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I inherited an 1883 advice and etiquette book from my grandmother,
and in it is the longest and in some ways strangest list of meanings I've
ever encountered. It has become the starting point for this ongoing project:
to accumulate a list of flowers and the various meanings assigned to them
in different guides.
Right now, I have six sources for Victorian-era flower language. In the tables that follow, they are referred to by their print dates (1853, 1883(I), 1883(II), 1885, 1892, and 1899). They are:
1853: Chauncey, Mary, ed. The Floral Gift, from Nature and the Heart. New York: Leavitt & Allen, 1853. The copy I have is, unfortunately, missing pages 65-78 (between "Honeysuckle" and "Lily, White").
1883(I): Our Deportment, or the Manners, Conduct, and Dress of the Most Refined Society; including Forms for Letters, Invitations, Etc., Etc. Also, Valuable Suggestions on Home Culture and Training. Compiled from the Latest Reliable Authorities, by John H. Young, A.M. Detroit: F.B. Dickerson & Co., 1883.
1883(II): Hill, Thos. E. Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms. Chicago: Hill Standard Book Co., 1883.
1885: Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers, 1885. From a plain text file provided by Brent Ross.
1892: Robinson, Nugent. Collier's Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge. New York: P. F. Collier, Publisher, 1892.
1899: Parsons' Hand-Book of Forms: A Compendium of Business and Social Rules and a Complete Work of Reference and Self-Instruction, with Illustrations, 13th ed. Battle Creek, MI: The Central Manufacturing Co., 1899.
As it happened, the 1885 and 1892 lists proved to be absolutely identical except for some spelling variations. Thus, in the index by flower name, I've combined them into one column.
Since the names used for some flowers are obscure to modern readers, I've used the Oxford English Dictionary to try to find more recognizable equivalents for the unfamiliar names. I'd appreciate any suggestions for the ones I haven't identified. I'm also always on the lookout for more sources -- ideally ones actually published in the nineteenth century, rather than modern versions. Comments and suggestions are always welcome -- please send me mail!
And now, onward!
visitors since September 16, 2002.