MARIE ANTOINETTE: an old acquaintance

marie antoinette

Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette, 1938

 

Contemporary travellers and observers  had certain things to say about eighteenth century European cities and the urban assault on the senses.  London was the noisiest, Amsterdam the cleanest and Paris by far the dirtiest. Paris smelled appalling. Unlike London, pre-Revolutionary Paris still had no pavements and the city was essentially medieval in lay-out. The effluvia of its streets gave its name to a racy tint of shot silk  – “boue de Paris” – a  striking example of the perverse – not to say morbid – desire of fashionable Society to roll in the gutter. The mud glowed, you see, just as the colours changed in the fabric: the muck of the avenues was all phosphorescent with rot. Where it splashed and spattered, the filth burned holes in clothes and scarred delicate skin. Another new colour, a purplish-brown, was christened “puce” – the colour of a flea when engorged with blood. Maybe because the structure and etiquette of French aristocratic circles had become so rarefied and stultified, the ton enjoyed childish jokes about potties, enemas, underwear (or the lack of it) and the like. All this silliness was described as being in touch with Nature. Queen Marie Antoinette is said to have had Sevres cups modelled from her own generous bosom for the serving of foaming fresh milk in her let’s-pretend dairy at Rambouillet. A few of these curious “bols-sein” survive today: whether the royal belle poitrine did in fact provide the originals remains to be seen.

Ironic isn’t it? Marie Antoinette spent millions over a very brief period – 15 years – on creating her own fantasy world: and, ever since, the reality of the woman has been lost sight of in an agglomeration of myths and legends. When I was sixteen, I read Stefan Zweig’s celebrated “post-Freudian” biography over and over. I have just returned to it: still fascinating, but now the terrible American translation grates – the Queen lost in “a fit of the blues” and what not. And maybe because I am so much older, I now find this poor woman far more maddening than of yore. Unlike our own dear monarch, she consistently put her foot wrong, sometimes wilfully so. Her defenders tell us how she settled down to home economics after the birth of her children and the devastating shock of the Diamond Necklace Trial. And yet, in those last years just before the storming of the Bastille, she was spending as never before. That new dairy; the constant refurbishment of her rooms and palaces; the famous toy village at the Petit Trianon which was still being added to by the architects Mique, pere et fils¤, right up to the end.

But then you might say, what else was she to do? The Queen of France was expected to keep up appearances and to patronise French arts and industries. Marie Antoinette certainly kept a French perfumer, Msr. Fargeon; and she probably used Houbigant products. Aside from that, I think I have read more twaddle about Marie Antoinette and scent than almost any other person. We read of her collecting samples en route for the guillotine; being recognised by her fragrance as the Royal Family attempted to flee the country in 1791; even wearing perfume in a phial around her neck as she was taken to execution. As her Hungarian biographer Antal Szerb remarked, the Martyred Queen involuntarily attracted libels, slanders, factoids and trolls all her life – and has continued to do so ever since. Like some magnetic Hollywood star – or modern princess, come to that – she was an perpetual object for the projection of hostile, crazy and sometimes pornographic public fantasy.

On August 10 1901 the English tourists Misses Moberly and Jourdain believed they had seen the Queen’s shade – and those of her entourage – in the park at Versailles. They were so convinced by their experience that they set it all down in a book; and well worth reading it is, too¤¤. Wouldn’t it have been remarkable if they had remarked on the phantom’s sillage – a haze of roses, tuberoses, jasmine and amber?¤¤¤ Or, rather, a shifting variation of the same, as Msr. Fargeon had his work cut out thinking up continual new creations. In the days of Louis XV – Marie Antoinette’s grandfather-in-law – Versailles was supposedly known as “le cour parfume”. The great perfume entrepreneur, Eugene Rimmel, writing less than a hundred years later, tells us that Court etiquette demanded the use of a different perfume for every day of the year. True, do you think? Or the retelling of an enchanting fairy tale? It does sound rather like Grimm: the 365 Princesses with their 365 Perfumes.

Re-running Sunset Boulevard (1950) yet again last night on the DVD, I was struck by Billy Wilder’s set-up for the line in which Norma Desmond’s notorious use of tuberose perfume is described. She takes her place on the sofa with a dark gauzy handkerchief floating from her wrist: it is evident that her suffocating scent – the odour of seduction, madness and death – is emanating not from her skin but from the fabric. Women were spraying perfume on their skin by 1950, to be sure; but how interesting to note that, as children of the late Victorian/Edwardian age, Wilder and Swanson still regarded fragrance as a phenomenon that surrounded the human body, but never actually touched it. Marie Antoinette may have soaked her hair & face powder, her fichus, her Trianon muslins in scent – she burned perfumed pastilles in her apartments and had her Sevres bowls filled with flowers and pot pourri – but she would certainly not have dabbed scent on wrists and decollete. That would have been altogether too risky – not only morally objectionable but also probably injurious to health, playing havoc with the volatile humours of the body.

