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Mary Delany

(b. May 14, 1700, Coulston, Wiltshire – d. April 15, 1788, Windsor, Berkshire )

Gender: F

Mary Granville (1700-1788) was the daughter of Colonel Bernard Granville and his wife Mary. At the age of seventeen, under family pressure, she married the sixty-year-old Alexander Pendarves, and went to live in the decrepit Roscrow Castle in Cornwall. Pendarves died in 1724, but although his wife was relieved, she found that he had failed to alter his will and she inherited nothing from his estate. Nevertheless, as a young widow she benefited from a degree of independence, and on a visit to Ireland with Anne Donellan, she met Rev Patrick Delany. Following the death of Delany’s wife, and against the strong disapproval of her family, she married him in 1743. Their marriage was happy and lasted for twenty-five years, but Dr Delany died in 1768. As a widow, Mary Delany spent much of her time at Bulstrode Hall with Margaret Bentinck, Dowager Duchess of Portland, the childhood friend of Elizabeth Montagu. She suffered a further disappointment on the death of Duchess in 1785, when it was discovered that she had failed to make any provision for her friend in her will. However, King George III and his wife, Queen Charlotte, gave Delany a pension and a cottage on the Windsor estate, and visited her frequently. It was during one of these visits that the Queen met Fanny Burney, and subsequently offered her the position of Keeper of the Robes. Delany was a prolific artist using the technique of découpage or paper-cutting to produce images of flowers and other plants in meticulous and botanically-accurate detail. Many of these works survive today in the British Museum. Anne Donnellan wrote of the young Mrs Delany on 9 Sept 1729: “her generosity naturally flows from her benevolence; she gives as not knowing she gives, and the joy she has in pleasing others persuades one she is more obliged to us for accepting her favours than we can be to her for bestowing them … She reads to improve her mind, not to make an appearance of being learned; she writes with all the delicacy of a woman, and the strength and correctness of a man …” (Autobiography & Correspondence of Mrs Delany, ed. Lady Llanover (London: Richard Bentley, 1861-2, Vol 2, pp. 176-80). Fanny Burney was devoted to Mrs Delany. On first meeting her in 1783 when she was 83, she wrote: “She is still tall, though some of her height may be lost: not much, however, for she is remarkably upright. She has no remains of beauty in feature, but in countenance I never but once saw more, and that was in my sweet maternal grandmother. Benevolence, softness, piety, and gentleness are all resident in her face … her mind, which seems to contain nothing but purity and native humility …” (Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, London: Henry Colburn, Vol 2, 206-7). Delany’s Autobiography and Correspondence was edited and published in six volumes (London, Richard Bentley, 1861-2) by her great-great-niece, Augusta Hall, Lady Llanover.

Also known as:

  • Mary Delany (née  Granville)
  • Mrs Pen
  • Mary Pendarves (née  Granville)


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Mentioned in 22 letters

Please note that all dates and location information are provisional, initially taken from the library and archive catalogues. As our section editors continue to work through the material we will update our database and the changes will be reflected across the edition.

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