Friday, September 4, 2009

Regency Faery Bower

I came across a book on my bookshelves the other day that I had not looked at for a while. It is a charming thing titled "A Regency Lady’s Faery Bower" subtitled ‘A Private View of Fairyland: Amelia Jane Murray 1800-1896'. The book was published in 1985 by Holt Rinehart in hardcover, ISBN 0-03-006109-1. It is copyrighted by April Agnew-Somerville who is apparently the current owner of the faery drawings.

Amelia Jane Murray was known as Emily by her family, and a very prestigious family it was. She was the niece of the Duke of Atholl who was at the time the Governor of the Isle of Man. As her father died when she was five, Emily grew up on Man in a privileged position at Mount Murray and later Castle Mona.

Emily was instructed in drawing, sketching and watercolours as was every proper Regency lady, and her work has echoes of Canova, Bewick and Flaxman. She drew these fairies in her twenties in the 1820s before the Victorian vogue for fairies began. There was an interest in fairies during the Regency fostered by Scott’s ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’ and the 1815 Brothers Grimm stories, but certainly Emily was in the vanguard of the fashion for fairies.

Emily Murray’s fairies are certainly perfect little Regency ladies. They have that 'Look' of the Regency which I discussed in my blog of March 26, 2009. Their gowns display classical simplicity, and their diaphanous scarves appeared in fashion plates of the day. She had no text with her paintings; in this book appropriate poems and excerpts have been added to the drawings to add to the reader’s enjoyment. The watercolours were executed on fine pasteboards surrounded by embossed borders, a delicate enhancement produced by a new process of gauffrage.
When she married in 1829 Emily quit fairy painting, and produced little artwork for the rest of her long life. Her album of fairy paintings was a family memento for several generations until its publication. Her drawings are now recognized as important additions to the genre of British fairy painting.
If you love the Regency and delight in fairies, you must seek out this out of print book. It seems to be fairly easily available through on-line out of print book dealers. You won’t regret it, I promise you.

Do you believe in fairies? I do...

Till next time,


Anonymous said...

What delightful pictures! It is a shame she stopped drawing after she married. I'll be looking for this book. My sister collects fairies and will love it. Will probably get a copy for myself if I can.

Patricia Barraclough said...

Have just discovered your blog. Have a lot of back entries to catch up on.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I'm so glad you found me, Pat! And I'm happy you find the book intriguing. It really is lovely; a must for us fairy lovers.

I'd love to have your comments on any of my past blogs. Thanks so much for visiting!

Cate Nunan said...

Hello from Australia in 2021! I found a copy of this book while searching through a second hand bookshop. It delighted me so much that I bought it and now look froward to learning about Emily and her gorgeous, delicate paintings.