My Darling Heriott: Henrietta Luxborough, Poetic Gardener and Irrepressible Exile
by Jane Brown
This work talks about the life and times of Henrietta Luxborough, eighteenth-century aristocrat, gardener and society exile. Henrietta St John was ... Show synopsis This work talks about the life and times of Henrietta Luxborough, eighteenth-century aristocrat, gardener and society exile. Henrietta St John was born on St Swithun's Day in 1699 into a world of wealth, privilege and seeming security. Beloved sister of Jacobite rake and statesman, Henry Viscount Bolingbroke, she grew up in Hogarthian London and at Lydiard in Wiltshire, her ancestral home, into a headstrong woman of poetry and letters- Pope, Swift and Gay were amongst her acquaintance. Yet with more wit and intelligence than was good for a high-ranking woman of her time and a wild mane of dark curly hair, Henrietta was not the easiest of marriage propositions. She succumbed at twenty-seven, with her infatuation for the son of Bob Knight, the infamous and exiled South Sea Company chief cashier. Soon afterwards, she was accused by her pompous husband of infidelity with a young poet, and was sent into the wilds of Warwickshire to moulder and die. In refusing to fulfill these cruel expectations, Henrietta created for herself, and for us, an eccentric and enchanting company of friends from the understorey of mid-eighteenth century society. Her circle - they liked to set their light wooden chairs in a circle around a favourite 'bustoe' or memorial urn in the garden, sip port and gossip on warm, moonlit nights - was a lively collage of characters living in the heart of England far removed from the Court and the City, and yet occasionally touched by great events. It was Henrietta's gardens, however, that most sustained her sanity and brought her friends and that now shape Jane Brown's lively biography. By the time she became Lady Luxborough the irrepressible Henrietta could be credited with the invention of the shrubbery and she possessed one of England's finest romantic sensibilities and knowledge of her country's landscape. Through evocative descriptions of the gardens and houses her heroine inhabited, Jane Brown reconstructs Henrietta's remarkable and tumultuous life, and reveals an intricate portrait of early eighteenth-century English culture and society.