At least we know – and for many of her admirers this is important – that the Queen kept herself clean. It is the done thing to go on about Versailles being as filthy as a Paris street, and no doubt the public rooms accumulated heaps of waste matter and unpleasantness. But the Royal Family had designated bathrooms – I have seen Louis XV’s: most attractive. Marie Antoinette’s bathing suite is now restored and, I believe, open to view – at a price. Her contemporaries thought the Queen bathed more often than was wise. Having a bath was then regarded as more medicinal than hygienic. Marie Antoinette went into the tub wearing what Quentin Crisp used to call a “minimum risk” kind of nightgown, well buttoned up to the neck. For she never bathed alone, but always surrounded by a retinue of ladies. The Queen of France may have given birth in public but for bathing she covered her modesty.

My more mature readers will just about remember –  as I do – the puritan days when it was still considered boorish, common and gauche to praise anything. Delicious food, a delightful personal appearance, lovely clothes were never commented upon in polite society. They were verboten topics, same like money, politics and religion. Marie Antoinette’s contemporaries may well have been enthralled and bewitched by her perfume but no memoir or letter ever refers to it. Marie Antoinette is remembered for her seductive walk, her stately carriage, her beautiful hair, her complexion – “literally a combination of lilies and roses”. But not for her scent. That would be going simply too far, even for her most implacable enemies. Cosmetics, yes: we hear a lot about the royal rouge and powder. Perfume, no.

Fragrance two hundred years ago – as now – remains the most personal and intimate of topics. When did you last read an interview in which the subject’s smell was referred to?

Precisely.

¤ for which creative endeavours they paid with their heads during the Terror of 1794.

¤¤ ‘An Adventure’,1911.

¤¤¤ as ghosts are noted for the odours which attend them.

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Be My Valentine?

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What’s one of the very nicest things you can buy your loved one on Valentine’s Day?

“Perfume” I hear you murmur, with quiet confidence. Quite right.

I’ll tell you why.

Perfume smells lovelier than store-boughten flowers which nowadays seem to have sacrificed scent for gorgeousness of colour and immensity of size.

It will smell even more delicious than a fine dining experience or a designer box of chocs; and fragrance carries none the concomitant risks to health and fitness.

And it lasts so much, much longer than either of the above. You always get your money’s worth with scent; besides which, you can personalise it in witty and exquisite ways.

Look, I’ll show you:

To make a successful gift of perfume you have to give a lot of yourself and that is always the best gift of all. You need to plan your purchase to fit your loved one as snugly as a pair of hand-made shoes. Get into his (or her) head – take a tour around his personality and choose a scent accordingly. Staff at Les Senteurs are always happy to help you translate ideas into actions if you need a little assistance.

Think laterally: consider, say, your partner’s favourite movie, colour or flower and pick a perfume to reflect that. If you were going down the cinematic route you might choose a fragrance notably worn or inspired by your inamorata’s favourite star ( Frederic Malle & Dominique Ropion created Carnal Flower with Candice Bergen in mind; Catherine Deneuve was Francis Kurkdjian’s inspiration for Lumiere Noire). Or you could select a perfume worn in a much-loved film. Think of Norma Desmond’s tuberoses in Sunset Boulevard or Caron’s Fleur de Rocaille in The Scent of a Woman. If you wept over Titanic, then track down a scent that was captivating the world in 1912. We have several such treasures – cast your eye and nose over the great Houses of Houbigant, Grossmith and, once again, the inevitable and unique Caron.

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Candice Bergen in Carnal Knowledge

Matching flowers is easy to do, but so romantic and adorable if you take the trouble to discover what she really loves: we have luscious rose perfumes of all types ( dark, dewy, spicy, fruity, innocent, lascivious, smoky, waxy ); but Les Senteurs also holds captive the most beautiful examples of gardenia, ylang ylang, lily of the valley, magnolia and orange blossom. A married gentlemen may like to remember what his wife carried in her bridal bouquet and match those blooms in fragrance. Ladies, you can do the same with your husband’s boutonniere or the favourite plants he cultivates for the garden show. Don’t forget: men love flowers too.

A rose that's perfect for men and women.

A rose that’s perfect for men and women.

