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Friday, May 9

The Language of Flowers in the Regency and Victorian Era

Mother's Day is around the corner and that means sending flowers as gifts of love or remembrances. During the Regency Era, flowers held a symbolic meaning, and the craze for interpreting them reached its peak during the Victorian age. The earliest record of the phrase "the language of flowers" is found in Christopher Smart's line in Jubilate Agno, 1759 to 1763 (Listen to the poem here):

"For the flowers have their angels... For there is a language of flowers. For there is a sound reasoning upon all flowers. For elegant phrases are nothing but flowers."

The publication of Charlotte de Latour's Le Langage des Fleurs in December 1819 began the craze for the language of flowers. Click on the link above to view the original book and its wonderful illustrations.

The recent mini-series, Cranford, on PBS's Masterpiece Classic showcases the custom of presenting flowers as symbols. Mr. Holbrook, Miss Mattie Jenkyn's beau from her youth, gives her a bouquet of her favorite flowers, primroses. These flowers had come to mean, "I can't live without you; early youth; and young love." How apropos!

Young Jessie Brown received anemones from Major Gordon, who had proposed to her before. The flowers meant love ever steadfast.

Language of Victorian flowers and their meaning
  • Apple Blossom - preference
  • Azalea - temperance
  • Basil - hatred
  • Columbine - folly
  • Daisy - innocence
  • Daffodil - regard
  • Holly - foresight
  • Iris - message
  • Ivy - fidelity
  • Lavender - distrust
  • Lily - purity
  • Marigold - sorrow
  • Morning Glory - affection
  • Myrtle - love and marriage
  • Oak - hospitality
  • Pansy - thoughtfulness
  • Primrose - consistency
  • Rhododendron - danger
  • Rose (single) - simplicity
  • Thistle - defiance Violet
  • Tulip - fame
  • Violet - faithfulness
  • Water-lily - pure of heart
  • Zinnia - thoughts of absent friends

Do you have a favorite flower? You can find their meanings in this list. Better yet, you might want to take the quiz, "What flower are you?" which sits below. I must admit I was quite surprised to learn I was a sunflower, until I realized that this flower always turns its face to the light and tracks the sun's arc, looking for the bright side. That is me. Yes, indeed.

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Read more on the topic:

The Quilt Jane Austen Made , JASNA, shows the basket of flowers she placed in the center.

Flowers, the Angels' Alphabet: Discusses Charlotte Latour and her book

Language of Flowers, Kate Greenaway, 1884

In addition, Regency Ramble offers a series of posts about the Flora and Fauna of the regency period. Click here to see them.

Posted by Ms. Place

1 comment:

Dina said...

I am a Snapdragon:
"Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh."

That's not me.