Paradise of Exiles: The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence

Katie Campbell

Paradise of Exiles: The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence

In the final years of the nineteenth century the crumbling villas abandoned on the hills above Florence proved irresistible to an eccentric colony of English and American expatriates. After a brilliant introduction this entertaining book features some twenty of these characters, among them Bernard Berenson at I Tatti; the cad Sir Arthur Acton and his fabulously wealthy wife at La Pietra; the bereaved philosopher Charles Strong whose Rockefeller in-laws financed his villa retreat; the cross-dressing English essayist Violet Paget - known to the world as Vernon Lee; the beautiful Serbian Princess Jeanne Ghika who lived in seclusion with her American companion Miss Blood; the eccentric English romance writer known as Ouida; the much-married American heiress Mabel Dodge Luhan and the misanthropic aristocrat Sir Gerge Sitwell. Art and history formed the main interests of the community with horticulture a close second. The Anglo-Florentines injected new life into Tuscany's decrepit gardens, touring the countryside for inspiration and trawling old libraries for treatises and manuals.Some preferred an anglicised version and smothered their walls with scented climbers, replaced gravel terraces with emerald lawns and stuffed box parterres with bright bedding plants and their orchards with exotic shrubs. Literary reference abounds throughout this book with Henry James leading the way, but it is the old guide books - Elgood's Italian Gardens, Latham's The Gardens of Italy and books like Georgina Graham's My Tuscan Villa which provide so much evocative material. 4.5 out of 5 based on 1 reviews
Paradise of Exiles: The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Home & Garden
Format Hardback
Pages 176
RRP £30.00
Date of Publication July 2009
ISBN 978-0711229563
Publisher Frances Lincoln
 

In the final years of the nineteenth century the crumbling villas abandoned on the hills above Florence proved irresistible to an eccentric colony of English and American expatriates. After a brilliant introduction this entertaining book features some twenty of these characters, among them Bernard Berenson at I Tatti; the cad Sir Arthur Acton and his fabulously wealthy wife at La Pietra; the bereaved philosopher Charles Strong whose Rockefeller in-laws financed his villa retreat; the cross-dressing English essayist Violet Paget - known to the world as Vernon Lee; the beautiful Serbian Princess Jeanne Ghika who lived in seclusion with her American companion Miss Blood; the eccentric English romance writer known as Ouida; the much-married American heiress Mabel Dodge Luhan and the misanthropic aristocrat Sir Gerge Sitwell. Art and history formed the main interests of the community with horticulture a close second. The Anglo-Florentines injected new life into Tuscany's decrepit gardens, touring the countryside for inspiration and trawling old libraries for treatises and manuals.Some preferred an anglicised version and smothered their walls with scented climbers, replaced gravel terraces with emerald lawns and stuffed box parterres with bright bedding plants and their orchards with exotic shrubs. Literary reference abounds throughout this book with Henry James leading the way, but it is the old guide books - Elgood's Italian Gardens, Latham's The Gardens of Italy and books like Georgina Graham's My Tuscan Villa which provide so much evocative material.

Reviews

The Spectator

Francis King

What make this book so entertaining are not merely its skilful evocations of famous gardens but also its hugely entertaining accounts of those who presided over them... Campbell’s first sentence and a number of later ones contain the word ‘intriguing’, used in its comparatively recent sense of ‘fascinating’. If I seek for one word to describe this book, then that is it. Hers is a witty, charming, informative and well-written study. But, above all, it is an intriguing one.

08/07/2009

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