ideal of womanhood—
"...he came into the pretty drawing-room...
where Violet sprang up from her low chair by the fire, to meet him. How pretty she was! how sweet!
how elegant and graceful every movement and look, every detail of her dress! His eyes took in every
beauty lovingly, as one who looks his last on something dearer than life, and then lost all consciousness of any other
beauty, in the surpassing beauty of the love for him in her eyes. She stretched out both her soft hands to him,
with the ring he had given her the only ornament on them, and said, "Tell me about it."
"Do you not know some voices that have a caress
in every word and a comfort in every tone? Violet Meredith's was such a voice."
ideal of manhood—Dr. John Carter
fits the Victorian ideal: steady, hard-working, intelligent, strong, powerful, brave, successful, honest,
kind, patient, respected, esteemed, gentlemanly. Even such a man is subject to temptations of "anger, fear, and
haste" and of pride and shame. He requires the "comfort" of Mother's apron as a boy and of Violet's voice as a man.
His mother, on her deathbed
says, "Laddie's sweetheart... He's been a good son, my dear, always good to his old mother, and he'll be a good husband.
And you'll make him a good wife, my dear, won't you? God bless you."
medicine—Laddie's physician office
is described as is the practice of other London physicians, his rounds at hospital (with details of nursing care) described
in some detail. Laddie is reading the Medical Review when his mother comes.
biological images are common in most Whitaker
works that have medical characters:
"the elaborate system of nerves and muscles and
veins with which we are fearfully and wonderfully made."
books and literacy—"This is no story-book
world of chivalry, romance and poetry; and to get on in it you must lay aside sentimental fancies and act by the light
of reason and common sense..." But Dr. Carter is mistaken in his view: there is a difference between "sentimental
fancies" and "the running tide of love and conscience."
preparing to read the Medical Review,
Dr. Carter puts on "the silver-rimmed spectacles... kept in the old Family Bible, and brought out with great pomp and ceremony
on Sunday evenings."
train trip—Mother's trip is described
in great detail with descriptions of cars, passengers, route, and times. Laddie also makes a train trip back to Sunnybrook/Martel
in search of his mother. For a painting by Charles Rossiter of a third class rail car:
London—"What an awful place London
is! I do not mean awful in the sense in which the word is used by fashionable young ladies or schoolboys.... I
use it in its real meaning, full of awe, inspiring fear and reverence, as Jacob said, 'How dreadful is this
place,'—this great London, with its millions of souls, with its strange contrasts of riches and poverty,
business and pleasure, learning and ignorance, and the sin everywhere. Awful, indeed! and the
thought would be overwhelming in its awfulness if we could not say, also as Jacob did, 'Surely the Lord
is in this place and I knew it not..." a detailed discussion of the bustle and confusion of London's streets follows. The woman
alone in London—a motif prevalent in Victorian novels—is turned upside down. The old mother has three face-to-face
with a merciful pickpocket
with a woman of the streets who "looked eagerly
into her face. Then pushed her away with a painful little laugh. 'I thought you were my mother,' she said"
and finally with the young woman from the train
who has found a welcoming husband and a home rather than prostitution on those dire London streets.
With this poor, young family the old mother finds welcome, mercy, and shelter.
Victorian language of flowers—There
are many lists, and not all agree as to meanings. Further, these meanings changed over time. The meanings listed
here are largely from:
Collier's Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, compiled by Nugent
Robinson. P.F. Collier, 1882
The first and last chapters of Laddie
begin with flowers. These particular flowers are named not merely for their descriptive value; they are fraught with meaning
and, in fact, they foreshadow the events of each chapter. At the beginning of chapter one, Mother begins her trip carrying
Michaelmas daisies, southernwood, rosemary, and ripe apples.
Violets are at the very center of the book:
"...violets which are scenting the consulting
room and luring Dr. Carter, not unwillingly,... to thoughts of the giver. Her name is Violet, and so are her eyes...
But as the scent of violets had led him to think of the giver, so it drew his thoughts from her again, back to
springtime many years ago at Sunnybrook, and the bank where the earliest violets grew... Did violets ever smell so sweet
He recalls a childhood incident, literally
crying over spilled milk,
"In his anger and fear and haste, he slipped...
and went home crying bitterly... with the cause of his mishap, the sweet violets, still clasped unconsciously in his
scratched little hand. And his mother—ah! she was always a good mother. He could remember
Dr. Carter's contemplation of his past and future
(including his marriage to Violet Meredith) is interrupted by the arrival of Laddie's mother.
Mid-book, as the old woman wanders London's streets,
she encounters a pickpocket.
"Her old worn netted purse... had touched a soft
spot in a heart that for years had seemed too dry and hard for any feeling.... There was a bit of lavender
stuck into the rings, and he smelt and looked at it, and then the old woman looked at him with
her country eyes..."
In the final chapter, 18 months later, London
is graced with lilacs & laburnums and lilies of the valley and wall flowers are sold by street vendors. It is blossoming
time "in the heart and apple orchards" Dr. Carter & Violet plan to be married within the week. Laddie is wearing
lilies, a gift from Violet, that are dropped and grasped in his mother's hand and so they are reunited at last.
In the language of flowers:
Mother's journey to London
daisy (Michaelmas) farewell
(on the train)
rosemary remembrance (Mother's of her life & Laddie's childhood; Laddie's memories)
ripe apples temptation
(her coming will be Laddie's temptation) (could also denote age, fullness of time, harvest)
faithfulness, loyalty with modesty
applies to both Violet & Mother in the first
chapter, "You occupy my thoughts."
(may also mean luck, devotion and perhaps all meanings apply to Mother's encounter with the pickpocket
lilacs youthful innocence,
humility sold on the streets
laburnum forsaken; a pensive
lily of the valley devotion,
purity return of happiness (pink
lilies signify mother)
wall flowers fidelity
apple blossom preference
"Fame speaks him great and good."
Lilies (probably lily of the valley)
return of happiness from Violet whose name means faithfulness, loyalty
with modesty & humility in Laddie's hand/dropped/grasped by his mother and indeed it is
"the return of happiness" as Laddie is reunited with his mother. Mother's death moment brings forgetfulness of her heartbreak, happy memories, and her return
to Sunnybrook "to the side of the old Mister."