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Marianne North's Travel Writing: Every Step a Fresh Picture

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Kew's newest book focusing on Marianne North offers fresh insight into the pioneering traveller and artist through excerpts from her personal correspondence, autobiographical notes and pen sketches sent to friends.


Author: Michelle Payne. 256pp. 246 x 172mm. 95 colour paintings, sketches and photographs. Hardback, ISBN 9781842467954. Kew Publishing, 2023.

Marianne North’s Travel Writing offers fresh insight into the pioneering traveller and artist Marianne North (1830–1890). Excerpts from her personal correspondence and passages from her published autobiography combine to produce a vivid first-person account revealing her interests, opinions and experiences, along with all the pleasures and frustrations of prolonged overseas travel. Richly illustrated with facsimiles of letters and pen sketches she sent to friends, and reproductions of her celebrated oil paintings.

The book relays pertinent details about North’s life and considers her varied attitudes towards the people she met and the places she visited, including what her writings and paintings may suggest about her attitudes to empire and colonialism. The chapter sequence is chronological (from North America to Chile); with multiple trips to the same country grouped together, with the relevant year indicated. A final chapter will cover her English homes, particularly her London flat, which she felt was ‘more like home than any other’.


Michelle Payne is currently undertaking a PhD focusing on Marianne North's life and works. She is the author of Marianne North: A Very Intrepid Painter (2016, revised 2023) and works as an editor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Advolly Richmond is a plant and garden writer, social historian and television presenter. She was a finalist for the Alan Titchmarsh New Talent Award at the GMG Garden Awards, 2020.


Media and Reviews

This wonderful new account of Marianne North and her travels around the world really brings her unique vision and insatiable curiosity about the natural world to life. Using vivid handwritten letters and primary accounts, Michelle Payne allows us to follow in Marianne’s tenacious footsteps to discover more about the historical and social context in which she lived and worked, as well as how her travels around the world shaped her unique legacy and remarkable contribution to botanical art.

- Amelia Fox, Actress and Kew Ambassador


[North's] accounts, gathered and contextualised in this worthy anthology, are an absorbing reflection of her character and class, as well as the socio-politics of the mid 1880s, when the British Empire was at its zenith.

- The English Garden Magazine, November 2023


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