London, Cassell and Company, Limited, 1912.
Octavo, xxiv, 246 pages.
Two-colour decorated cloth lettered in gilt on the spine and front cover; cloth lightly marked and flecked; spine lightly sunned; an excellent copy.
'Mary Ansell (1868-1950) published three books in her lifetime: "The Happy Garden" and "Happy Houses", both in 1912; and "Dogs and Men" in 1924. The former two were written three years after she had left her writer-husband, J.M. Barrie, for Gilbert Cannan, an up-and-coming novelist fifteen years her junior. The adventure was not, in the end, a happy one: Gilbert left her in 1916 for nineteen year-old Gwen Wilson, and she was granted a judicial separation in 1918. But 1912 found Ansell in the midst of beginning the world anew, and her publications of this year express this sense of self-regeneration. "The Happy Garden" and "Happy Houses" [have] much in them to interest and engage. The former is a tour of her garden at Black Lake Cottage in Surrey, given to a fictional friend who she advises on how best to appoint a country garden. The latter extends this advice to home decoration, and introduces a fuller background of fictional characters and episodes: so much so that the book approached the condition of a novel. Through both she advances a moral theory of aesthetics that, though by no means new, is tailored to reflect her own ideals. Ansell is no philosopher, but this effort to form an ethical code of living, for all its contradictions, vagaries and illogicalities, forms a convincing and often moving portrait of an individual reconciling herself to the world' (from an article by Sarah Green on the 'Edwardian Culture Network' website).