Now I mentioned colour which may surprise some of you. I don’t mean the colour of the packaging or the bottle (though this may play its part). I’m talking about a factor that’s rather more subtle. By and large, if a person likes brilliant, strong vibrant hues then that individual will go for expressive rich perfumes too. Contrary wise, admirers of white, beige, cream and pastels will tend to prefer lighter airier fragrances. So consider the colours your beloved wears, the shades your lover paints his rooms and let your instinct guide you like a bee to the honey.

Bette Davis in 'Now, Voyager'

Bette Davis in Now, Voyager

Nothing stimulates memory like the sense of smell so another cute idea would be to conjure up thoughts of a special time you have enjoyed together and celebrate it in scent. If the earth moved for you, try Nu_Be’s explosive and elemental dawn-of-the-universe fragrances. Recreate a day at the sea; an ocean voyage; a holiday in Havana, Istanbul, London, China or Morocco; an evening at the ballet. Or, more modestly, an afternoon in the vegetable garden, a shared creamcake, a romantic breakfast – even the wicked intimacy of a shared cigarette. “O Jerry don’t let’s ask for the moon, we have the stars.”
Getting the idea? Choosing a romantic gift should and can be such a pleasure: and I think I can promise that the more you enjoy the selection, the more delight the chosen perfume will give to the recipient.

Happy Valentines from all at LES SENTEURS!

Kiss me, my fool.

ThedaBarawikimedia

To celebrate the centenary of its release I sat down and watched ‘A Fool There Was’ on the You Tube: the great sex shocker of 1914 which propelled Theda Bara upon the world, the first screen femme fatale: The Vamp. Hard to believe that an almost mythic movie has played for 100 years. Bara (nee Goodman) died, not old, the year I was born. Refused a certificate in Great Britain, the movie still retains the power to shock, not by its prurience but in the final shots of a man reduced to human wreckage and total physical & psychological degradation. I squeaked aloud in my chair. ‘Some of him lived / but the most of him died’ reads the title card. It’s a theme that von Sternberg and Dietrich returned to with even greater effect some 15 years later: a pillar of society reduced by sex to a baying, dying beast.

Theda Bara has less to do in the film than I had imagined: she is taller, too, and rather more attractive. She was probably the cinema’s first brunette leading lady, the original wicked dark-haired temptress, a creature of the Night destroying the daughters of Light and their lawful wedded husbands. Her wide mouth is covered in lip rouge which photographs as black, and her huge inky eyes are liberally smeared with Vaseline and candle smoke. She is heaped with clothes in the especially hideous styles of the day; in one sequence her feet become entangled in her fish tail train. I can’t decide whether this is a cute device to give the viewer an eyeful of her ankles or whether the director either didn’t notice or couldn’t be bothered to cut.

Roses, cruelly used, are her leit motif. We first see the Vamp smelling two flowers, then tearing them to pieces: the destruction of her prey, the denial of her own femininity, the end of innocence. In one sequence of startling phaliic symbolism she disarms a rejected admirer who draws a gun on her by stroking the the revolver – now detumescent and redundant – with the rose she carries. Whereat the wretched man shoots himself.

The Vamp and her confreres play cards, loll around half-dressed, let down their back hair and indulge in a lot of what my mother used to call ‘posturing’. But interestingly perfume is not part of the picture. Scent does not appear though the viewer rather anticipates shots of atomisers and drenching showers of musky fragrance as an additional sign of shameless sin. After all this film was made in a Golden Age of perfume: L’Heure Bleue, Jicky, Quelques Fleurs, Narcisse Noir, Phul Nana, Shem-El-Nessim and the early Coty repertoire were all by then on the dressing tables of the rich & fashionable.

Maybe Theda Bara’s director – Frank Powell – felt that his Vamp should exude her own seductive and noxious aroma, like a night-blooming flesh-eating flower; that she should lure men to their doom by an involuntarily secreted deadly & delectable unnatural odour. Writings and novels of this period describe scent as being emitted by hair, clothing, furs, fabrics and furnishings rather than by the skin …” a faint delicious fragrance hung about her..”. But perfume actually poured onto the skin? Or oozing from it? A subject then ‘too difficult even to talk about’ as the adverts used to say. Too animal, too raw, too downright carnal: ideal for Theda Bara.

Now all you have to do is run the movie!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Christmas Reading

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One of the first references to perfume I came across in print was in “What Katy Did”. Enthused by the very young Susan Hampshire in the TV series I read my first copy to rags, and my current surviving edition is an Armada paperback from 1967 with crumbling pages now the colour of gravy. In this text the adorable Clover Carr’s stated preference for “eau de cologne” is rendered as “scent”. She’s playing grown-ups and planning on having a large pool full of cologne in the back yard into which she can dip the hankies of passing schoolchildren. As an infant I was foxed by this term, pronouncing it to myself as “eau de kol-JEAN”. Which may have been a common problem, thus leading to Armada’s editorial alteration.

