Mary Delany (1700-1788) wins a Nuannaarpoq award, which will be formally bestowed elsewhere. She lived in an era which constrained women of her class like a thorax in a corset, making it hard to breathe.

Yet despite some stunning denials of her freedom and feelings, she managed to live a wonderfully full and enriching life, having allowed neither an espaliered training nor the forced marriage of her youth to crush or dilute her exuberance. On the contrary, as her poet-biographer puts it, she simply distilled what she couldn’t express, keeping it as a concentrate to release as soon as she had a modicum of liberty.

An inspiration to me, and it seems to her biographer too, whose bestellar Paper Garden is reviewed here, complete with a mosaic of quotations and metaphors.

‘She was somehow managing to hoard her rowdiness and to compost it into fuel for later adult engagement with life.’


Source: Molly Peacock: The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany Begins her Life’s Work at 72 (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 41

Photo credit: Andrew Neel at


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