Fleur Cowles The Flower Game: What Ten Flowers Would You Take to a Lonely Island?
The personal archive of publisher, author, and artist Fleur Cowles (1908 –2009) has been donated to the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin. The materials will be accessible once processed and cataloged, but an initial assessment confirms that the archive is as dynamic as Cowles was herself. (Editor's Note: She was perhaps best known for the short-lived Flair magazine, described by Time magazine described as "a fancy bouillabaisse of Vogue, Town & Country, Holiday, etc.)
In 1983, Cowles celebrated the publication of The Flower Game, a book that shared hundreds of responses from friends around the world, all answering the question of what ten flowers they would like to take to a lonely island, assuming anything would grow there.
When soliciting friends, Cowles wrote, “The replies will determine the best loved flowers everywhere (I am writing to many places around the world).”
Participants ranged from European to Hollywood royalty, proving that Cowles didn’t limit herself to a continent nor to small social circles. A detailed chart documents the progress of Cowles’s initiative, revealing the friends invited to participate and the dates for solicitation and receipt.
Just as these responses provide insight into Cowles’s broad personal and professional network, the hundreds of typed and handwritten, signed responses represent just a small fraction of the correspondence found in the archive.
Below are highlights from a handful of the participants.
Photographer Beaton provided not only his list of flowers but also a handwritten note stating “Any large white orchid of any variety, as long as it is white.”
Actress Bergen’s list included wisteria and night-blooming jasmine, and she elaborated on her selections: “Flowers to see and smell — by day and night — that bloom underfoot and hang overhead, plus a few insect escorts — butterflies and caterpillars, the odd ladybug — for company.”
November 28, 1981
Olivia de Havilland:
Actress de Havilland gave herself an hour to construct her list, which contained water lilies, blue bells, and peonies.
Actor Fairbanks’s list includes a reference to his trademark carnation. Topping his list at number one is “The dark red (or Harvard red) carnation, as I have worn one in my button-hole actually since I have had a button-hole.”
March 6, 1979
The challenge of selecting flowers was difficult for anthropologist Goodall, who wrote, “The first 6 flowers were very easy to chose — but the last 4 were much harder. Not because it is difficult to think of 4 flowers one loves, but because it is difficult to reject others.”
February 27, 1979
Princess Grace of Monaco:
Listed among her favorite flowers, Princess Grace included bamboo, noting, “I hope you will accept bamboo although I have never seen it flower.”
March 7, 1979
Pages: 1 · 2