THE PAPER GARDEN: Mrs Delaney Begins Her Life’s Work at 72

by Molly Peacock

Publisher:  Bloomsbury Publishing (July 2011)
ISBN 978-1408821015

Hardback
£20

In each of the Shire books reviewed above, Mary Delaney is mentioned as an arbiter of taste in the 18th century; she is best known for her fabulous, botanically correct paper collages of flowers now housed in the British Museum. But she only started on this work as a widow in her 70s. As a young girl she was married to an elderly man called Pendarves who lived in an Elizabethan manor at Roscrow (now demolished) in Cornwall. On his death she returned to London where she mingled in court circles, and where she influenced both taste and fashion. On her second marriage she established a favourite garden in Dublin, and only after her second husbands’s death did she embark on cutting paper flowers.

This is an odd biography written by the Canadian poet who, for some reason, intersperses the main biography with her own biographical details, which, to my mind, detracts from the main thrust of the biography.

Alison Newton