The Victorian Era lasted from about 1832 until Queen Victoria’s death in 1903. The era was an eclectic period in the decorative arts with several styles—Gothic, Tudor, Neoclassical—vying for dominance. The period was marked by ornamentation. This was true in architecture, furniture, and funerary arts. In cemeteries gravestones became taller, ornamented, and sentimental.
In Victorian times, flowers took on significance as a way to send coded messages; this was known as floriography from the Latin combining flora—“goddess of flowers” and graphein—“writing”. Each flower had a meaning that was conveyed to the viewer or receiver of the flower or bouquet of flowers—the lily of the valley represented humility, the coral rose represented desire and passion, the white lily represented purity, and so on.
To the Victorians the morning glory, twining around fence rows and trellises, their delicate tendrils gently clinging, holding up their fragile flowers to open up to the summer sun, represented love in vain.
But to the Christians, there was a different meaning. Because of the morning glories ephemeral blooming during the early morning, unraveling its bloom directly to the sun and its blossom withering shut each night, the flower came to symbolize mortality and the brevity of life—a poet’s metaphor in the form of a flower. Also because of its attention to the sun, the morning glory represents the Resurrection.
Maria Anna Jaeger’s gravestone in the Mt. Calvary Cemetery, at Columbus, Ohio, was erected at nearly the height of the Victorian Era and displays the high ornamentation that characterized that time period. Her gravestone is festooned with flowers, though, the white marble rounded-top tablet has eroded and much of the detail has been lost. The circle inset, however, clearly displays a woman’s delicate hand holding a sprig of morning glories.
BORN MAY 15,
DIED APRIL 18,
Ironically, I am pretty sure I drove past this cemetery just the day before yesterday… then drove to Chillicothe, Ohio…what a magnificent drive this fall…I love the clear, informative style you use to explain the background of these metaphors. Always fresh, interesting and the right amount of historical information to make each one memorable–thank you for your work!