INTRODUCTION TO THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EDITION
Originally published in 1898, "Elizabeth and her German Garden" is the first book by Marie Annette Beauchamp--known all her life as "Elizabeth". The book, anonymously published, was an incredible success, going through printing after printing by several publishers over the next few years. (I myself own three separate early editions of this book by different publishers on both sides of the Atlantic.) The present Gutenberg edition was scanned from the illustrated deluxe MacMillan (London) edition of 1900.
Elizabeth was a cousin of the better-known writer Katherine Mansfield (whose real name was Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp). Born in Australia, Elizabeth was educated in England. She was reputed to be a fine organist and musician. At a young age, she captured the heart of a German Count, was persuaded to marry him, and went to live in Germany. Over the next years she bore five daughters. After her husband's death and the decline of the estate, she returned to England. She was a friend to many of high social standing, including people such as H. G. Wells (who considered her one of the finest wits of the day). Some time later she married the brother of Bertrand Russell; which marriage was a failure and ended in divorce. Eventually Elizabeth fled to America at the outbreak of the Second World War, and there died in 1941.
Elizabeth is best known to modern readers by the name "Elizabeth von Arnim", author of "The Enchanted April" which was recently made into a successful film by the same title. Another of her books, "Mr. Skeffington" was also once made into a film starring Bette Davis, circa 1940.
Some of Elizabeth's work is published in modern editions by Virago and other publishers. Among these are: "Love", "The Enchanted April", "Caravaners", "Christopher and Columbus", "The Pastor's Wife", "Mr. Skeffington", "The Solitary Summer", and "Elizabeth's Adventures in Rugen". Also published by Virago is her non-autobiography "All the Dogs of My Life"-- as the title suggests, it is the story not of her life, but of the lives of the many dogs she owned; though of course it does touch upon her own experiences.
In the centennial year of this book's first publication, I hope that its availability through Project Gutenberg will stir some renewed interest in Elizabeth and her delightful work. She is, I would venture, my favorite author; and I hope that soon she will be one of your favorites.
R. McGowan San Jose, April 11 1998.
NOTES: The first page of the book contains two musical phrases, marked in the text below between square brackets . Since this is the first Gutenberg release, pagination is retained between angle brackets <> to facilitate proofreading and correction for subsequent editions. This is only available in version lzgdn09. This is 10.
Elizabeth and her German Garden
May 7th.--I love my garden. I am writing in it now in the late afternoon loveliness, much interrupted by the mosquitoes and the temptation to look at all the glories of the new green leaves washed half an hour ago in a cold shower. Two owls are perched near me, and are carrying on a long conversation that I enjoy as much as any warbling of nightingales. The gentleman owl says [[musical notes occur here in the printed text]], and she answers from her tree a little way off, [[musical notes]], beautifully assenting to and completing her lord's remark, as becomes a properly constructed German she-owl. They say the same thing over and over again so emphatically that I think it must be something nasty about me; but I shall not let myself be frightened away by the sarcasm of owls.
This is less a garden than a wilderness. No one has lived in the house, much less in the garden, for twenty-five years, and it is such a pretty old place that the people who might have lived here and did not, deliberately preferring the horrors of a flat in a town, must have belonged to that vast number of eyeless and earless persons of whom the world seems chiefly composed. Noseless too, though it does not sound pretty; but the greater part of my spring happiness is due to the scent of the wet earth and young leaves.
I am always happy (out of doors be it understood, for indoors there are servants and furniture) but in quite different ways, and my spring happiness bears no resemblance to my summer or autumn happiness, though it is not more intense, and there were days last winter when I danced for sheer joy out in my frost-bound garden, in spite of my years and children. But I did it behind a bush, having a due regard for the decencies.