When I grew up and went to work at Harrods I met Lana, the glorious Houbigant Girl, who came from the Balkans and looked exactly like a larger than lifesize Victorian wax doll with huge blue eyes like coat buttons and ringlets nearly to her waist. She was there to sell Quelques Fleurs & did it with unique panache because she had exactly the same fantasy as Clover Carr. O! she had the gift all right, and after listening to Lana’s silvery-voiced fantasies of cathedral aisles running with conduits of Quelques Fleurs and guests holding up blue silk parasols against scent pouring from the skies, every customer was begging for the 100ml size.

Every December when the parcels start to come, I think of the Christmas Eve in “What Katy Did At School”. Snowbound in New England, Clover + Katy receive two wonderful elaborately assembled crates of gifts and food parcels from their family back home in Burnet, Ohio. The smaller box is filled with flowers, wadded in cotton wool against the freeze – roses, geraniums, heliotrope and carnations. Beneath, exquisitely packed, are two quilted satin glove cases “delicately scented”, one mauve, one lilac. It’s a marvellous image; the flowers being carefully removed and revived from their long chilled journey, placed in glasses of water and distributed around the school with pears, apples, prunes and crunchy jumbles. What is a jumble?

Though I’m also exceedingly fond of the company of the March girls, the Katy books are freer, easier, funnier and less moralising. More modern, shorter, crisper. Even the saintly and somewhat enigmatic Cousin Helen doesn’t grate, being sufficiently self-indulgent as to wear bracelets, and to travel with her own flower vase – luxuries at which Marmee, I think, would have had a fit. As does Mrs Hall next door – “Ma said she fears your cousin is a worldly person”. “Katy” has something for everyone and every situation. Anyone who has suffered the discomfort of an overly protracted summer should read the first chapter of “What Katy Did At School” and spend the night with Elsie and Johnny in their terrible feather bed at Mrs Worrett’s baking, fly-blown, pumpkin-coloured farmhouse. “Mrs Worrett never mounted in hot weather”. Completely unrelated to the rest of the book, this short section is worthy of Elizabeth Bowen at her most comically sinister. It’s one of my favourite passages of the entire canon.

Noel Coward slept on into eternity after a quiet Jamaican evening in bed with eggs on a tray and an E Nesbit. Maybe Susan Coolidge’s books will provide the same rite of passage for me. And I’d prefer the eggs scrambled.

FOOTNOTE: the Cosmic Scrambled Egg.

Scrambled eggs are immortalised on film by being messed around by a lovelorn Joan Fontaine in the first reel of REBECCA.

An Harrods recipe of my time, much circulated in Perfumery, called for a dollop of mayonnaise to be dropped into the eggs at the moment of serving. Very rich – but excellent after a late evening on counter.

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You All!

Yours, most Warmly & Gratefully,
LW

Hello, Dolly!

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Some of our younger visitors & staff say they couldn’t possibly walk from Les Senteurs to Selfridge’s. Take heart! it only takes 5 minutes. This fabulous store was once the out-of-hours playground of the glittering and quasi-mythical Dolly Sisters, daughters of a Hungarian tailor and one of the great cabaret acts of the Roaring Twenties. Were they identical twins, Rosie being the slightly more ample and amorous of the two? Or, as used to be rumoured, was there a decade between them, relying on artful maquillage to close the gap? Their success spawned a slew of sister acts including the two Norwegian boys who became the toast of Paris parodying the Dolly act as “The Rocky Twins”.

The eponymous Gordon Selfridge (sharing the accolade with Dorothy Lamour of being the Marshall Field department store’s greatest U.S. export) fell for the Dollies hook line and sinker and transferred them from a flat in St Martins Lane to the huge mansion off Berkeley Square which is now the Landsdowne Club. Disastrously he laid on continuous late night store openings exclusively for the girls – who naturally helped themselves to whatever took their eye. And that was more likely to be sables, platinum and pearls than bread rolls or stationery.

But as we know from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:

“He’s your guy
When stocks are high
But beware when they start to descend..”

The stars of this curious fun-loving menage burned out in the 1930’s with the collapse of the world economy: ill health, bankruptcy and lost looks put an end to all three of them. But Selfridges itself still dances on, as gay and glittering as ever; though the bright young people no longer demonstrate the Charleston on the roofs of passing London cabs and the treasure hunts through the vast departments have long ended. And the exotic perfumes that once enfolded Rosie and Jenny Dolly – Molinard, Caron, Coudray, Isabey, Grossmith, Knize, Houbigant – stream like a scented shimmering ribbon back to the blue door of Les Senteurs, just five minutes up the road.

