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The Writer's Garden: How Gardens…

The Writer's Garden: How Gardens Inspired our Best-loved Authors

by Jackie Bennett

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What is it about authors and gardens? Is it the authors’ artistic natures that attract them to gardens? There are authors well known for the gardening interests such as Jane Austen, Emily Dickenson and Beatrix Potter, whose gardens are artistically recreated in her books. For more on that, read the wonderful Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell which features photos of her gardens, Potter’s drawings of flowers and scenes from her books.BeatrixPottersGardeningLife

The Writer in the Garden edited by Jane Garmey includes essays by such diverse authors as E. B. White, Alexander Pope, Edith Wharton and M.F.K. Fisher.

However, it is Jackie Bennett’s The Writer’s Garden: How Gardens Inspired Our Best-Loved Authors that stands out. She has produced a wonderful pictorial essay on 20 British authors who loved and were devoted to their gardens. The authors range from Laurence Sterne (1713-1768) and his Shandy Hall and John Clare (1793-1864) and his Heplston to Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and his Gad’s Hill Place and Henry James (1843-1916) and his Lamb House to Roald Dahl (1916-1990) and his Gipsy House and Ted Hughes (1930-1998) and his Lumb Bank.

Bennett provides a smattering of the authors’ biographies, descriptions of their gardens and the impact on the authors’ works and enough photos to make every gardener jealous. The photos of the English countryside make it appear just as you imagine it from reading Jane Austen, the mist, the open spaces, the hills.

There’s the odd tidbit, such as Lamb House originally inhabited by Henry James was later inhabited by the author E. F. Benson or that Roald Dahl had a gypsy caravan on his property. Many of the estates were donated to England’s National Trust and can be visited by tourists. Others are artist’s colonies/retreats, in an effort to maintain the author’s vision.

The appendices include Garden Visiting Information, Source of Quotes and Further Reading. What a great vacation it would be to visit each author’s house and view his/her garden.

If you are at all interested in literature and gardening, this is the book for you. It is no coffee-table book. It is a book to be read, its photos to be viewed again and again.

I’m sure there are more than the 20 British authors mentioned in this book who were interested in gardens. I’d love to see Volume II or a book featuring American authors. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Dec 30, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0711234949, Hardcover)

Great things happen in gardens. No one can doubt the importance of the garden in Roald Dahl's life as it was here where he worked, and here that he created James and the Giant Peach. And where would Jane Austen have been if she had never seen a 'walk', an ornamental lake, or a wilderness?

Gardens hold a special place in many author's lives. For Beatrix Potter, Hill Top house was made possible by the new found freedom and wealth that a literary career can bring; for Sir Walter Scott, laying out his garden at Abbotsford was a way of distracting himself from mounting debts.

In this book of 18 gardens and 20 writers, the author examines how the poet, writer, novelist derived a creative spirit from their private garden, how they tended and enjoyed their gardens, and how they managed their outdoor space.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:45 -0400)

"Writer's Garden goes inside the lives of 20 influential authors to discover the roles that gardens played. From Sir Walter Scott's fairytale Scottish castle to Rupert Brooke's riverside retreat in Cambridge; from Virginia Woolf's rural Sussex idyll to Beatrix Potter's windswept hill-top farm in the Lake District, each garden provides new insights into the writer's work, life, solace and inspiration."--Back cover.… (more)

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