Sam George
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in Botany, sexuality and women’s writing 1760–1830
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The unique blend of science and literature, poetry and microscopy, which characterised women's botany in the Enlightenment, was missing from the Victorian flower books which superseded them. Elizabeth Kent's Flora Domestica kept botanical description to a minimum, preferring to mythologise plants and anthologise romantic verses on flowers. In Rebecca Hey's The Moral of Flowers and Louisa Anne Twamley's Flora's Gems, a sentimental and purely arbitrary language of flowers replaced the language of Carl Linnaeus which Jean-Jacques Rousseau had insisted was as necessary to botanists as algebra was to mathematicians. A bifurcation of botany had occurred whereby women's botany had become increasingly 'feminine' and ornamental and its serious scientific component had become more exclusively 'masculine' work. Botanical texts which retained something of the familiar format, Harriet Beaufort's Dialogues on Botany and Elizabeth and Sarah Fitton's Conversations on Botany, for example, became increasingly didactic.

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Botany, sexuality and women’s writing 1760–1830

From modest shoot to forward plant


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