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Abundant Beauty

The Adventurous Travels of Marianne North, Botanical Artist

Regular price $14.00 CAD
  • ISBN: 9781553656265
  • Tags: Biography & Memoir, Marianne North, Nature & Environment,
  • Published On: 05/10/2001
  • 224 Pages


A delightful and informative trek across the globe by a witty, intelligent, and courageous Victorian artist and adventurer.

In 1871, at age 41, Marianne North, an artist with a keen interest in botany, decided to travel the world on a quest to paint as many plants and flowers as she could find in their natural habitat. Encouraged by scientific friends such as Charles Darwin, North travelled by boat, train, mule, and palanquin and on foot to every continent except Antarctica. She circled the globe twice over fifteen years, parasol and easel in hand, and accumulated an extensive and valuable collection of paintings. In 1882, North provided a building to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, to house her more than 800 works (showing more than 900 unique plant species); the Marianne North Gallery is still a centerpiece of the gardens and a popular destination. The scientific accuracy with which she documented plant life in all parts of the world, before photography became a practical option, gives her work a permanent value.


North also wrote detailed journals about her travels, which her sister collected and published in three volumes after her death. This book collects the best and most interesting writings from those journals in one volume. Included here are North's notes of her adventures in Brazil, California, Japan, India, Borneo, Australia, South Africa, and Chile. In entertaining and enlightening prose, North not only provides rich descriptions of local botanical treasures but also regales readers with her delightful accounts of local people and customs, as well as her exhausting and sometimes dangerous travel. High-spirited, indefatigable, and wise, Marianne North offers a precious window into Victorian culture and society, as well as a valuable and respected botanical record. Of interest to botanists, gardeners, historians, and armchair travellers, Abundant Beauty is a fascinating and informative read.


Marianne North was born in 1830 in Hastings, England. The daughter of a politician, North was raised in a socially active and intellectually stimulating household. She cared for her parents until their deaths, taking on the role of her father's housekeeper and travelling companion until he died in 1869. For the next fifteen years, she travelled extensively, painting indigenous and unique plants from the four corners of the globe. She took her last journey (to Chile) in 1884 and then, suffering from attacks of "nerves," settled for good at her cottage at Gloucestershire to organize her journals. A number of plant species are named in her honour, including Areca northiana, Crinum northianum, and Kniphofia northiana. Marianne North died in 1890.


Abundant Beauty is a rare glimpse at the life of a Victorian woman traveler and its insights are informative . . . For those for whom botany, travel, and Victorian era ideas are a not to be missed combination . . . this is an important work." -City & Style Living Magazine

"North is so unconcerned with the human world on her travels, there is ample space in her narrative for lyrical, cinematic descriptions of natural landscapes, like this one in Brazil: 'There were orange-flowered cassia trees (whose leaves fold close together at night like the sensitive plant) and scarlet erythrinas looking like gems among the masses of rich green; exquisite peeps of river, winding below its woody banks or rushing among great stones and rocks, came upon us and were gone again with tantalizing rapidity.' Imagery like this makes you want to take in more of what North saw on her voyages, making Abundant Beauty the perfect primer to North’s massive body of work . . . " -Garden Design

"Today's liveliest garden travel book . . . North's writing style is as vivid and dramatic as her paintings." -New York Times