Walter Scott, Lord Penzance and Roses
What do roses have in common with Walter Scott? Lord Penzance of course.
Roch Rollin

related pages: lord penzance's hybrid sweet briars by rose g. kinglsey
Anne of Geierstein
'Anne of Geierstein' ©2005 Daphne Filiberti

I love literature, and I love roses. I started reading Walter Scott when I was a teenager; and I bought my first rose bush when I was 17 years old. Twenty five years later, I have discovered a relationship between roses and Walter Scott's characters.

Walter Scott, the inventor of the historical novel, was born in 1771 in Edinburgh, and died at Abbotsford (Roxburghshire) in 1832. His father was a lawyer and his mother, the daughter of an eminent professor of medicine at Edinburgh University. He studied law and eventually followed in his father's footsteps. But his first love was literature.

W. S. published his first original poem, The Lay of the last Minstrel in 1802. It was an immediate success. For ten years, he was considered the best living poet of the U. K. until Lord Byron came out with Childe Harold in 1812.

Walter Scott sensibly decided to diversify. He dug in his drawers and found a novel he had started in 1805 but never finished. Titled Waverley, it came out in 1814 and became an instant best-seller. He published many other novels and stories as well as several non-fiction works; here is a list of the titles relevant to this article: Guy Mannering (1815), The Antiquary (1816), Old Mortality in Tales of my Landlord (1816), The Heart of Mid-Lothian in Tales of my Landlord 2nd series (1818), Rob Roy (1818), The Bride of Lammermoor in Tales of my Landlord, 3rd series, (1819), The Abbot (1820), Kenilworth (1821), The Pirate (1822), Redgauntlet (1824), Anne of Geierstein or The Maiden of the Mist (1829).

His poems and novels were quickly translated into French, then into Italian, German and other languages. This started a trend, something like Beattlemania. Scott received a baronetcy. Everywhere he went he was lionized. Plaid came into fashion. Tourists started visiting Scotland. Scott's themes inspired not only tourists and fashions, but poems, novels, paintings, sculptures, plays, symphonies and operas, as well as numerous imitations (the sincerest compliment).

It is very hard to quantify his work's influence on all branches of european culture in the 19th century, but it was profound. Among his most famous fans were Emily Bronte, Washington Irving, Alexandre Dumas, and Victor Hugo.

Among his less illustrious devotees, was another lawyer, born in 1816, who started reading What do roses have in common with Walter Scott? Lord Penzance of course. Walter Scott as a child and continued until he was an old man. This was James Plaisted Wilde, later Baron Penzance.

J. P. Wilde was, like Walter Scott, the son of a lawyer. He was well connected (his uncle, Lord Truro, became Chancellor) and quite successful. In 1860 he was knighted and that same year, he married Lady Mary Bouverie (1825-1900), daughter of the third Earl of Radnor. This was a rather late marriage, he was 44 to her 35. They had no children.

Three years later, Sir James Plaisted Wilde became Judge of the Court of Probate and Divorce. He was created Baron Penzance, of Penzance County in the peerage of the United Kingdom in 1869. He retired in 1872, but accepted the post of Dean of Arches Court in 1875, a position he kept on until the year of his death.

His main residence was Eashing Park in Godalming (Surrey), in the mild south of England. There he relaxed from the stresses of judicial duties by enjoying his gardens. Apparently his roses afforded him great enjoyment because he started to hybridize then, and grow them from seed. He had his own ideas; in a period famous for its huge Hybrid Perpetuals and delicate Hybrid Teas, he strove for scented foliage. Using Rosa eglanteria for its foliage and R. foetida or one of its descendants, he produced two new roses named for his wife and for himself:

'Lady Penzance' introduced in 1894; syn. 'Rosa x penzanceana' Rehder (R. eglanteria x R. foetida bicolor) Single flowers, coppery salmon-pink.

'Lord Penzance' introduced in 1894; (R. eglanteria x 'Harison's Yellow') Single flowers, soft rosy yellow, fragrant. These two roses make good size bushes, to about 5-6 ft.

Lord P., used R. eglanteria again, in combination with various garden roses for colour and size of bloom, raised 14 more roses. He named them after characters from his favourite author: Sir Walter Scott. As a group these are called the Penzance roses The ones marked * were hybridized by Lord Penzance but introduced by Keynes, Williams & Co.

'Amy Robsart' introduced* in 1894; (R. eglanteria x HP or B) Large, semi-double flowers, deep rose, fragrant; name from Kenilworth.

'Anne of Geierstein' introduced* in 1894; (R. eglanteria x HP or B) Flowers single, deep crimson, fragrant; name from Anne of Geierstein or the Maiden of the Mist.

'Brenda' introduced* in 1894; (R. eglanteria x HP or B) Flowers peach- blossom pink; name from The Pirate (sister of Minna Troil).

