“Miserable Reflections on the Sorrows of My Life”: Letters, Loneliness, and Gardening in the 1760s

Stephen Bending, University of Southampton
Vol. 25, No. 1 (Spring 2006), 31-47

This essay shows how the letters and journals of Lady Mary Coke, who led a life of relative seclusion after her effort to divorce her libertine husband made her the object of scandalized attention, articulated her feelings of abandonment, resentment, and despair through her comments about gardening. Devoted to gardening as an activity that staved off loneliness even as the garden itself embodied her solitude and her fall from public life, Coke provides us with a striking counterpoint to the prevailing eighteenth-century British idealization of rural retirement as an existence of virtue and peace.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]