Mary Scott (1751-93) (‘Mira’ or ‘Myra’) was the daughter of John Scott (1721-74), a linen merchant in Milborne Port, Somerset. Though raised a Calvinist in the local Independent chapel, she would later become a Unitarian, like her brother, the Revd Russell Scott of Portsmouth. After the death of her father in 1774, she continued to care for her mother, despite her engagement in 1777 to John Taylor (1752-1817), tutor at the nonconformist academy at Daventry. Eight months after her mother’s death in October 1787, Mary Scott and John Taylor were married. They had two children, Mary Ann (1789-1875) and John Edward (1791-1844), the latter becoming the founder of the Manchester Guardian in 1821. After Taylor’s marriage to Mary Scott, he served as minister to the Presbyterian congregation at Ilminster before converting to Quakerism in 1790. He eventually became a schoolmaster in Bristol, where she died in June 1793 due to complications from a pregnancy. Scott is best known today for her two long poems, The Female Advocate (1774), a poem celebrating the achievements of fifty women writers from the sixteenth through the eighteenth century, and The Messiah (1788), a poem chronicling the life and death of Christ from an Arian perspective. Scott also composed three friendship poems to Mary Steele among her surviving manuscripts in the Steele Collection at the Angus Library, Regent's Park College, Oxford. Many more of her manuscript poems were still extant in the late 1920s and viewed by Herbert McLachlan but they appear to to now be lost or possibly destroyed by Scott's descendants.

Scott's unpublished poems, along with a new edition of her two published poems and several other published poems not previously known, have been published in volume 4 of Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, gen. ed. Timothy Whelan (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), 1-106; for the most complete biographical study of Scott, see Timothy Whelan, "Mary Scott," Chapter 4 of Other British Voices: Women, Poetry, and Religion, 1766-1840 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 87-126. See also Timothy Whelan, “Mary Scott, Sarah Froud, and the Steele Literary Circle: A Revealing Annotation to The Female Advocate,Huntington Library Quarterly 77.4 (2015), pp. 435-52; idem, “When Kindred Souls Unite”: The Literary Friendship of Mary Steele and Mary Scott, 1766-1793,” Journal of Women’s Studies 43 (2014), pp. 619-40.

For a complete Bibliography of the Writings of Mary Scott, click here.

For a Bibliography of Scholarly Criticism on Mary Scott, click here.

For a Bibliography of the Reviews of The Female Advocate and Messiah, click here.