'Catherine Seyton' introduced* in 1894; (R. eglanteria x HP or B) Single, fragrant, soft-pink flowers; name from The Abbot.

'Edith Bellenden' introduced in 1895; (R. eglanteria x ?); Flowers single, pale rose; name from Old Mortality.

'Flora McIvor' introduced in 1894; (R. eglanteria x HP or B); Small, very fragrant flowers, rosy pink with a white centre; name from Waverley.

'Green Mantle' introduced in 1895; (R. eglanteria x ?); Bright rosy red flowers with a white eye; name from Redgauntlet.

'Jeanie Deans' introduced in 1895; (R. eglanteria x ?) ; Profuse, scarlet-crimson, semi-double flowers; name from The Heart of Mid-Lothian.

'Julia Mannering' introduced in 1895; (R. eglanteria x ?); Semi-double, pearly pink, fragrant flowers; name from Guy Mannering.

'Lucy Ashton' introduced in 1894; (R. eglanteria x ?); Single white flowers with a pink edge; name from The Bride of Lammermoor.

'Lucy Bertram' introduced in 1895; (R. eglanteria x ?); Single flowers, dark crimson with a white eye; name from Guy Mannering.

'Meg Merrilies' introduced in 1894; (R. eglanteria x HP or B); Rosy crimson, fragrant, single flowers; name from Guy Mannering.

'Minna' introduced in 1895; (R. eglanteria x ?); Semi-double, white flowers; name from The Pirate (sister of 'Brenda' Troil ).

'Rose Bradwardine' introduced in 1894; (R. eglanteria x ?); Single, clear rose-pink flower; name from Waverley.

The Penzance roses may reach as much as 10 ft. They all have fragrant foliage to various degrees, though not as fragrant as the species. They are all quite hardy, thriving at Montreal (zone 4) with no winter protection.

Although Kordes used 'Magnifica' (a seedling of 'Lucy Ashton' introduced by Hesse in 1916) in his breeding programme, he apparently was not concerned with scented foliage since none of his introductions, that I know of, have it. It would be wonderful to have both fragrant, perpetual flowering as well as aromatic foliage. Is there an adventurous hybridizer in the audience?

Lord Penzance was not alone among rose breeders in his devotion to W. S. In Paul, there are three roses called after the great author: a Gallica, a Noisette and a Tea which appear to be lost; there are also ten other roses that bear names from his novels. Only one of which I found in MR-10, 'Dominie Sampson' (Spn), named after a secondary but endearing character in Guy Mannering. More recently, Easley introduced 'Ivanhoe' (HT) in 1928, and Hill another HT called 'Ivanhoe' in 1972. These last two roses bear the name of Walter Scott's most popular novel, Ivanhoe (1820). This is only a partial list, other roses have been named directly or indirectly after W. S.characters.

The Penzance roses are still available, and have been written about frequently. In his book, Shepherd, page 140, (very good book by the way) made a little error, writing that one of the fourteen Penzance Roses has a descriptive name. The only one of the fourteen to which this could apply is 'Green Mantle', but Green Mantle is a character in Red Gauntlet, one of the less well known Scott novels. Just goes to show we are all human.

Beales theorizes on page 21 of his beautiful book, that 'Meg Merrilies' was named for a previously unknown woman of charitable works (If you have any info about this, please advise). This seems very unlikely, since all 13 other roses are named for scottian characters, and were introduced in two groups, within the space of 2 years.
The great Scottish novelist's influence is still felt today, his books are still read, and inspire films (Rob Roy). Lord Penzance's roses are still selling after more than a hundred years.
May the works of these two unusual men continue to inspire us for a long time to come.

N.B. Regarding spelling:
'Jeanie Deans': although in recent rose references Jeannie is spelled with two 'n's, I found in Wright (1911), that he used only one; I have followed his lead and the scottian spelling from the novel itself. 'Green Mantle', the current spelling ('Greenmantle' no space, small M) seems to have occurredquite recently, in Standardized Rose Names (circa 1924), 'Green Mantle' was the spelling; as it was in Modern Roses II (1940); I reverted to this, which is also Scott's spelling. 'Flora Mac Ivor', as it was spelled in Waverley, has been variously contracted through the years into M'Ivor and McIvor. Since both abbreviations are correct, and spaces seem to be out of fashion, I followed MR-10 with McIvor.

Many thanks to Claire Laberge for her invaluable cultural information.

Jeannie Deans
'Jeannie Deans', plate from Rose G. Kingsley's Roses and Rose Growing (1908)
See above regarding the spelling of 'Jeanie Deans'


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To read about Lord Penzance's Hybrid Sweet Briars and their uses in the garden link to the text from Roses and Rose Growing by Rose G. Kingsley

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