Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson, biographer, publisher, lecturer, Birbeck College, University of London

‘A garden is a lovesome thing’, wrote Thomas Brown. Gardens in literature, from Adam and Eve onwards, have stood for many things beside pleasure. In Austen’s Mansfield Park, they are backgrounds for social occasions, notably courtship, and places of escape and temptation where rules can be broken. The grounds of the lost domain in Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes come to stand for all that is precious, romantic, but also most elusive and fragile about life. In Woolf’s Kew Gardens the garden becomes a locale of disquiet and at the same time a living work of art. And in Bassani’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, the sheltering garden throws into relief the dangers which lie outside it, and provides the setting for the narrator’s experience of first love. A striking use of the garden in literature comes from Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists, where the narrator’s alliance with the ex-gardener of the Emperor of Japan leads to an exploration of her own experience in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. The garden becomes a place of reconciliation and love.



1. Mansfield Park

2. Le Grand Meaulnes/The Lost Domain

3. Kew Gardens

4. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis         

5. The Garden of Evening Mists


Recommended reading

Austen, J. Mansfield Park. Any edition.

Bassani, G. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. Any edition.

Eng, T.T. 2012. The Garden of Evening Mists: a novel. New York: Weinstein Books.

Woolf, V. 1919. Kew Gardens. Any edition.


Date: 22–26 January  
Time: 1.00 pm
COURSE FEES Full: R510,00  Staff: R255,00  Reduced: R130,00