Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lay (up) in lavender v.

[ironic use of SE lay up in lavender, to put aside carefully for future use. Lavender was then, as now, kept with stored linen and other fabrics]

1. (also lay, pack up in lavender) to pawn.

[UK]Greene Quip for an Upstart Courtier D3: Hee is readye to lend the loser money upon rings [...] or any other good pawne, but the poore gentleman paies so deere for the lavender it is layd up in.
[UK]Chapman & Jonson Eastward Ho! V i: Good faith, rather than thou shouldst pawn a rag more, I’d lay my Ladyship in lavender – if I knew where.
[UK]J. Taylor ‘Taylors Travels’ in Works (1869) III 77: As if her selfe like a desperate pawne had layne seauen yeares in Lauender on sweeting in long Lane.
[UK]Head Art of Wheedling 323: These men, who have laid up their Estates in Lavender, that they may the more freely follow their Recreation.
[UK]Pagan Prince 35: For a Prince to have [...] the third part of a mans length laid up in Lavender before he has half done with them, I must needs confess, I do not very well approve.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Layd-up-in Lavender, when any Cloaths or other Moveables are pawn’d or dipt for present Money.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Laid up in lavender, pawned.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 58: ‘To be laid up in lavender,’ in pawn.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. [as cit. 1859].
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[UK][perf. Vesta Tilley] S.U.N.D.A.Y [lyrics] Sunday / When all of the boys wear clothes /They've packed up in lavender ever since Monday.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 235/1: laid – pawned.

2. to put out of harm’s way; to hide, e.g. from the police.

[UK]C. Cotton Virgil Travestie (1765) Bk I 58: And when she had the Urchin there, / She laid him up in Lavender.
[UK]Head Eng. Rogue I 373: Having layen in Lavender about a fortnight in this house, not only to sweeten us, but that the rumour of our escape, and search for us might be over, we got our selves change of habits.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Heart of London II i: You have had a decent swing of it the last twelvemonth, while your pals have been laid up in lavender.
[UK]Western Times 30 June 4/6: Statesmen when they enter office, leave their religious principles [and] send them back by the coachman, perhaps to lay them up in lavender till they are driven into the cold shade of opposition again.
[UK]York Herald 7 July 8/5: Who is to bowl them [i.e., racehorses] both out, and who continues to lay up in lavender.
[UK]Dundee Courier 1 Sept. 3/6: Those ‘war correspondents’ who [...] lay themselves up in the lavender of neutral territory.
[UK]Worcester Jrnl 29 Jan. 3/6: The last time they met they were twitted with having met to lay up in lavender. Ald. Willis [...] had, however, shown by his presence that he was not yet laid up in lavender.
[UK]R.T. Hopkins Life and Death at the Old Bailey 64: One of the most delicate metaphors in crooks’ slang is the term used for a burglar who is hiding from the police [...] his pals speak of him as being ‘laid up in lavender’.
[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 26 Feb. 3/1: ‘Razor Jack’ no longer sallied forth, his trusty Bengall by his side. The devoted blade was laid — not too far — away, in lavender.

3. to imprison.

[UK](con. early 17C) W. Scott Fortunes of Nigel II 276: The poor gentleman is laid up there [i.e. prison] in lavender, because [...] his own kind heart led him to scald his fingers with another man’s broth.
[UK]Vulgarities of Speech Corrected.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Heart of London II i: You have had a decent swing of it the last twelvemonth, while your pals have been laid up in lavender.
[UK]London Standard 22 Feb. 3/5: Every male there was a thief [...] who had been ‘laid up in levender’ at some period of his life.
[UK]London Standard 15 Mar. 7/7: My last a sound; to utter it / Without a proper grant, / Will lay you up in lavender / (To use a vulgar cant.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 142: lay in lavender To serve a jail sentence.

4. (also lie in lavender) to die.

[UK]R. Brathwait Strappado 154: Upon a Poet’s Palfrey lying in lavender, for the discharge of his Provender .
[UK]Egan Bk of Sports 8: I might as well bolt myself, now my best friend’s laid up in lavender!

In phrases

in lavender

1. in pawn.

[UK]J. Taylor ‘Taylors Penniless Pilgrimage’ in Works (1869) I 129: My apparel to lie in durance, or Lavender [...] till such time as I could meet with some valiant friend that would desperately disburse.

2. hidden from the police.

[UK]J. Earle Micro-Cosmographie No. 2: A Young raw Precher: He takes on against the Pope without mercy, and has a iest still in lauender for Bellarmine.
[UK]J. Greenwood Seven Curses of London 89: Hidden from the police – in lavender.
[Aus]D.V. Lucas Aus. and Homeward 335: Some of their slang may be interesting [...] Hidden from the police, in lavender.

3. in a charity hospital.

[Ire] ‘Lord Altham’s Bull’ in Walsh Ireland Ninety Years Ago (1885) 87: So dere being no blunt in de cly, Madame Steevens was de word, where I lay for seven weeks in lavendar on de broad of me back, like Paddy Ward’s pig, be de hokey.

4. (US Und.) dead.

[US]R. Chandler ‘Finger Man’ in Pearls Are a Nuisance (1964) 79: You still walking around? [...] I thought Manny Tinnen’s friends would have had you laid away in old lavender by this time.