Mary Granville Delany was born in 1700. She was upper crust British and became a Bluestocking. This does not refer to the color of her support hose. It was a loose organization of privileged women (not an organization of loose privileged women, though I’ve no doubt there were some of THOSE involved as well, percentages being what they are).
As was often the story of British upper crust in the day, her parents were dependent on a relative for financial security. In Mary’s case it was her Uncle, Lord Landsdowne. Uncle Lord wanted Mary to marry Alexander Pendarves, which would then give him political influence in England. That Alexander Pendarves was 38 years older than Mary and that Mary did not find Alexander Pendarves at all a love match, or even a babysitter, was of no concern to Uncle Lord Landsdowne.
Mary married Alexander. The good news is that she got to live in a castle for awhile, and then move back to London to be with her good friends. And Alexander had the gracious kindness to die suddenly after only six years of connubial blech. The bad news is that Alexander was more interested in wine than in updating his will, so he left his bride penniless. The good news, though, is that as a widow in polite society, Mary was able to move about unfettered by the controlling shadow of any man. She was a sharp cookie, our Mary was. She wrote: “Why must women be driven to the necessity of marrying? a state that should always be a matter of choice! and if a young woman has not fortune sufficient to maintain her in the situation she has been bred to, what can she do, but marry?”
At 43, Mary married an Irish pastor, Patrick Delany, who gave up his rich widow wife in her favor. They both loved nature and botany and all things flora. They were happily married twenty-five years, and then Mary found herself a widow again! What to do? What to do?
Mary was an artist by hobby and always had been. Her forte was paper cutting. Not paper dolls. Oh no. Fancy paper cutting of flowers. At the age of 72 she took up creating decoupage pictures of plants. Hers were remarkably detailed and accurate. “The Paper Garden”, available on Amazon, tells Mary’s story and shows you some of her beautiful work.
Mary became tight with King George and Queen Charlotte, who were big fans of her work. She enjoyed a productive and happy life in her last years, decoupaging her heart out and hanging with her friends and the glitterati of the day.
In Mary’s case, her late blooming career came out of dealing with her grief over losing her beloved Dr. Delany at the age of sixty-eight. Many of our late bloomers are pushed to excel through difficulties, and Mary is no exception. Her work is just beautiful, and I for one would love one of her flowers to wear. I’ve mentioned to Fenwick that it would be nice of him to die tragically so that I could have the same inspiration to perhaps make lovely hair accessories and gain favor and notice with the Obamas or Tom Hanks’ posse. But, again, I digress.
Mary was a very well regarded and highly accomplished woman of her time. Forward thinking too, I would say. I look around today and wonder who will be considered the well regarded and forward thinking men and women of our time. And late bloomers. Who will they be?