Language of flowers

After reading the letter to which Martha has pinned a flower, Bloom thinks, "Language of flowers. They like it because no-one can hear." Throughout the Victorian era people had used flowers as codes to communicate romantic feelings that could not be spoken aloud, and this one spurs Bloom to wonder which feelings Martha may have meant by it. Before reading the letter he muses, "A flower. I think it's a. A yellow flower with flattened petals." In Sirens he thinks, "Means something, language of flow. Was it a daisy? Innocence that is." He is correct about the daisy's significance, but not knowing whether he has received that or some other flower means that Martha's message must remain cryptic. Instead, the reader of Lotus Eaters gets Bloom's loose translation of her entire letter into flower language. His elaborations have darker overtones than the usual florigrams, more evocative of sexual desire and aggression.

JH 2022

Language of Flowers, a color lithograph reproduced as plate 35 in Alphonse Mucha's Album de la Décoration (1900). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

An English postcard, date unknown, held in the Dunbarton Oaks Archives. Source:

Title page of Charlotte de la Tour's Le Langage des Fleurs (1819). Source:

Title page of Henry Phillips' Floral Emblems (1825). Source:

Cover of John Ingram's Flora Symbolica (1869). Source:

  Color plate before the title page of the anonymous Floral Poetry and the Language of Flowers (1877). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Photograph by Simon Cooke of cover of Kate Greenaway's The Language of Flowers (London, 1884), engraved by Edmund Evans. Source:

  Two pages from Kate Greenaway's The Language of Flowers that show the many meanings attached to different varieties of roses. Source: