Mary Delany (1700-88)


Life
[or Delaney, but recte Delany; formerly Mrs. Pendarves], b. Coulston, Wiltshire, dg. Col. Granville and neice of Lord Lansdowne, who was sent to the Tower with the Earl of Oxford; raised by Lady Stanley at Whitehall, her husband being Lord chamberlain; Longleat; her first marriage, at 17, to Alexander Pengraves [aetat. 57], an ‘ugly and disagreeable’ and gouty old Cornish squire towards whom she felt ‘an invincible aversion’, and felt herself ‘a sacrifice’; resided at Roscrow Castle, Cornwall and afterwards at London; Pendarves d. 1724; left unsigned will; refuged with the Stanleys; Lady Stanley d. 1730, and with Miss Donnellan came to Ireland on a visit to a sister, Mrs. Clayton, wife of Bishop of Killala, Sept. 1731-May 1733, moving with them from Dublin to Co. Mayo [var. Sept.1731-April 1733, as infra];
 
m. Patrick Delany [q.v.]; invented ‘flower mosaic’, and secured deanery of Down for Patrick Delany by influence, 1744; occupied the Deanery but spent only fourteen-and-a-half of the ensuing twenty-five years in Ireland; friend of Swift; introduced Fanny Burney at court; liked Delany best of all she met when in Ireland first; in April 1743, she received his letter of proposal (‘I have long been persuaded that perfect friendship is nowhere to be found but in marriage ... I am old, and I appear older than I am, but thank God I am still in health, a good clear income ... a good house, a good many books, a pleasant garden, etc. Would to God I might have leave to lay them all at your feet’); match opposed by Lord Carteret;
 
asked by [Maria] Duchess of Portland to write recollections in a series of letters to her, commencing from the year 1714 when the death of Queen Anne altered fortunes of the Granville family; m. Patrick Delany, 9 June, 1743; resided at Delville (orig. Hel-Del-ville’, after the names of Delany and the former owner Helsham), Glasnevin, the house where they entertained Swift; credited with the first attempt at modern gardening in Ireland; in 1745-46 Mrs Delany and Dublin ladies determined to buy the produce of the Irish weavers, then enduring hunger; received visit of Lord and Lady Chesterfield, then Lord Lieutenant, Oct. 1745; took her ailing husband to Bath, 1754; Dr. Delany d. 1768; Anne Dewes, her sister and correspondent d. 1761; continues in correspondence with niece, Mary;
 
enjoyed friendship with Duchess of Portland, with whom she resided; visited by Garricks and others; Jan. 1783, met Fanny Burney who has left account in her Diary (benevolence, softness, piety, and gentleness are all resident in her face’; a literary sketch of her written by Dr. Delany for The Humanist, 1757, which she refused to allow published, extant; Burke called her woman of fashion; Fanny Burney records she always greeted the Duchess with the same ceremony as if the first meeting; d. 15 April; ten volumes of her celebrated “Flora”, with 980 carefully constructed model of flowers (‘paper mosiacks’) copied in real botanical detail, are preserved in the British Museum; called by Hannah More ‘a living library of knowledge’ and by Edmund Burke ‘the highest bred woman in the world’; spent her last years in at Windsor Castle; d. a month before her 80th birthday; her books and drawings are in the NGI; there is a portrait of her by John Opie in the British Royal Collection; Delville was demolished in 1951. ODNB OCEL FDA OCIL

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Works
Lady Llanover [descendant of Anne Dewes], ed., The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs Delany, 1st and 2nd series, 6 vols. (1861-62); Angélique Day, ed., Letters from Georgian Ireland: Correspondence of Mary Delany, 1731-68 (Dublin: Friar’s Bush Press 1991); Katherine Cahill [ed.], Mrs Delany's Menus, Medicines and Manners (Dublin: New Island Press 2005), 300pp.; Mark Laird & Alica Weisberg-Roberts, ed., Mrs Delany and Her Circle (Yale UP 2009).

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Criticism
Mrs Esther Morris, ‘The Delanys of Delville’, in Dublin Historical Record, 9, 4 (Dec. 1947-Feb.1948), pp.105-116; Mrs Esther Morris, ‘The Delanys of Delville’, Dublin Historical Record, 9, 4 (Dec. 1947-Feb.1948), pp.105-116; Constantia Maxwell, ‘Mrs Delany, the English Wife of an Irish Dean’, Strangers in Ireland (1954), Chp. XIII, pp.136-62; includes portrait by John Opie; also Maxwell, Country and Town in Ireleand Under the Georges (1940; rev. ed. 1949); Ruth Hayden, Mrs Delaney: Her Life and Her Flowers (BML Press 1980; rep. 1986; new edn. 1992, 2000).

