The Paper Garden
An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72
Bloomsbury: 416 pp., $30
Mary Delany was born in 1700 to an upper-class family in England that would fall out of favor with the court and use its lovely young daughter, as so many families did at the time, to marry itself back into money. Elderly, alcoholic Alexander Pendarves came with a castle, and Mary endured her marriage to him by writing letters to her sister and surrounding herself with clever friends such as Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson, Hogarth and Handel.
Years after Pendarves died, Mary's passionate life began with an Irish clergyman named Delany. But it was not until his...