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splendid Romantic era manuscript celebrating the poetry and art of flowers

TENNENT, LAETITIA EMERSON. “Poetry of Flowers” autograph manuscript watercolor album

No place, ca. 1820s

4to (9 x 7 in.). 420 pp. (wove paper with watermark “Smith & Allnut 1825), including index of watercolors, some leaves blank. 79 original watercolor and ink studies of flowers (45 full-page), 2 uncolored ink studies. 2 manuscript poems (“Sleeper” and “The Drowning Fly”) by William Tennent loosely inserted. Contemporary red morocco gilt extra, spine lettered “Poetry of Flowers. By Lady E. Tennent.” Very fine condition.

This splendid album of botanical watercolors and the “poetry of flowers,” the product of years of reading, writing, and painting, was created by Lady Laetitia Emerson Tennent. She collected several hundred poems and lines of verse concerning flowers and the language of flowers written by poets from Shakespeare and Spenser to Wordsworth and other Romantics, the famous and the obscure.

Lady Tennent illustrated the album with finely executed ink and watercolor studies of flowers, typically placed with thematically related verse. The result is a gorgeous, elegant, and tasteful unique volume reflecting her love of flowers and poetry. This lovely personal album provides an intimate view of the artistic accomplishments and aesthetic and literary tastes of a talented woman of the early nineteenth century.

Provenance: Lady Laetitia Emerson Tennent. The daughter and heir of Belfast banker William Tennent, Laetitia (died 1883) married the Irish politician, traveller and author Sir James Emerson in 1831. On the death of her father in 1832, Emerson took his wife’s surname by royal license, entered Parliament as MP for Belfast, and inherited their future home at Tempo Manor, County Fermanagh. In 1845 Emerson was appointed civil secretary to the colonial government of Ceylon, where he served until 1850.