Abundant Beauty: The Adventurous Travels of Marianne North, Botanical Artist

Abundant Beauty: The Adventurous Travels of Marianne North, Botanical Artist

by Marianne North, Laura Ponsonby

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In 1871, Marianne North, a brilliant artist with a keen interest in botany, set-forth to travel the world on a quest to paint indigenous plants in their natural habitat. Encouraged by her friend Charles Darwin, North travelled by boat, train, mule, foot and palanquin to every continent except Antarctica. She circled the globe twice over fifteen years and accumulated an extensive and valuable collection of more than eight hundred paintings, which today comprise the esteemed Marianne North Gallery at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, London.

North — high-spirited, indefatigable, and brave — also kept detailed journals, which were posthumously published in three volumes in the late 1800s. Abundant Beauty collects the most engaging writings from those journals in one edition, including rich descriptions of botanica and delightful accounts of local people and customs from her sometimes dangerous travels. Abundant Beauty is a fascinating and informative read for botanists, gardeners, historians, and armchair travellers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781553656265
Publisher: Greystone Books
Publication date: 05/01/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 491 KB

About the Author

Marianne North was born in 1830 in Hastings, England. The daughter of a politician, North was raised in a socially active and intellectually stimulating household. She cared for her parents until their deaths, taking on the role of her father’s housekeeper and travelling companion until he died in 1869. For the next fifteen years, she travelled extensively, painting indigenous and unique plants from the four corners of the globe. She took her last journey (to Chile) in 1884 and then, suffering from attacks of “nerves,” settled for good at her cottage at Gloucestershire to organize her journals. A number of plant species are named in her honour, including Areca northiana, Crinum northianum, and Kniphofia northiana. Marianne North died in 1890.

Laura Ponsonby, former Archivist, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, is the author of two books about Marianne North.

Read an Excerpt

from "Brazil"

Two more miles at full gallop down hill took us to Petropolis, and I was soon in Mr. Miles’s comfortable hotel, and again among friends, with whom I had a merry English dinner. Then came two days of rain and cold and loneliness, in which I worked and walked and soaked and froze, and came to the conclusion Petropolis was an odious place, a bad imitation of a second-class German watering-place, with its red roofs, little toy houses, and big palace in the midst, the river cut and straightened into a ditch, running down the middle of the principal street, with fanciful wooden bridges crossing it continually, and its banks planted with formal trees; though, when one came to think and thaw a bit, those very trees were in themselves a sight to see: umbrella-trees with their large heart-shaped leaves and pink fluffy flowers, and araucarias larger than any in England. My friend Mr. Hinchcliff had written me minute directions how to find one of his favorite walks, where he promised I should see ideal tropical tangles. I paddled through the mud and rain to find, alas! nothing but charcoal and ashes remained; some German women added insult to injury by informing me it was “verboten“ to go further that way, so I returned to my packing in disgust.

I was glad to see the Gordons arrive, and to hear them say they had taken their and my places in the coach for Juiz de Fora the next morning. Mrs. Miles took charge of my tin box and sketching umbrella, which, I may as well say here, is a perfectly useless article in the tropics; when the real unclouded sun is shining one requires a more solid shade than that of a gingham umbrella, and it is far too heavy to drag about in a hot climate, so I was glad to be quit of it.

It rained all night, and was still raining when we packed ourselves into the coach at six on the morning of the 28th of October, and four splendid mules, after their usual resistance, started suddenly at full gallop with the swinging, rattling old vehicle … Such scenery! High trees draped with bougainvillea to the very tops, bushes of the same nearer the ground reminding one of the great rhododendrons in our own shrubberies in May at home, and of much the same colour, though occasionally paler and pinker. There were orange-flowered cassia-trees (whose leaves fold close together at night like the sensitive plant) and scarlet erythrinas looking like gems among the masses of rich green; exquisite peeps of the river, winding below its woody banks or rushing among great stones and rocks, came upon us, and were gone again with tantalising rapidity.

My friends only laughed when I grumbled at the mules going so fast; now and then a peaked mountain-top pierced its way through the clouds for a moment and was lost again, then came a gray overhanging cliff sprinkled with bracket-like wild pines spiked with greenish flowers; the near banks were hidden by masses of large-leaved ferns and begonias and arums of many sorts, whose young fresh leaves and fronds were often tinted with crimson or copper-colour. The wild agaves too were very odd: having had their poor centre shoots twisted out, the sap accumulated in the hollow, and a wine or spirit was made from it; the wretched wounded things, sending up dwarfish flowers and prickly shoots from their other joints, formed a strange disagreeable looking bush, several of which made a most efficient hedge. Under each of these flowers a bulb formed, which when ripe dropped and rooted itself, thus replacing the parent whose life ended at its birth. Another curious plant here abounded, the marica, like a lovely blue iris, which flowers and shoots from the ends of the leaves of the old plant, the leaf being often more than a yard in length, and weighed down to the ground by the bunch at its end. When the flower is over, a bulb forms under it which produces roots; eventually the connecting leaf rots off, so that a perfect circle of young plants succeeds round the original old one. When in flower the appearance was very peculiar; a perfect rosette of bent green leaves and a circle of delicate blue flowers outside them.

Table of Contents

Editor's Preface 9

Marianne North: An Introduction Laura Ponsonby 11

Brazil 1872-73 19

California and Japan 1875-77 65

India 1878 99

Australia 1880-81 141

South Africa 1882-83 177

Afterword Mrs. John Addington Symonds 213

Customer Reviews