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Posted by R. Berg on October 19, 2003

In Reply to: Please respond. I'll be grateful for any help offered! posted by Hanni on October 19, 2003

: :
: : From Darwins's biography, written by Randal Keynes
: : (Darwin's wife, Emma, has her first baby):
: : '... Emma wrote in her diary: "Baby smiled for the first time." And the next day, as she thought of spring flowers in the dirt and cold
: : of the London winter, "Baby made little noises. Got the hyacinths." ...'

: : "Got the hyacinths" - do you have any idea as to what she could have meant by this?
: : Does this have anything to do with the baby?
: : Do hyacinths have any special cultural meaning, or did they in victorian times?
: : Or did she simply get a bouquet of flowers?

: Desperately need to understand this as I'm translating this book into my own language, and must be sure about this.

: Thanks.

This is a difficult question, as we can't know what she meant. It's just barely possible that she meant the baby's hair was growing in with a reddish-gold color.

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

HYACINTH, sense 1b: "A precious stone . . . In modern use, a reddish-orange variety of zircon; also applied to varieties of garnet and topaz of similar colour."

HYACINTH, sense 2c: "fig. (pl.). Hyacinthine locks. (See HYACINTHINE 1.)"

HYACINTHINE, "1. Of the colour of a hyacinth (either the gem . . . or the flower). (Chiefly as a poetic or rhetorical epithet of hair, after Homer, 'Odyssey,' . . . 'locks like the hyacinthine flower', which in the next line seem to be compared to gold.)"

This interpretation is highly uncertain. If you know that the baby grew up to have red hair, that would support it.