Mrs Delany and Her Circle by Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts (eds) - review by Tim Richardson

Tim Richardson

Flora Delanica

Mrs Delany and Her Circle

By

Yale University Press 283pp £40 order from our bookshop
 

Quite why the editors of this otherwise exemplary book should insist on calling their subject Mrs Delany on the jacket rather than Mary Delany is a mystery. The use of her first name would have been a respectful and rehabilitating gesture for a female artist best known for her intricately cut 'paper mosaiks' of plants and flowers, whereas the old-fashioned 'Mrs' only serves to shore up the stereotypical ideas of genteel, domesticated amateurism which the twelve essays in this sumptuous book so comprehensively refute. 

Mary Delany (1700–1788) was a sparky scion of Tory nobility who found herself married off at seventeen to a man forty years her senior – a 'drunken monster', according to one of Delany's relatives. Mercifully widowed after eight years, she later found contentment in Ireland with a second

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter