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Lecture, Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72

Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72Image courtesy of Walker Books.

Mrs. Delany was 72 years old when she noticed a petal drop from a geranium. In a flash of inspiration, she picked up her scissors and cut out a paper replica of the petal. It was the summer of 1772. During the next ten years she completed nearly a thousand cut-paper botanicals (mosaicks) so accurate that botanists still refer to them. Poet-biographer Molly Peacock uses close-ups of the brilliant collages in The Paper Garden to track the extraordinary life of Mrs. Delany, who was a friend of Jonathan Swift, George Frideric Handel, James Hogarth, and even Queen Charlotte and King George III.

How did this remarkable 310-year-old role model for late blooming manage it? After a disastrous teenage marriage to a drunken 61-year-old squire, she took control of her own life, pursuing creative projects, spurning suitors, and gaining friends. At 43, she married Jonathan Swift’s friend Dr. Patrick Delany; after her husband died, the fabulously wealthy Duchess of Portland rescued Mrs. Delany from her dowager’s despair, introducing her to the botanical adventurers of the day and a bonanza of exotic plants from the voyage of no less a personage than Captain Cook himself.

Molly Peacock is the award-winning author of five volumes of poetry, including The Second Blush. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and the Times Literary Supplement. Among her other works are How to Read a Poem . . . and Start a Poetry Circle and a memoir, Paradise, Piece by Piece. Ms. Peacock is currently the poetry editor of the Literary Review of Canada and the general series editor of The Best Canadian Poetry in English. A transplanted New Yorker, she lives in Toronto.

To Reserve: There is no fee for this event, which is open to the public. Reservations are required but cannot be accepted until Thursday, April 7. Please call the Athenæum’s events reservation line, (617) 720-7600.