Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Flora Delanica #3 Christmas Rose

Flora Delanica #3
Hellebore (Helleborus Niger) Christmas Rose by Becky Brown

A wintry bloom is probably a good choice to represent Mary's first husband,
and there is something about the name Hellebore....

Mary Granville, despite being English gentry, was born into a life of harsh economic realities. Girls and women were generally unable to inherit family fortunes or even fragments of family fortunes. They had one option---marriage to a man of substance, as Jane Austen would explain to us in the next century. 

Mary's Uncle George Lord Lansdowne supported his younger brother's family and thus had authority to direct their futures. For Mary he favored the first marital prospect who came along, arranging a marriage to neighbor Alexander Pendarves (1662-1725), a Tory Member of Parliament 48 years older. Her uncle may have been more interested in himself than in Mary, hoping Pendarves could further his own precarious career (He'd just served two years in London's tower for treason.)

But he also thought it was a good bet for 17-year-old Mary.  A few years of union with an overweight, alcoholic bridegroom would pay off when he died and left his estate in Cornwall to his young wife.

Richard Clews portraying Grumio for the 
Royal Shakespeare Company

The plan had many flaws; Mary was disgusted with the homely, ill-groomed man whom she called Gromio (possibly a reference to Grumio, a ridiculous old servant in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew) but the marriage took place. Mary was "sacrificed," as she put it and went off to live in Roscrow Castle near Falmouth in Cornwall.

Falmouth over a century after Mary lived there.

Her husband, according to Mary Pendarves in her autobiography, was "excessively fat, of a brown complexion, negligent in his dress, and took a vast quantity of snuff, which gave him a dirty look." He was also petulantly jealous and sulked if she talked to men her own age.

Mary had been bored in exile in Gloucestershire.
Cornwall must have been far duller for an 18-year-old.

Her unpleasant husband did not live long, dying in her bed one night, but he hadn't rewritten his will in the four years of marriage. (Uncle George, the poet, by that time had forgotten what the terms of inheritance were supposed to be.) Pendarves's estate and castle went to his nieces, leaving his wife without a home. At 26 the childless Mary was awarded a jointure (provision for a wife) of  £370 annually, enough to live on if she was careful. 
"I may say I am rich, but still it will cost me pains and management to keep myself clear, and that's an employment no way to my [taste.]"
Nancy Phillips's in wool

Helleborus niger by Mary Granville Pendarves Delany
British Museum

Basic shapes

Becky's are appliqued to 10" Finished squares.
Will go on point.

She has a way with fabric!

Flora Delanica #3
Hellebore - Christmas Rose by Barbara Brackman
Mine get wackier every month.

Ilyse Moore's Christmas Roses are pink.

Hellebores from Jinny Beyer's garden.
They are Ranunculaceae, not real roses.

Hellebore by Denniele Bohannon

A Little More Mary Delany

Poinciana Pulcherrima 
Barbados (Peacock Flower)

Further Reading & Viewing

Ruth Hayden's book Mrs. Delany: Her Life & Her Flowers has been published in several editions.
Above is the one I have from the British Museum. Below from the Morgan Library.

Catalog from an exhibit at the Morgan Library. Same book?
Below, more recent edition?

Used copies go anywhere from $25 to $275.

Denniele is adding a little bit of pink shading
 with permanent colored pencils.

I finally got around to making a pattern packet you can buy at my Etsy store.

All the patterns in 28 pages, either a PDF to print yourself for $12:

Or I will mail you U.S. residents black & white sheets for $17:


  1. There is another wonderful book about Mary Delaney available: The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock. It is beautifully written (Peacock is a poet) and has 35 color illustrations of Delaney's flower collages. Not just a biography, the book examines the nature of creativity and art.

  2. I came across this online talk today, which looks interesting.