The Victorian era is known for many things, including the distinctive art and architecture that flourished during the period. The period is named for Queen Victoria of England. When she came to the throne, a time of sentiment and self-indulgence was ended. By setting a new standard for virtue, she returned respect to the throne and spurred a worldwide movement, The Victorian Era. The Era lasted 63 years, from 1837 to 1901.
The Victorian era is also known for its fascination with death. Elaborate rituals surrounded the everyday occurrences of dying and grieving, and it was in this environment that tear bottles re-surfaced as a popular icon of grief and grieving.
A most common story of Victorian times is that mourners would shed their tears into a lachrymatory that used a special stopper. When the tears had finally evaporated, the mourning period would be complete. This measured approach may have been an alternative to the structured mourning rituals that are better documented.
Popular references to lachrymatory were apparently common during the period. One subtle reference is found in The Living Age, a literary journal, in 1898. In the story, A Fateful Dinner Party, by H. Meyer Henne, the character Major Blythe discusses consoling a friend with Mrs. Samuels, "Lady Sloane won't need to go shares with the tear bottle." While this is a sarcastic reference, it wouldn't be included if the audience wouldn't understand the meaning.
The following is an especially poignant poem, also from 1896.
It was also during the Victorian Era that archeology began to take on a new fervor. An interesting view of "contemporary" perspectives can be found in "The Explorations of Di Cesnola in Cyprus", by Hiram Hitchcock. Published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in July 1872. What makes the article so interesting today is the "oneness of the race in all ages." That is, the discovery that each human civilization developed with more commonality than difference. In the record of this discovery is "a white lachrymatory with very delicate incrustation; and a curious one with a long neck." Like many excavations over time, a tear bottle, or sometime ascribed to be one, was part of the find. The Cornell Library collection contains an original manuscript of this interesting article (see page 197 for the lachrymatory reference).