See also Eileen Battersby, ‘An Eye for a Bloom’, in The Irish Times Magazine (6 Feb. 2010) [Weekend], pp.10-11 [infra].

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Commentary
Constantia Maxwell, Country and Town in Ireland Under the Georges (1940; rev. edn. 1949), 27-8 [chronicling death of Mrs Conolly, having lived as regular a life as a member of the French court]; 35 [several visits as Mrs Pendarves, 1732, and letters to sister; visited a Mr Mahon of Castlegar, Co. Galway, provisions, ‘I have not met with anything since my being in Ireland that I have liked so well’]; 37-8 [visit paid to the Orrery’s in 1748, ‘He is well bred and entertaining, his lady very plain in her person and manner, but to make amends for tht she is very sensible, unaffected, good-humoured and obliging ...’]; 39 [describes visit to Platten Hall, nr. Drogheda, seat of Rt. Hon. Wm. Graham, Jan. 1733; details of masquerade among the servants, with Lord George Sackville dressing up in women’s clothes, and playing ‘the part very archly; he is a comical spark’]]; 70 [Mary was of the same family as the wife of Lord Lansdowne]; 91 [Mrs Delnay tells in her memoirs of household exertions at Delville; speaks with enthusiasm of the prints and books she saw at Lucan House] 93 [met people entertaining quite royally but living in ramshackle houses with poor furniture, in tour of 1732]; 106 [finds seat of Lord Mornington, Dangan Co. Meath ‘really magnificent’, Oct 1748]; 107 [do., reflecting on the natural scenery; ‘how great a satisfaction it is to see so fine a place in the possession of a man so worthy of it’]; 280 [roads praised by].

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Constantia Maxwell (The Stranger in Ireland, 1954): On leaving Ireland after her first visit in 1733, she wrote somewhat stiltedly to Swift, whose replies gradually gain in pathos as his health declined; ‘I am visited seldom, but visit much seldomer. I dine alone like a king, having few acquaintance and these lessening daily. This town is not what you left it, and I impute the cause altogether to your absence’. (p.143.)

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Angélique Day, ed., Letters from Georgian Ireland: Correspondence of Mary Delany, 1731-68 (Dublin: Friar’s Bush Press 1991), 311pp. Author became Interest in the revival of Mrs. Delany at the exhibition in the 1980s of her flower collages in New York, and the adaptation of some of her designs on china-ware by Sybil Connolly for Tiffany’s; Mary Delany was the eldest dg. of Colonel Bernard Granville, a relative of the Lansdownes and Carterets, she married Delany in 1743, and lived at Delville; corresponded with Swift and knew Handel; did landscape painting, shellwork arrangement in plaster (and decorated the chapel ceiling in Delville), designed textiles, and developed cut-paper flower designs, in addition to landscape their garden; the letters mostly to her younger sister Anne Dewes, begun in 1731 when she came to Ireland to visit friends; met Delany in the social round; married ten years after her return to London; her influence secured his post as Dean of Down; travelled every three years to England; entertained friends often at Delville; letters provide marvellous accounts of visits to great houses of her day, Eyrecourt, Mount Usher, Hillsborough, Castletown, and others; much discussion of gardening fashions; little mention of the ordinary Irish apart from comments on her first visit on their extreme poverty; acquainted with Carolan’s music. Most attractive parts concerned with her own household; eleven acres laid out to include paddocks, grotto, temple, ‘beggar’s hut’, orangerie, paths, bowling alley; well known in her own day, and satirised by Swift, ‘But you forsooth, your all must squander / On that poor spot call’d Del-Vill yonder: / And when you’ve been at vast Expenses / In Whins, Parterres, Canals and Fences / Your Assets fail and Cash is wanting / For farther Buildings, farther Planting’ (An Epistle Upon an Epistle). Delville demolished to make way for Bon Secours. the Letters includes a foreword by Sybil Connolly.

