Seedling, Bud, Sprout: Cultivating Imperial Subjects in Victorian Gardening Books for Children
Join UCLA Library in the NEW Distinctive Collections Classroom for a presentation from 2023 Karmiole Fellow, Dr. Lindsay Wells, and featuring materials from Library Special Collections.
Children’s literature about flowers and gardens constitutes an understudied branch of the Victorian horticultural press, yet it importantly demonstrates how nineteenth-century Britons were conditioned from infancy to perceive and interpret ornamental plants from around the world. From Africa and Asia to Australia and the Americas, many of the plants featured in gardening books for children at this time hailed from different corners of the British empire. Often filled with colorful illustrations, these texts demonstrate how botanical imagery was mobilized across different print genres in the nineteenth century to reinforce the imperialist claim that collecting foreign flora was a British prerogative.
Focusing on the entwined histories of art, plant hunting, and garden writing, this talk will explore how assumptions about empire and national identity were embedded within Victorian children's books about horticulture.
Lindsay Wells' research examines British art of the long nineteenth century, with a focus on empire, the environment, and horticultural history. From 2022-23 Wells was a GRI-NEH Postdoctoral Fellow at the Getty Research Institute, where she was writing a book on the British Aesthetic Movement and imperial plant hunting. From 2021 to 2022, she was an Ahmanson-Getty Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA's William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, and she has also held fellowships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Oaks Spring Garden Foundation, and the Lloyd Library and Museum. Her articles on plants and gardening in nineteenth-century Britain have appeared in Victorian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Victorian Periodicals Review.