This post is inspired by Nancy Strow Sheley’s “The Language of Flowers in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Other Nineteenth-Century American Works,” Resources for American Literary Study 30 (2005): 77-103. She argues, essentially, that to read mentions of flowers in literary texts like Stowe’s novel and other writers like Louisa May Alcott, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (and even male writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charles Waddell Chesnutt), you need to know what flowers mean. Go read the article, obviously, but RALS is not (to my knowledge) available electronically at present. Therefore, in lieu of that, below I link to several online flower dictionaries, arranged chronologically.
- Twamley, Louisa Anne. Flora and Thalia; Or, Gems of Flowers and Poetry: Being an Alphabetical Arrangement of Flowers, with Appropriate Poetical Illustrations, Embellished with Coloured Plates. Philadelphia, Carey, Lea, and Blanchard, 1836. Internet Archive. Web. 9 Apr. 2016. http://archive.org/details/florathaliaorgem00phil.
- Wirt, E. W. Flora’s Dictionary. Baltimore, c1837. Hathitrust. Web. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015045822577.
Esling [Waterman], Catharine H. Flora’s Lexicon: An Interpretation of the Language and Sentiment of Flowers, with an Outline of Botany and a Poetical Introduction. Philadelphia: Herman Hooker, 1840. Web.http://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433010840605.
- Griffin, Mary M. Drops from Flora’s Cup, Or, The Poetry of Flowers: With a Floral Vocabulary. Boston: Oliver L. Perkins, 1846. Hathitrust. Web. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008587768.
- Kitto, John, and American Sunday-School Union. Thoughts among Flowers. Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1847. Open WorldCat. Web. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100196302 [Note: Link is to 1843 London edition, but American Sunday-School Union edition was issued in 1847. See http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/58549751 and https://books.google.com/books?id=Nyo3AAAAMAAJ.]
- Mayo, Sarah C. Edgarton. The Flower Vase; Containing the Language of Flowers, and Their Poetic Sentiments. Lowell, MA: 1850. Hathitrust. Web. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/njp.32101068142429.
- Kirtland, C. M [Caroline M. Kirkland]. Poetry of the Flowers. New York: Crowell, 1885. Hathitrust. Web. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100589451. [Several authors, including Sheley, cite an 1845 edition. Given style of binding and printing, this must be a late-century reprint.]