Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/North, Marianne

NORTH, MARIANNE (1830–1890), flower-painter, born at Hastings, 24 Oct. 1830, was the eldest daughter of Frederick North of Rougham, Norfolk, by Janet, eldest daughter of Sir John Marjoribanks, and widow of Robert Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire. The Norths were descendants of Roger North [q. v.], author of the ‘Lives.’ Roger's grandson, Fountain North, was cruelly treated by his father, ran away to sea, and upon inheriting the property destroyed the old house at Rougham, which had been the scene of his misery, and took a house at Hastings. Frederick North, Fountain's grandson, lived at Hastings, for which he became member in 1830. He voted for the Reform Bill, but after 1832 was compelled by ill-health to retire from parliament. His daughter says that he was the ‘one idol and friend of her life.’ Her early days were passed between Hastings, Gawthorpe Hall, and the old farmhouse at Rougham, which had once been the laundry of the hall. At Hastings the Norths saw many friends; but in the country they lived a quiet, open-air life, and Miss North, though for a time at a school in Norwich, was not over educated. She had a strong love of music, and at an early age took to painting flowers. She was trained in singing by Madame Sainton-Dolby [q. v.], but the failure of a fine voice led her to devote herself entirely to painting. After a stay on the continent from 1847 to 1850, she took some lessons in flower-painting from a Miss van Fowinkel and from Valentine Bartholomew [q. v.] Her father was elected M.P. for Hastings in 1854, and her mother died 17 Jan. 1855. Mr. North then took a flat in Victoria Street, London, and after 1860, having given up the house at Rougham to his son, he made several tours on the continent with his daughter. She made many sketches, and at home took great pleasure in the garden at Hastings. In 1865 Mr. North lost his seat, and made a long tour with his daughter in Syria and Egypt. He was re-elected in 1868, but his health was breaking, and he died 29 Oct. 1869.

Miss North now resolved to carry out an old project for painting the flora of more remote countries. Between July 1871 and June 1872 she visited Canada, the United States, and Jamaica. Later in the same summer she started for Brazil, where she spent much of her time drawing in a remote forest hut. She returned in September 1873. In the spring of 1875 she visited Teneriffe, and in the following August began a journey round the world. After staying in California, Japan, Borneo, Java, and Ceylon, she reached England in March 1877. In September 1878 she sailed for India, and after an extensive tour there returned to England in March 1879. Her drawings now attracted so many visitors that she found it convenient to exhibit them at a room in Conduit Street during the summer. She then offered to present them to the botanical gardens at Kew, and to build a gallery for their reception at her own expense. James Fergusson (1808–1886) [q. v.] prepared designs for a building, which was at once begun. Upon the suggestion of Charles Darwin that she ought to paint the Australian vegetation, she sailed in April 1880 for Borneo, and thence to Australia and New Zealand. She returned to England by California in the summer of 1886, when the gallery was ready to receive her paintings, and after a year's hard work it was opened to the public on 9 July 1882. Within a month two thousand copies of the catalogue were sold. She at once started for South Africa, returning in June 1883, when a room was added to the gallery. The following winter was spent at the Seychelles, and during 1884–5 she made her last journey, to paint araucarias in Chili. Before leaving she received a letter from the queen expressing regret that there were no means of officially recognising her generosity. A year was spent after her last return in rearranging the Kew gallery. Her health had suffered severely during her last journeys, and in 1886 she took a house at Alderley, Gloucestershire, in a beautiful country, where she could live quietly and devote herself to her garden. Many friends sent her plants from all quarters. Her health was, however, rapidly failing, and she suffered from a disease produced by her exposure to unhealthy climates. She died on 30 Aug. 1890, and was buried at Alderley.

Miss North's singular charm of character is sufficiently proved by the welcome which she everywhere received, when travelling alone in the wildest and remotest districts. The letters published by her sister show the refinement, quiet dignity, and love of natural beauty, which won the affection of her hosts as her energy gained their respect. Her paintings are valuable for artistic merits, but still more for the fidelity with which they preserve a record of vegetation now often disappearing. Five species, four of which she first made known in Europe, have been named after her.

[Recollections of a Happy Life, being the Autobiography of Marianne North, edited by her sister, Mrs. John Addington Symonds, 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1892. A volume of ‘Further Recollections’ appeared in 1893. See also biographical notice prefixed to the fifth edition of the Official Guide to the North Gallery.]

L. S.