On Nineteenth-Century Flower Language

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.

 There are many, many more. Flower lexicons were a standard part of 19C women’s culture, especially, Sheley notes, “among literate, social, white middle and upper classes” (77). Also, Sheley draws from following scholarly study of language of flowers:
Seaton, Beverly. The Language of Flowers: A History. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995. Print. Victorian Literature and Culture Series.

[1]. A cataloger with the American Antiquarian Society contacted me this morning (Feb. 5, 2018) and asked how I knew Louisa Anne Twamley was the author of Flora and Thalia. I said more than, “Uh, I can’t recall,” but that was the gist of what I said. Therefore, I’ve removed the author attribution. See AAS catalog for more detail. For their updated info on authorship, see https://catalog.mwa.org/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=409218. Click “More About this Item” for their report on author sleuthing. Don’t wish to participate in false rumors on the Internets.

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One Response to On Nineteenth-Century Flower Language

  1. Nancy Strow Sheley says:

    Wow! Thanks for the shout-out! Love your list of floral links.
    Nancy Strow Sheley

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