The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72

Molly Peacock

The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72

Mary Delany was seventy-two years old when she noticed a petal drop from a geranium. In a flash of inspiration, she picked up her scissors and cut out a paper replica of the petal, inventing the art of collage. It was the summer of 1772, in England. During the next ten years she completed nearly a thousand cut-paper botanicals (which she called mosaicks) so accurate that botanists still refer to them. Poet-biographer Molly Peacock uses close-ups of these brilliant collages in The Paper Garden to track the extraordinary life of Delany, friend of Swift, Handel, Hogarth, and even Queen Charlotte and King George III. 2.9 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Home & Garden
Format Hardback
Pages 416
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication July 2011
ISBN 978-1408821015
Publisher Bloomsbury
 

Mary Delany was seventy-two years old when she noticed a petal drop from a geranium. In a flash of inspiration, she picked up her scissors and cut out a paper replica of the petal, inventing the art of collage. It was the summer of 1772, in England. During the next ten years she completed nearly a thousand cut-paper botanicals (which she called mosaicks) so accurate that botanists still refer to them. Poet-biographer Molly Peacock uses close-ups of these brilliant collages in The Paper Garden to track the extraordinary life of Delany, friend of Swift, Handel, Hogarth, and even Queen Charlotte and King George III.

Read an extract from the book | NYTimes.com

Reviews

The Scotsman

Claire Black

It is moving and thought-provoking, demanding and entertaining … Her book is every bit as intricate and rewarding as Delany's artistic creations.

19/07/2011

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The Financial Times

David Evans

Elegantly written and handsomely illustrated, this unusual book is more or less an unmitigated delight. Although Peacock’s interpretations of her subject’s oeuvre can be reductive — a rendering of a thistle, for instance, is taken to represent the prickliness of Delany’s husband — her descriptions of the artist at work are as vividly realised as those cut-paper blooms.

06/08/2011

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The Times

Diana Athill

… if sometimes she strains a point when making a connection between a flower and the life, it doesn’t matter. Her account of the life, which is expanded into a meditation on friendship and creativity, is so fresh, sensitive and convincing that a very rare wobble should be overlooked ... [A] lovely book

09/07/2011

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The Washington Post

Michael Dirda

… a beautifully designed, eye-catching book … The Paper Garden is written in [an] emphatically lyric mode, which may tire some readers. But there’s no denying the fascination of Mary Delany’s story

26/05/2011

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The New York Times

Andrea Wulf

... Peacock takes the reader on a journey that, however obscure or strange the link might be, is a graceful meditation on botany, nature, life and age. More incongruous and somewhat slower are the sections in which Peacock recounts her own story. On the other hand, Delany’s story abounds with energy as Peacock brings her alive.

13/05/2011

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The Sunday Telegraph

Kasia Boddy

Peacock’s life story is not uninteresting but its telling is not best served by comparison with the “fabulously different” experiences of an 18th-century aristocrat. Eventually it boils down to: “She had no children. I had no children. She has a deep connection to a second husband. I had such a bond… She had a plethora of arty girlfriends. So do I.” Peacock concludes that we “need our role models long past adolescence”. Maybe so, but Mary Delany deserves to be remembered in her own right.

17/07/2011

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The Evening Standard

Rosemary Hill

Molly Peacock is certainly an enthusiast but her whimsical account of Delany's life and work, intercut at intervals with Peacock's own story, accounts of her husband's melanoma and her biographical research, does her subject a perverse disservice.

14/07/2011

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