Saturday, December 7, 2013

Theme: flowers

What if we say that flowers are a metaphor, and we are observing the commercial transfer of beauty and youth?

Sketches of London Life and Character, by AlbertSmith et. al., [1849]    Over what a multiplicity of love-affairs, in every stage of advancement, suspense, or retrogression, does the Bouquet-girl preside and administer to! For the destruction of how many beleaguered citadels do her arsenals furnish ammunition - from the open siege, carried on in the eye of the world, to the secret and artful mine, unsuspected till some terrible explosion reveals it to universal scandal! How many a course of true love has she traced through all its windings. The legitimate and successful suit, whose regular supply of bouquets ends at last with the bridal wreath of orange-flowers; and the illegitimate suit, whose series of bouquets has no other climax than abrupt cessation, a gradual dying-off, or a change in the address to which they are directed.

But among the whole tribe she has no such insatiate customer as he who is struggling in the toils of a danseuse. "If music be the food of love," bouquets are certainly the very air upon the regular supply of which hangs its existence; and on such air does the danseuse  seem exclusively to live.  A collection of all the bouquets she receives, arranged and ticketed according to date and circumstance, would form a minute record of her career.

    Depository of secrets so important, upon which depend the fair name and the happiness of so many, what a bonne fortune would the confessions of a Bouquet- girl be to a revelation and mystery-mongering novelist. It is to be hoped, however, that she is worthy of the trust reposed in her. With a solemn adjuration to the Bouquet-girl to pursue her amiable but responsible calling with inviolable secrecy and discretion, for the sake of mercy and the peace of society in general, we will bid her farewell, and a long ascendancy of the planet Venus.

London Labour and the London Poor; 1851, 1861-2; Henry Mayhew:  
Cobbett has insisted, and with unquestioned truth, that a fondness for bees and flowers is among the very best characteristics of the English peasant.  A delight in flowers is observable, also, among the workers whose handicraft requires the exercise of taste, and whose eyes are sensible, from the nature of their employment, to the beauty of colour.  The fondness for flowers in London is strongest in the women, and, perhaps, strongest in those whose callings are in-door and sedentary. Flowers are to them a companionship.

 Of flower-girls there are two classes. Some girls, and they are certainly the smaller class of the two, avail themselves of the sale of flowers in the streets for immoral purposes, or rather, they seek to eke out the small gains of their trade by such practises. They frequent the great thoroughfares, and offer their bouquets to gentlemen, whom on an evening they pursue for a hundred yards or two in such places as the Strand, mixing up a leer with their whine for custom or for charity. Their ages are from fourteen to nineteen or twenty, and sometimes they remain out offering their flowers -or dried lavender when no fresh flowers are to be had - until late at night.
      The other class of flower-girls is composed of the girls who, wholly or partially, depend upon the sale of flowers for their own support or as an assistance to their parents. Some of them are the children of street-sellers, some are orphans, and some are the daughters of mechanics who are out of employment, and who prefer any course rather than an application to the parish. These girls offer their flowers in the principal streets at the West End, and resort greatly to the suburbs; there are a few, also, in the business thoroughfares. They walk up and down in front of the houses, offering their flowers to any one looking out of the windows, or they stand at any likely place. They are generally very persevering, more especially the younger children, who will run along, barefooted, with their "Please, gentleman, do buy my flowers. Poor little girl!" -"Please, kind lady, buy my violets. O, do! please! Poor little girl! Do buy a bunch, please, kind lady!"

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