Laddie & Lassie

Anonymous Author Evelyn Whitaker
Biography: Evelyn Whitaker
The Buttercups
Two Letters
by the author of Honor Bright
Points of confusion
Collection Catalog
Topical Index
Digitized Titles by Evelyn Whitaker
Miss Toosey's Mission
Laddie & Lassie
Tip Cat
Letters to Our Working Party
Our Little Ann
Rose and Lavender
Baby John
Baby Bob
For the Fourth Time of Asking
My Honey
Rob [Rob and Kit]
Tom's Boy
Lassie & Laddie
Gay, a Story
K Cummings Pipes
Christ Church, San Pancras, Albany Street
The Woman Novelist as Theologian
Whitaker Citings
Unlisted pages

cover issued by Ward & Lock

These two books bracket the writing career of Evelyn Whitaker.  Laddie, first published in 1879, marks the beginning; Lassie was first published in 1901, the last of Evelyn Whitaker's books to be published anonymously.  In each book,  the namesake character is a medical professional who has grown more successful than his or her parents and who represents the Victorian ideasl of manhood or womanhood.  Both Laddie and Lassie are challenged to "honor your father and your mother."  It is interesting to note the changes in the writer's viewpoint during the more than two decades that separate the books' publications. 
Differences in societal expectations of  gender roles in the care of aging parents are examined. Lassie, in particular, examines issues of duty: duty to one's parents, duty to one's community, duty to God, and duty to oneself.

Link to Lassie

Laddie (London: Walter Smith, 1880) digitized by Google.

Miss Toosey's Mission and Laddie (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1889) digitized by Google.

Laddie is also available at www.archive.org

Laddie is cited as the descriptor of the Victorian ideal of manhood by John C. Spurlock and Cynthia A. Magistro:  "Dreams never to be realized":  the emotional culture and phenomenology of emotion.  J. Social History 28:2, winter 1994, note 42.

H. M. Caldwell reissue circa 1900
illustrator: Eliot Keen

Synopsis of Laddie:

An old woman leaves her life-long home (Sunnybrook in Martel in Somersetshire) and journeys to London to surprise her son, Laddie.  The son has been in London for 15 years and has become  Dr. John Clement:



illustrator: Eliot Keen

"a gentleman.... one of the first doctors in London....  There is something remarkable in the man.... something about him that makes  people move out of his path involuntarily....  Power is stamped in his deep-set eyes and the firm lines of mouth and chin, power which gives  beauty even to an ugly thing, throwing a grandeur and dignity round a   black, smoky engine, or a huge ponderous steam-hammer.  Indeed, power is beauty; for there is no real beauty in weakness, physical or mental.  His eyes had the beauty of many doctor's eyes—kind and patient....  he is looking through rose-colored spectacles at a successful past, a satisfactory present, and a beautiful future." 

illustrator: Eliot Keen


His mother's arrival challenges this vision.  He cannot picture the beautiful wealthy sophisticated young  woman he plans to marry with his mother, a countrified old woman.   The son's warm welcome turns to rejection.  Rather than shame her son, the mother leaves his house and wanders lost through London.  Laddie's  regret, his confession to a pure, young woman whose love redeems him,  and their efforts to find his mother culminate in a death bed reunion.  Oh, how the Victorians love


H. M. Caldwell, the Editha series
illustrator: Eliot Keen

"the utter repose and stillness of rest after labor, for the night had  come when no man can work,—the holy starlit night of death, with the silver streaks of the great dawn of the Resurrection shining in the  east."



"There are these exquisite moments in life, let people say what they will of the disappointments and vanity of the world, when hope is realized, desire fulfilled; but it is just a moment, no more,—just a foretaste of the joys that shall be hereafter, when every moment of the long years of eternity will be still more full and perfect, when we shall 'wake up' and 'be satisfied.'"


"And we shall find no life that is not full of interest, tender feeling, noble poetry, deep tragedy, just as there is nobody without the elaborate system of nerves and muscles and veins with which we are fearfully and wonderfully made."

Views of Victorian life and culture:


frontis: Ward & Lock

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 encounters:

  1. with a merciful pickpocket
  2. 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"
  3. 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:


 Reprinted 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 as those?" 

 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 still..."

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 (to Sunnybrook)

southernwood  bantering (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)

violets faithfulness, loyalty with modesty & humility

applies to both Violet & Mother in the first chapter, "You occupy my thoughts."

lavender   distrust (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 of London

laburnum  forsaken; a pensive beauty

lily of the valley  devotion, purity return of happiness   (pink lilies signify  mother)

wall flowers   fidelity in adversity

apple blossom   preference "Fame speaks him great and good."

Lilies (probably lily of the valleyreturn 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." 

Evelyn Whitaker Library is a physical archive of print materials concerning a late Victorian author. This website is a digital exhibition of that archive. It is also the place where I publish the results of my research into the life and writings of Evelyn Whitaker.
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