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Eileen Battersby, ‘An Eye for a Bloom’, in The Irish Times Magazine (6 Feb. 2010) [Weekend], pp.10-11 - feature-article noticing Mrs Delany and Her Circle, ed. Mark Laird: Irish designer Sybil Connolly revived interest in Mrs Delany in the 180s, basing a collection of Tiffany tableware on her stunning floral collages; the demolition of Deville was reported in the Irish Times, 6 Jan 1951; five-bay, villa-style house; 11 acres at Glasnevin Ionic temple and grotto; her home from 1744; first visited Ireland in 1731; m. Delany against her family's wishes; port. by John Opie at aetat. 76 in the Royal Collection; finished Magnolia grandiflora, a collage using coloured papers with body colour and watercolour, at 76; hailed by Burke as ‘the woman of fashion of all ages’; tireless letter-writer; interested in Handel and an important source on his life; knew Dionysius Ehret, the botanical artist at Kew; wrote on 4 Oct. 1772 [aetat. 72]: ‘I have invented a new way of imitating flowers’; her father younger son of titled Granvilles, a Tory family who enjoyed royal associations back to Elizabeth I but fell out of favour with the death of Queen Anne, 1714; educated in classics and music pressured into marriage with Alexander Pendarves, a MP aged 57; she later wrote: ‘I was married with great pomp. Never was woe drest out in gayer colours, and when I was led to the altar, I wished from my soul I had been led, as Iphigenia was, to be sacrificed. I was sacrificed. I lost, not life indeed, but I lost all that makes life desirable - joy and peace of mind ...’; lived at Roscrow Castle, Cornwall, and after in London; Pendarves died four years later; participated in London social life; visited to Hogarth's studio in 1731 led to a visit to Ireland, Sept. 1731, where she remained until April 1733; met Swift and began a correspondence; also met Patrick Delany, then about to marry his first wife, a wealthy widow; wrote to Swift: ‘Dr Delany will make a more desirable friend, for he has all the qualities requisite for friendship - zeal, tenderness and application’; Delany, once again a widower, proposed to her in London [1743]; many of her pen-and-ink landscape drawings in the National Gallery of Ireland; left off work through failing eyesight, aetat. 83; spent final years were spent at Windsor Castle; works incl. issued six-volume autobiography and letters.

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References
Patricia Craig, ed., The Rattle of the North (Blackstaff 1992), contains a selection of her letters, 8th August - 8th Oct. 1958 (pp.65-70).

Whelan Books (Cat. 32) lists Simon Dewes, Mrs Delany (London: Rich & Cowan [n.d.]), ill.

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Quotations
The country: ‘I liked the country extremely [wrote to sister], met with great civility, and made some friendships that have been a great part of the happiness of my life.’ ‘Moneyed men are most of them covetous [...] fine men with titles and estate [are] as coxcombs’. (See also Irish Times book notice, 27 May 2000.)

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The people: ‘The poverty of the people as I have passed through the country has made my heart ache. I never say greater appearance of misery; they live in great extremes, either profusely or wretchedly.’ (Galway, 12 June 1732; Angelique Day, ed., Letters from Georgian Ireland: The Correspondence of Mary Delaney, 11731-68, Belfast: Friar’s Bush 1991, p.42; Pauline Holland, doct. diss. 2004.)

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The dwellings: ‘The people of this country don’t seem solicitous of having good dwellings or more furniture than is absolutely necessary - hardly so much, but they make up in eating and drinking! I have not seen less than fourteen dishes of meat for dinner, and seven for supper, during my peregrination; and they not only treat us at their houses magnificently, but if we are to go to an in, they constantly provide us with a basket crammed with good things, no people can be more hospitable or obliging’ (12 June, 1732).

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Notes
Rosa Mulholland’s novel, O’Loghlin of Clare (1916), set c.1746, includes Mrs Delany among the characters.

Maurice Craig complains of Douglas Bennett’s Encyclopaedia of Dublin (1992) that the ‘name of Mrs Delany is again mispelled on pages 53 and 84.

Robert Ward (George Faulkner’s Letters, 1972) cites verse squib copied by Mary Delany to Mrs Dewes, ‘A disease this scribbling [itch] is / His Lordship on his Pliny vain / Twas Madam Pilkington in stitches / And now attacks the Irish Dean / Libel his friend when laid in ground / Pray good Sir, you may spare your hints / This parallel I’m sure is found / For what he writes George Faulkner prints / Had Swift provoked to this behaviour / Sure after death resentment cools / And his last act bespoke [a favour?] / He founds a hospitable for fools.’

Dargle View: her view of the rRiver Dargle below Lord Powerscourt’s estate is included in books and drawings held in the National Gallery of Ireland.

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