Friday Fun Victorian Style

The Victorians loved flowers, so much so that they had a language of flowers.

In my recently purchased reference book, Manners: Culture and Dress, published in 1892 (yes, I’m the proud owner of a book that’s 120 years old!), the author devoted an entire chapter to the language of flowers, filling nine pages with lengthy lists that matched a certain type of flower with a particular meaning, e.g. a white poppy meant sleep.

Romance thrived in the Victorian era, so it will come as no surprise that a number of the meanings listed dealt with that all-important topic: love.

Unmarried couples were bound by rigid social strictures with regard to courting, which often stifled conversation. They were inhibited by the requisite chaperones, too, so they found other ways to communicate, the exchange of flowers being one of them. Thus, the ability to speak using the language of flowers must have been a skill they sought to acquire.

If a gentleman wanted to let a lady knew he had feelings for her, he had many options. Here are three flowers he might have chosen, along with their meanings.

honeysuckle ~ bond of love
a rosebud on moss ~ confession of love
a yellow tulip ~ declaration of  love

If a lady had received one of these flowers from her suitor, he would’ve expected a reply. If she had difficulty conveying her answer by either spoken or written word due to those ever-present chaperones or a meddling mama, she could have followed her beau’s lead, presenting him with a flower she’d chosen based on its meaning.

Following are three possible responses she might have given him, along with the three corresponding flowers, with each group listed in alphabetical order.

Can you match each flower with its meaning?

The Flowers

acacia rose
garden daisy

The Meanings

I declare against you.
I share your sentiments.
platonic love – friendship

• • •

Leave your guess in a comment.

• • •

Update and Answer

acacia rose ~ platonic love – friendship

garden daisy ~ I share your sentiments

tansy ~ I declare against you

• • •

I’ve updated the Friday Fun post from last week.  You can click this link to see the answer.


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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17 Responses to Friday Fun Victorian Style

  1. jessicarpatch says:

    garden daisy-platonic love
    acacia rose-shared sentiment
    tansy-I declare against you

    This was fascinating! I learn so much over here, Keli! 🙂

  2. wendypainemiller says:

    daisy – shared
    rose – love
    tansy – I do declare against 😉

    ~ Wendy

  3. Melissa Tagg says:

    “I declare against you” is now my new favorite phrase. Hilarious!! I have to copy Jess’s answers above. But seriously, I can’t giggling over “I declare against you.” 🙂

  4. Anne Payne says:

    I agree with Jessica. And “I declare against you” is so funny 🙂 I’ll have to remember that one!
    garden daisy-platonic love
    acacia rose-shared sentiment
    tansy-I declare against you

  5. Amber West says:

    I used to have a book when I was a teenager called “The Meaning of Flowers”. My friend and I would make jokes using the flower language when we were around other people.

    I declare against you. – Tansy
    I share your sentiments. – Garden Daisy
    platonic love – friendship – Acacia Rose

    I’ve always loved Tansies. 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Thanks for the fun comments. I have to agree. “I declare against you” sounds funny to our modern ears, but the Victorians really did speak this way, especially in their written communiques. Talk about flowery speech. They were masters at it.

      Here are some lines from the opening of the book’s chapter on the language of flowers:
      “Flowers are the smiles of nature, and earth would seem a desert without them. How profuse is nature in the bestowment of her smiles! They are seen on every hillside and in every valley; they cheer the traveler on the public way, and the hermit in his seclusion. Wherever the light of day reaches, you will find them, and none so poor they cannot possess them. They grew first in Paradise, and bring to our view more vividly than anything else the beauties of Eden.”

      What I like, being a historical writer who sets her stories in this period, is that the men spoke this way, too. The words I just shared were written by a man. The author of the book is Richard A. Wells. Knowing that men of the Victorian era used such poetic speech enables me to put some interesting words in my heroes’ mouths, words that could melt the heart of any woman–those of yesteryear as well as readers of historical romances today.

  6. Keli, I am so loving this series 🙂

    I agree with those who selected:

    garden daisy-platonic love
    acacia rose-shared sentiment
    tansy-I declare against you

  7. Like Mel, I’m laughing at “I declare against you.” Teehee. Um, I’m not really that great at these games, and the perfectionist in me hates to be wrong…but I’ll try.

    Daisy: Friendship
    Tansy: No way
    Rose: Shared sentiment

  8. Cindy says:

    This is really interesting, Keli. We all hear about colors having other meanings, but I’ve never heard about flowers. How cool!

  9. Your posts are one of my Friday highlights! Thanks for sharing your Victorian knowledge with us. 🙂
    acacia rose – shared sentiments
    garden daisy – platonic love
    tansy – I declare against you

  10. Loree Huebner says:

    garden daisy-platonic love
    acacia rose-shared sentiment
    tansy-I declare against you – I do love that phrase!

  11. jillrkemerer says:

    Wouldn’t it be cool to have the same flower meanings today? I would love to get yellow tulips, knowing the exact intention of the giver!

  12. cynthiaherron says:

    Keli, this was fun!

    “I declare against you” is making all of us laugh, I see. 🙂

  13. Sherrinda says:

    I do declare! Oh that is awesome! 🙂

    I think I’m going with the majority here:
    rose: shared
    tansy: declared against
    daisy: platonic

    I prefer the daisy…such a happy flower.

  14. Christina says:

    How fun!
    I’m going with the everyone else, too.

    rose=shared sentiments
    tansy= I declare against you
    daisy= friendship

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  16. acacia rose – platonic love – friendship
    garden daisy – I share your sentiments
    tansy – I declare against you

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