The life and times of Henrietta Luxborough,18th-century aristocrat, gardener and society exile.
Henrietta St John was born on St Swithun’s Day in 1699 into a world of wealth, privilege and seeming security. Beloved sister of Jacobite rake and statesman, Henry Viscount Bolingbroke, she grew up in Hogarthian London and at Lydiard in Wiltshire, her ancestral home, into a headstrong woman of poetry and letters – Pope, Swift and Gay were amongst her acquaintance. Yet with more wit and intelligence than was good for a high-ranking woman of her time and a wild mane of dark curly hair, Henrietta was not the easiest of marriage propositions. She succumbed at twenty-seven, with her infatuation for the son of Bob Knight, the infamous and exiled South Sea Company chief cashier. Soon afterwards, she was accused by her pompous husband of infidelity with a young poet, and sent into the wilds of Warwickshire to moulder and die.
In refusing to fulfill these cruel expectations, Henrietta created for herself, and for us, an eccentric and enchanting company of friends from the understorey of mid-18th-century society. Her circle – they liked to set their light wooden chairs in a circle around a favourite ‘bustoe’ or memorial urn in the garden, sip port and gossip on warm, moonlit nights – was a lively collage of characters living in the heart of England far removed from the Court and the City, and yet occasionally touched by great events. It was Henrietta’s gardens, however, that most sustained her sanity and brought her friends and that now shape Jane Brown’s lively biography. By the time she became Lady Luxborough the irrepressible Henrietta could be credited with the invention of the shrubbery and she possessed one of England's finest romantic sensibilities and knowledge of her country's landscape. Through evocative descriptions of the gardens and houses her heroine inhabited, Jane Brown reconstructs Henrietta’s remarkable and tumultuous life, and reveals an intricate portrait of early 18th-century English culture and society.
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Praise for ‘Tales of the Rose Tree’:
‘A superbly researched and narrated celebration…Jane Brown has done the species and her readers a service in reminding us of its fabulous history.’ Literary Review
Praise for ‘The Pursuit of Paradise’:
‘A genuinely important contribution, not just to understanding gardens of the past, but to how we might get the most pleasure from the gardens of the future.’ Monty Don, Observer
‘If you want to be impressively well informed about why every self-respecting home must have a patio, or why delphiniums, gladioli and larkspur are distinctly passe, then latch on to this illuminating book.’ Penelope Lively, Mail on Sunday
‘Be warned. This is a rich brew, not to be taken in one gulp. Gardening in this book encompasses science and history, philosophy and art, literature and the military, politics and sex! It is all tremendous fun.’ Ruth Gorb, GuardianThe Guardian:
'Henrietta is brought alive with enlightening understanding and narrative pace...a wonderful character...'
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Book Description HARPERPRESS, 2006. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0007129947