abridged 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' for juvenile readers; and contributed some effective tales to periodicals. In 1859 appeared a little treatise on 'Spiritualism, and the Age we live in,' with slight reference to the nominal subject, but evincing a morbid and despondent turn of mind, which resulted in a violent but brief attack of insanity. After her recovery she wrote little, but several of her works continued to be reprinted. She died in 1876. Mrs. Crowe will probably be best remembered by her 'Night Side of Nature,' but her novels are by no means devoid of merit. They are a curious and not unpleasing mixture of imagination and matter of fact. The ingenuity of the plot and the romantic nature of the incidents contrast forcibly with the prosaic character of the personages and the unimpassioned homeliness of the diction. Curiosity and sympathy are deeply excited, and much skill is shown in maintaining the interest to the last.

[Hale's Woman's Record; Men of the Time.]

R. G.