The Flower of Empire

The Flower of Empire : The Amazon's Largest Water Lily, the Quest to Make it Bloom, and the World it Helped Create

3.92 (52 ratings by Goodreads)
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In 1837, a German naturalist named Robert Schomburgk was charting the South American terrirtory of Guiana on behalf of the Royal Geographical Society. Guiana, only recently joined to the British Empire, was almost uncharted, and knowledge of it stemmed primarily from Sir Walter Raleigh's account of his search for the legendary city El Dorado. Moving upriver, Schomburgk found not gold, but to his astonishment, a "vegetal wonder" - a water lily so colossal that it physically impeded the expedition's progress. The flowers were dazzlingly white; its leaves were five or six feet across. He took careful notes and packed up one of the plants as best he could, then sent them back to England, where news of the discovery spread and fed a horticultural mania. A race was on to bring a live specimen to England, and to bring it to flower. In honor of its being discovered during the year of the new queen's accession to the throne, the lily was named the Victoria regia. In The Flower of Empire, Tatiana Holway tells the story of this magnificent flower, from its discovery to the manner in which its influence touched upon nearly every aspect of Victorian life, art, and culture. Holway recounts how the lily's appearance was reproduced everywhere, giving rise to new experiments in hothouse architecture and eventually serving as a basis for the design of the Crystal Palace, the most impressive demonstration and symbol of the empire's unrivaled industrial might and natural bounty. The Flower of Empire is a revealing and enduring work of cultural more

Product details

  • Hardback | 328 pages
  • 157.48 x 238.76 x 33.02mm | 612.35g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 16 pp color insert
  • 0195373898
  • 9780195373899
  • 892,234

Review quote

The Flower of Empire adds to a blossoming genre of cultural studies that traces the movements of single objects of natural history within their historical contexts. Tatiana Holway offers a highly engaging, synthetic account of the Victorian British obsession over the gigantic South American water lily known today as Victoria amazonica (Sowerby), hitherto treated in limited analyses of its discovery, classification, acclimatization and usage in architectural design. As a Dickens scholar, Holway builds upon Victorian literary perspectives as well as a rich historical scholarship and new archival research. * Donald L. Opitz, British Journal for the History of Science * A fresh and often witty account in which the author quotes freely from correspondence and periodicals to create a lively portrait of Victorian England and of the widespread passion for flowers and gardening at that time. * Kirkus Review * Tatiana Holway's wonderful book about the Victoria regia is fascinating, impeccably written, and elegantly designed. Until I read it I had been most fascinated by the Chinese handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrate, but Holway's book has led me reconsider. * Simon Winchester * Tatiana Holway tells the story in all its complexities with verve and humour a handsome book at a very reasonable price. * Margaret Willes, The Victorian * Her rip-roaring, page-turning approach makes this book a hugely enjoyable read for anyone with an interest in 19th century history * Ambra Edwards, The Garden * [A] splendid story what's most fascinating about this tale is the way Holway twists and turns it through other botanical developments * New York Times * [A] remarkable book * The Lady * Holway fills her book with a feast of Victoriana and the enthusiasm of a specialist * Peter Lewis, Daily Mail *show more

About Tatiana Holway

Tatiana Holway is a Victorian scholar and writer. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia University and has taught literature at a number of different colleges. She lives in more

Table of contents

Prologue: Victoria's Floras ; 1. Terra Incognita ; 2. Perils and Wonders ; 3. A Floral Sensation ; 4. An International Tempest ; 5. Return to the Wild ; 6. Cultivating Kew Gardens ; 7. His Grace and His Gardener ; 8. The Flowering of Chatsworth ; 9. Golden Square ; 10. Evergreens ; 11. Salvaging Kew Gardens ; 12. Trading Favors ; 13. Trials and Errors ; 14. The Great Stove ; 15. Reviving Kew Gardens ; 16. Return to El Dorado ; 17. Paxton, Inc. ; 18. First Bloom ; 19. Nature's Engineer ; 20. Empire under Glass ; Epilogue: Victoria Regia Redux ; Notes ; Bibliographyshow more

Rating details

52 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 23% (12)
4 54% (28)
3 15% (8)
2 8% (4)
1 0% (0)
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