Eleanor Vere Boyle (also known as Miss Eleanor Gordon, E.V. B., Mrs. Richard Boyle, Miss Eleanor Gordon, E.V. B., Mrs. Richard Boyle)

Eleanor Vere Boyle (nee Gordon) was a Scottish writer, draughtswoman and illustrator active from the mid-19th century until 1911.

She was born on 1 May 1825 at Auchlunies in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the youngest of the nine children of Alexander Gordon (born 1783, died 1873) of Auchlunies, son of George, the third earl of Aberdeen, and his wife, Albinia Elizabeth, an amateur painter.

On 23 September 1845, she married the Honourable Richard Cavendish Townshend Boyle (born 1812, died 1886), the youngest son of Edmund, the eighth earl of Cork and Orrery and vicar of Marston Bigot in Somerset, England. Together they had five children between 1846 and 1854.

It was after the birth of their first child that her illustrating career began. Between 1852 and 1877 she illustrated fourteen books, the majority of which were fairy tales or nursery rhymes. She also exhibited her designs for illustrations and independent works at various galleries and became involved in local charities.

In 1847 her husband became chaplain-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria. Around 1871, upon his retirement, the family moved to Huntercombe Manor, near Burnham in Buckinghamshire, England. Here Boyle re-created an extensive garden, planting roses and snowdrops on a vast scale.

In 1878, her husband, Richard suffered a stroke and Boyle began to devote herself mostly to writing. Between 1884 and 1908 she published ten books. These were mostly about nature and gardens and many were illustrated with small black and white vignettes. The most popular of these works was perhaps Days and Hours in a Garden, which she dedicated to her husband who died in 1886. It appeared in ten editions between 1884 and 1898.

Boyle later also published her views on art, an anthology of poetry about roses, and a collection of essays describing gardens she had known since childhood including those at Maryculter, the seat of her uncle General Gordon; Ellon Castle, Aberdeenshire, which her father had inherited in 1840, and Hampton Court Palace, where her grandmother, Lady Albinia Cumberland, a former maid of honour to Queen Charlotte (the wife of George III), had apartments. The latter work was entitled Seven Gardens and a Palace(3rd edition, 1900) and was presented to Queen Alexandra. Her last work was a drawing, Love hath us in the Net, done in 1911 for Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Eleanor Vere Boyle died in Brighton, England on 29 July 1916 and was buried in the churchyard of Marston Bigot.

Sources:

National Portrait Gallery London, Search the Collection, 'Eleanor Vere Boyle (née Gordon) (1825-1916), Artist', <http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?LinkID=mp51598> [accessed 7 January 2008]

Nahum, Peter, Fairy Folk in Fairy Land (London: Peter Naham at Leicester Galleries, 1997)

Perkins, Donald, 'The Garden at Huntercombe Manor in 1882-83:Extracts from Days and Hours in a Garden (1884)by Eleanor Vere Boyle', (2000)<http://www.llansadwrn-wx.co.uk/garden/hcm/hcm.html> [accessed 7 January 2008]

Yeldham, Charlotte, ‘Boyle , Eleanor Vere (1825–1916)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)<http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/67551>[accessed 7 January 2008]

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