Delany, Mary

, the second wife of the preceding, and a lady of distinguished ingenuity and merit, was born at a small country house of her father’s at Coulton in Wiltshire, May, 14, 1700. She was the daughter of Bernard Granville, esq. afterward lord Lansdowne, a nobleraan whose abilities and virtues, whose character as a poet, whose friendship with Pope, Swift, and other eminent writers of the time, and whose general patronage of men eyf genius and literature, have often been recorded in biographical productions. As the child of such a family, sh^ could not fail of receiving the best education. It was at Long-Leat, the seat of the Weymouth family, which was occupied by lord Lansdowne during the minority of the heir of that family, that Miss Granville first saw Alexander Pendarves, esq. a gentleman of large property at Roscrow in Cornwall, and who immediately paid his addresses to her; which were so strenuously supported by her uncle, whom she had not the courage to deny, that she gave a reluctant consent to the match; and accordingly it took place in the compass of two or three weeks, she being then in the seventeenth year of her age. From a great disparity of years, and other causes, she was very unhappy during the time which this connexion lasted, but endeavoured to make the best of her situation. The retirement to which she was confined was wisely employed in the farther cultivation of a naturally vigorous understanding: and the good use she made of her leisure hours, was eminently evinced in the charms of her conversation, and in her letters to her friends. That quick feeling of the elegant and beautiful which constitutes taste, she possessed in an eminent degree, and was therefore peculiarly fitted for succeeding in the fine arts. At the period we are speaking of, she made a great proficiency in music, but painting, which afterwards she most loved, and in which she principally excelled, had not yet engaged her practical attention. in 1724 Mrs. Pendarves became a widow; upon which occasion she quitted Cornwall, and fixed her principal residence in London. For several years, between 1730 and 1736, she maintained a correspondence with Dr. Swift. In 1743, as we have seen in the former article, Mrs. Pendarves was married to Dr. Delany, with whom it appears that she had long been acquainted; and for whom he had many years entertained a very high esteem. She had been a widow nineteen years when this connexion, | which was a very happy one, took place, and her husband is said to fcave regarded her almost to adoration. Upon his decease in ftiay 1768, she intended to fix herself at Bath, and was in quest of a house for that purpose. But the duchess dowager of Portland, hearing of her design, went down to the place; and, having in her earl v years formed an intimacy with Mrs. Delany, wished to have near her a lady from whom she had necessarily, for several years, been much separated, and whose heart and talents she knew would in the highest degree add to thejiappiness of her own life. Her <*race succeeded in her solicitalions, and Mrs. Delany now passed her time between London and Bulstrode. On the death of the duchess-dowager of Portland, his present majesty, who had frequently seen and honoured Mrs Delany with his notice at Bulstrode, assigned her for her summer residence the use of a house completely furnished, in St. Alhan’s-street, Windsor, adjoining to the entrance of the castle: and, that the having two houses on her hands might not produce any inconvenience with regard to the expence of her living, his majesty, as a farther mark of his royal favour, conferred on her a pension of three hundred pounds a year. On the 15th of April, 1788, after a short indisposition, she departed this life, at her house in St. James’s-place, having nearly completed the 88th year of her age. The circumstance that has principally entitled Mrs. Delany to a place in this work is her skill in painting, and in other ingenious arts, one of which was entirely her own. With respect to painting, she was late in her application to it. She did not learn to draw till she was more than thirty years of age, when she put herself under the instruction of Goupy, a fashionable master of that time, and much employed by Frederic prince of Wales. To oil-painting she did not take till she was past forty. So strong was her passion for this art, that she has frequently been known to employ herself in it, day after day, from six o’clock in the morning till dinner time, allowing only a short interval for breakfast. She was principally a copyist; but a very fine one. The only considerable original work of hers in oil was the Kaising of Lazarus, in the possession of her friend lady JBute. The number of pictures painted by her, considering how late it was in life before she applied to the art, was very great. Her own house was full of them; and others are among the chief ornaments of Calswich, | Welsborn, and Ham, the respective residences of her nephews, Mr. Granville and Mr. Dewes, and of her niece Mrs. Port. Mrs. Delany, among her other accomplishments, excelled in embroidery and shell-work; and, in the course of her life, produced many elegant specimens of her skill in these respects. But, what is more remarkable, at the age of 74 she invented a new and beautiful mode of exercising her ingenuity. This was by the construction of a Flora, of a most singular kind, formed by applying coloured papers together, and which might, not improperly, be called a species of mosaic work. Being perfectly mistress of her scissars, the plant or flower which she purposed to imitate she cut out; that is, she cut out its various leaves and parts in such coloured Chinese paper as suited her subject; and, when she could not meet with a colour to correspond with the one she wanted, she dyed her own paper to answer her wishes. She used a black ground, as best calculated to throw out her flower; and not the least astonishing part of her art was, that though she never employed her pencil to trace out the form or shape of her plant, yet when she had applied all the p eces which composed it, it hung so loosely and gracefully, that every one was persuaded that it must previously have been drawn out, and repeatedly corrected by a most judicious hand, before it could have attained the ease and air of truth which, without any impeachment of the honour of this accomplished lady, might justly be called a forgery of nature’s works. The effect was superior to what painting could have produced; and so imposing was her art, that she would sometimes put a real leaf of a plant by the side of one of her own creation, which the eye could not detect, even when she herself pointed it out. Mrs. Delany continued in the prosecution of her design till the 83d year of her age, when the dimness of her sight obliged her to lay it aside. However, by her unwearied perseverance, she became authoress of far the completest Flora that ever was executed by the same hand. The number of plants finished bv her amounted to nine hundred and eighty. This invaluable Flora was bequeathed by her to her nephew Court Dewes, esq. and is now in the possession of Barnard Dewes, esq. of Welsborn in Warwickshire. The liberality of Mrs. Delany’s mind rendered her at all times ready to communicate her art. She frequently pursued her work in company; was desirous of shewing to her friends how | easy it was to execute; and was often heard to lament that so few would attempt it. It required, however, great patience and great knowledge in botanical drawing. She began to write poetry at 80 years of age, and her verses shew at least a pious disposition. Her private character is thus given by her friend, Mr. Keate. “She had every virtue that could adorn the human heart, with a mind so pure, and so uncontaminated by the world, that it was matter of astonishment how she could have lived in its more splendid scenes without being tainted with one single atom of its folly or indiscretion. The strength of her understanding received, in the fullest degree, its polish, but its weakness never reached her. Her life was conducted by the sentiments of true piety; her way of thinking, on every occasion, was upright and just; her conversation was lively, pleasant, and instructive. She was warm, delicate, and sincere in her friendships; full of philanthropy and benevolence, and loved and respected by every person who had the happiness to know her. That sun-shine and serenity of mind which the good can only enjoy, and which had thrown so much attraction on her life, remained without a shadow to the last; not less bright in its setting, than in its meridian lustre. That form which in youth had claimed admiration, in age challenged respect. It presented a noble ruin, become venerable by the decay of time. Her faculties remained unimpaired to the last; and she quitted this mortal state to receive in a better world the crown of a well-spent life.

Mrs. Delany was buried in a vault belonging to St. James’s church; and, on one of its columns, a stone is erected to her memory, with an inscription, which, after reciting her name, descent, marriages, age, &c. concludes as follows: “She was a lady of singular ingenuity and politeness, and of unaffected piety. These qualities had endeared her through life to many noble and excellent persons, and made the close of it illustrious, by procuring for her many signal marks of grace and favour from their majesties.1


Biog. Brit. Forbes’s Life of Beattie.