The Nature of Sensation Fiction: Botanical Textuality in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s The Doctor’s Wife (1864) and Rhoda Broughton’s Red as a Rose Is She (1870)
Numerous publications documenting the meanings attributed to various blooms and plants entered the early-nineteenth-century book market, with Charlotte de Latour’s The Language of Flowers (1819) remaining relatively well known today. The Victorians, too, embraced the language of flowers as a means of codified and sentimental communication. While this fascination with the natural world is well established, insufficient attention has been given to Victorian writers’ productive engagement with floriography, a system of reference that accompanied a burgeoning interest in botany and classification. This chapter will explore how for women sensation writers such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Rhoda Broughton who were trying to highlight social issues, while still conforming to moral standards, the language of flowers provides a strategic yet restrained way to write about female desire.