The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

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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.

How did this remarkable role model for late blooming manage it? After a disastrous teenage marriage to a drunken sixty-one-year-old squire, she took control of her own life, pursuing creative projects, spurning suitors, and gaining friends. At forty-three, she married Jonathan Swift's friend Dr. Patrick Delany, and lived in Ireland in a true expression of midlife love. But after twenty-five years and a terrible lawsuit, her husband died. Sent into a netherland of mourning, Mrs. Delany was rescued by her friend, the fabulously wealthy Duchess of Portland. The Duchess introduced Delany to the botanical adventurers of the day and a bonanza of exotic plants from Captain Cook's voyage, which became the inspiration for her art.

Peacock herself first saw Mrs. Delany's work more than twenty years before she wrote The Paper Garden, but "like a book you know is too old for you," she put the thought of the old woman away. She went on to marry and cherish the happiness of her own midlife, in a parallel to Mrs. Delany, and by chance rediscovered the mosaicks decades later. This encounter confronted the poet with her own aging and gave her-and her readers-a blueprint for late-life flexibility, creativity, and change.


About Molly Peacock

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Molly Peacock is the award-winning author of six volumes of poetry, including The Second Blush. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and the Times Literary Supplement. Among her other works are How to Read a Poem ... and Start a Poetry Circle and a memoir, Paradise, Piece by Piece. Peacock, a member of the Spalding University brief residency MFA graduate faculty, is currently the general series editor of The Best Canadian Poetry in English. A transplanted New Yorker, she lives in Toronto.
Published March 29, 2011 by Bloomsbury USA. 416 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Travel, Crafts, Hobbies & Home. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Paper Garden

The New York Times

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A biography of an 18th-century widow who, in her 70s, invented a new way to depict flowers.

May 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Paper Garden

BC Books

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Life reflected as realism in paper flowers.

Apr 27 2011 | Read Full Review of The Paper Garden

The Star

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A T.O. poet discovers a remarkable bond with an 18th century English artist

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of The Paper Garden

The Telegraph

Maybe so, but Mary Delany .

Jul 18 2011 | Read Full Review of The Paper Garden

SuperFan badge holders consistently post smart, timely comments about Washington area sports and teams.

May 20 2011 | Read Full Review of The Paper Garden

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