A week or so ago I came across a rather beautiful and charming old book published by W Nicolson and Sons in 1867 given to me years ago by a Great-Aunt.
"The Lover's Language of Flowers
Expressive of the Heart
to which is added
The Floral Oracle"
By a Lover of Flowers
All very apt with Valentine's Day looming on the horizon!
"O'er the Rose
A veil of moss the angel throws.
And robed in nature's simplest weed,
Could there be a flower that Rose exceed?"
This lovely quaint book contains many flower poems and a description of the meanings of various flowers when given as tokens of love or mentioned in letters together with a descripton of what flowers have meant to humankind throughout history. Right at the end of the book is "The Floral Oracle - by which to ascertain your future relationships, position in life and the character of your connexions - Designed for the recreation of evening parties! A sort of fortune telling by flower power in the nineteenth century!
There are several colour illustrations scattered throughout the book.
"Wild Rose - symbol of pleasure and pain"
"Iris - a pleasant message will bring
The most pleasant would be The Wedding Ring"
"Forget-Me-Not" - True love for thee my heart has got
Be True to me, Forget-Me-Not"
"Calceolaria - Purse-proud flower, Say, will my lover bring a dower"
"Honeysuckle - symbol of Devoted Affection. To you - to me, how sweet the reflection".
So what type of flowers would a gentleman have sent to the object of his desire in the mid nineteenth century to convey his feelings? Well he may well have included a deep red carnation signifying "my heart is smitten and aches for thee", a Christmas rose to ask her to relieve his anxiety, a four leafed clover ("Be mine"), a pansy ("you occupy my thoughts"), honeysuckle "to show Devoted Affection", a sprig of myrtle for love and a red tulip as a "declaration of love".
If the object of his desire returned his affections, she may well have worn when they next met or sent him a pink geranium to indicate "I prefer you",or peach blossom to show "Iam your Captive"; purple violet would say "you are constantly in my mind" and hawthorn blossom would be a "sign of hope".
If she did not return his ardour she may well have worn a yellow carnation signifying disdain or candytuft for indifference or, as a real dampener, ice plant signifying that "your looks freeze me"!! and wild liquorice woud suggest "I declare against you"!
"By flowers the lover tells his state,
They do his hopes, or fears express;
The maid, when words or looks do fail,
Can thus a kind return confess".