And, on how an angel carries its lily:
http://metmuseum.org/collections/search ... ons/395793
I think that was the only pre-1860s one I could find on Google, but I think the point of it isn't so much the image-image, but the image of protecting innocence.
Also, just for consideration:
As the flowers most often associated with funerals, lilies symbolize that the soul of the departed has received restored innocence after death.
( http://www.teleflora.com/about-flowers/lily.asp )
Granted, I think the only character directly described as a lily is Cosette, but Enjolras is likened to a flower after his death, though that's been talked about plenty enough before.
Just for the fun of it, have some of the mentions of lilies in relationship to Cosette in the Hapgood translation:
The passage in question:
Cosette, who was rather less dreamy than Marius, was gay, and that sufficed for Jean Valjean's happiness. The thoughts which Cosette cherished, her tender preoccupations, Marius' image which filled her heart, took away nothing from the incomparable purity of her beautiful, chaste, and smiling brow. She was at the age when the virgin bears her love as the angel his lily.
If I'm understanding right, this would just mean that she's protecting her love from Valjean by not letting him know about it. And it's likening Cosette to an angel, which ties in with Valjean's epitaph later.
Much later on, Marius thinks to himself Cosette is a lily, after Gillenormand suggests that he makes her a mistress. He obviously is using the lily as a symbol of innocence here, but I think that it's supposed to tie in with the protecting angel imagery from before, as a sort of foreshadow of when he kicks Valjean out for Cosette's protection.
And just in case we didn't get that a lily is Goodness and young women like Cosette are also Goodness:
“One may, in a case of exigency, introduce the reader into a nuptial chamber, not into a virginal chamber. Verse would hardly venture it, prose must not.
It is the interior of a flower that is not yet unfolded, it is whiteness in the dark, it is the private cell of a closed lily, which must not be gazed upon by man so long as the sun has not gazed upon it. Woman in the bud is sacred. That innocent bud which opens, that adorable half-nudity which is afraid of itself, that white foot which takes refuge in a slipper...
Well that isn't creepy and dehumanizing at all. And I don't have that much more to add to that.
And finally, from when Marius was contemplating kicking Valjean out: “That sinister nettle had loved and protected that lily.”
It's a direct continuation of Marius' earlier feelings, now with an added dose of hating Valjean. I love Marius, really, but I think he's too overprotective for anyone's good.
So, did most everyone already know that lilies symbolized innocence? Yes.
Did most everyone already know that Cosette symbolizes innocence? Yes.
So, was there really a reason for me to write this post? Probably not.