The Wild violet or Pansy (Viola tricolor) is found commonly

throughout Great Britain on banks and in hilly pastures, from

whence it has come to be cultivated in our gardens.

Viola, a corruption of Ion, is a name extended by old writers to

several other different plants. But the true indigenous representative

of the Violet tribe is our Wild Pansy, or Paunce, or Pance, or Heart's

ease; called also John of m
Pink, Gentleman John, Meet her i'

th' entry; kiss her i' th' buttery (the longest plant name in the

English language), and Love in idleness.

A little Western flower,

Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,

And maidens call it--'Love in idleness.'

From its coquettishly half hiding its face, as well as from some

fancied picture in the throat of the corolla it has received various

other amatory designations, such as cuddle me to you, tittle my

fancy, jump up and kiss me, and garden gate: also it is called

Flamy, because its colours are seen in the flame of burning wood,

and Flame Flower.

The term heart's ease has signified a cordial which is comforting

to the heart. But the fact is that Pansies, pretty little Puritans,

produce anything but heart's ease if eaten, and their roots provoke

sickness so speedily that these are sometimes employed as an


Dr. Johnson derived the word Pansy from Panacea, [590] as curing

all diseases; but this was a mistake, The true derivation is from the

French pensee, thoughts, as Shakespeare knew, when making

Ophelia say: There is pansies--that's for thoughts.

From its three colours it has been called the herb Trinity. A

medicinal tincture is made (H.) from the Viola tricolor with spirit

of wine, using the entire plant. Hahnemann found that the Pansy

violet, when taken by provers, served to induce cutaneous eruptions,

or to aggravate them, and he reasoned out the curative action of the

plant in small diluted doses for the cure of these symptoms, when

occurring as disease.

For milk crust and scald head, says Dr. Hughes (Brighton)--the

plague of children, I have rarely needed any other medicine than

this Viola tricolor; and I have more than once given it in recent

impetigo (pustular eczema) for adults, with very satisfactory

effects. For the first of these maladies the tincture should be given

in doses of from three to six drops, to a child of from two to six or

eight years, three times a day in water.

Again, for curing scalled (from scall, a shell) head in children, a

small handful of the fresh plant, or half a drachm of the dried herb,

boiled for two hours in milk, is to be taken each night and morning;

also a bread poultice made with this decoction should be applied to

the affected part.

During the first eight days the eruption increases, and the urine,

when the medicine succeeds, has a nauseous odour like that of the

cat, which presently passes off; then, as the use of the plant is

continued, the scabs disappear, and the skin recovers its natural

clean condition.

The root of the Viola tricolor has similar properties [591] to that

of Ipecacuanha, and is often used beneficially as a substitute by

country doctors. An infusion thereof is admirable for the dysentery

of young children. It loves a mixture of chalk in the soil where it


The Pansy contains an active chemical principle, violin, resin,

mucilage, sugar, and the other ordinary constituents of plants. When

bruised the plant, and especially its root, smells like peach kernels,

or prussic acid. It acts as a slight laxative: and the distilled

water of the flowers says Gerard--cureth the French disease.

The Germans style the Pansy Stief-mutter, because figuratively

the mother-in-law appears in the flower predominant in purple

velvet, and her own two daughters gay in purple and yellow, whilst

the two poor little Cinderellas, more soberly and scantily attired, are

squeezed in between. Again, another fable says, with respect to the

five petals and the five sepals of the Pansy, two of which petals are

plain in colour, whilst each has a single sepal, the three other petals

being gay of hue, one of these (the largest of all) having two sepals;

that the Pansy represents a family of husband, wife, and four

daughters, two of the latter being step-children of the wife.

The plain petals are the step-children, with only one chair; the two

small gay petals are the daughters, with a chair each; and the large

gay petal is the wife, with two chairs. To find the father, one must

strip away the petals until the stamens and pistils are bare. These

then bear a fanciful resemblance to an old man with a flannel

wrapper about his neck, having his shoulders upraised, and his feet

in a bath tub. The French also call the Pansy The Step-mother.

The chemical principle, violin, contained in the [592] flowering

Wild Pansy resembles emetin in action. If the dried plant is given

medicinally, from ten to sixty grains may be taken as a dose, in


The Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) is well known for its delicious

fragrance of perfume when growing in our woods, pastures, and

hedge banks. The odour of its petals is lost in drying, but a pleasant

syrup is made from the flowers which is a suitable laxative for


A conserve, called violet sugar, prepared from the flowers, has

proved of excellent use in consumption. This conserve was made in

the time of Charles the Second, being named Violet plate. Also,

the Sweet Violet is thought to possess admirable virtues as a

cosmetic. Lightfoot gives a translation from a Highland recipe in

Gaelic, for its use in this capacity, rendered thus: Anoint thy face

with goat's milk in which violets have been infused, and there is not

a young prince upon earth who will not be charmed with thy


There is a legend that Mahomet once compared the excellence of

Violet perfume above all other sweet odours to himself above all the

rest of creation: it refreshes in summer by its coolness, and revives

in winter by its warmth.

The Syrup of Sweet Violets should be made as follows: To one

pound of sweet violet flowers freshly picked, add two-and-a-half

pints of boiling water: infuse these for twenty-four hours in a glazed

china vessel, then pour off the liquid, and strain it gently through

muslin; afterwards add double its weight of the finest loaf sugar,

and make it into a syrup, but without letting it boil.

Violets are cultivated largely at Stratford-on-Avon for the purpose

of making the syrup, which when mixed with almond oil, is a

capital laxative for children, [593] and will help to soothe irritative

coughs, or to relieve a sore throat.

The flowers have been commended for the cure of epilepsy and

nervous disorders; they are laxative when eaten in a salad. The seeds

are diuretic, and will correct gravel. The Sweet Violet contains the

chemical principle violin in all its parts. A medicinal tincture (H.)

is made from the entire fresh plant with proof spirit. It acts usefully

for a spasmodic cough, with hard breathing; also for rheumatism of

the wrists especially the right one.

This Violet is highly esteemed likewise in Syria, chiefly because of

its being chosen for making the violet sugar used in sherbet. That

which is drunk by the Grand Signior himself is compounded of

sweet violets, and sugar.

From the flower may be pleasantly contrived a pretty miniature bird,

by carefully removing the calyx and corolla, leaving only the

stamens and pistil attached to the receptacle; then the stigma forms

the bead and neck, whilst the anthers make a golden breast, and their

tongues appear like a pair of green wings.

Mademoiselle Clarion, a noted French actress, had a nosegay of

violets sent her every morning of the season for thirty years; and to

enhance the value of the gift, she stripped off the petals every

evening, being passionately devoted to the flower, and took them in

an infusion as tea.

Pliny recommended a garland of sweet violets as a cure for

headache. The Romans made wine of the flowers; and Napoleon the

Great claimed the Violet as par excellence his own, for which

reason he was often styled, Le pere du violette. This floral

association took date from the time of his exile to Elba. The

Emperor's return was alluded to among his adherents by a pass

[594] word, Aimez vous la Violette? Eh, bien! reparaitra au


The scentless Dog Violet (Viola canina) is likewise mildly

laxative, and possesses the virtues of the Viola odorata in a lesser


The Water Violet is feather foil (Hottonia palustris).