Image: verhext.com

Quelques Fleurs: The Fountain of Youth

Do you remember that chapter in What Katy Did in which the Carr children spend the afternoon with a picnic in their secret retreat of “Paradise”, each explaining her ambitions for the future? Clover says she will have a pond of eau de cologne (changed to “scent’ in modern editions)in her backyard into which passers by may dip their handkerchiefs. The most enthusiastic proponent of Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs that I ever knew was rather like this: she was tall, lovely and stately like a child’s best wax doll, with enormous blue eyes and cascades of ringleted hair. She had this alluring fantasy about her wedding: dressed in white and mauve (the colours of the packaging) in a cathedral filled with fountains of Quelques Fleurs, the aisle running with conduits of the perfume; all the guests to be sprayed with it on arrival and given bottles as wedding favours. Her child-size bouquet would be a plantation of every flower represented in the scent. Customers listened entranced and she shifted a lot of stock.

Houbigant had been in business for nearly two centuries before hitting the jackpot with this scent that has become their signature and trademark. They began trading in Paris in 1774, the year of the accession of Louis XVI and the nineteen year old Marie Antoinette who marked the start of her reign with an orgy of compulsive shopping and decoration of her person. Naturally, tradespeople generally came out to Versailles rather than the Queen go to the shops; but Marie Antoinette caused great offence to her courtiers by receiving her modistes, jewellers and perfumers in her private apartments, those dark and gilded little cupboards that can still be seen today, hidden behind the cavernous State Rooms, and to which even the greatest nobles  in France were not admitted.

In a way one might see this as an important milestone in the development of retail: the tradesman for the first time (and in this case with the ringing endorsement of royal patronage) not only seeing himself as a creative artist but also being treated as one. Marie Antoinette’s couturiere Rose Bertin bossed the Queen as she did all her clients, and the royal hairdresser,Leonard, was indulged in all his caprices. Indeed it was Marie Antoinette’s fatal trust in him that was to be one of the many factors which contributed to the failure of the royal family to escape France during the Revolution. This new reverence for the  creators of style (to be enhanced by the attitudes of Marie Antoinette’s Imperial successors, Josephine and Eugenie) was perhaps as important as the 19th century’s innovations of the department store and the decent public lavatory. The latter enabled elaborately and impractically dressed ladies to stay away from home all day if the fancy took them: a breakthrough in the art of shopping.

Quelques Fleurs first hit the shops in 1912, within a few months of another two legends, L’Heure Bleue and Narcisse Noir. After 198 years in the business, this creation by Robert Bienaime was Houbigant’s greatest coup, never since surpassed, and hailed by some authorities as the first multi-floral fragrance bouquet – the “Grand Hotel” of scent. A mixture of flowers, rather than a single floral note with or without woody and animalic accords. It coasted along over the years as long-lived perfumes do, undergoing various formulaic adjustment, attributes and price points: regarded in the 1940’s as the only respectable scent for débutantes, it had fallen to the lower end of the chemist’s range by the mid-70’s before making a triumphant come-back in the early 90’s – cleaned, varnished,restored and re-framed like a French old master.

How closely today’s version resembles that of the original it is hard to say but it certainly has the indefinable but authentic feel of Edwardiana: essentially BIG, like those padded pompadour hairstyles and vast hats which now look so poignant and incongruous in blurred photographs of the Titanic’s traumatised survivors. All the original notes are intact. Quelques Fleurs has a green appley freshness lacking in its contemporaries but it displays the same thick, dense quality of musky slightly dusty richness and gravitas: despite its inspired name it is not a playful scent – “this is not a toy”! Notes of lilac, lily of the valley, rose and jasmine pile up as on the shelves of a gorgeous conservatory topped with violets and orchid. A fascinating and magnificent centenary scent for 2012.

Image scanned from an advert supplied by Houbigant.

HMS Titanic

The Titanic

My eye caught this week by a 1st Class Sunday Luncheon Menu from the Titanic, up for auction shortly and expected to fetch in excess of £100,000. The last lunch before the sinking, and a most extraordinary menu it looks to the fine diner of today: mutton chops, corned beef, beetroot and lettuce, brawn, cockaleekie soup, dumplings,jacket potatoes and custard puddings; lager at 6d a tankard. One might say at best, plain and hearty. I thought of the great Edwardian beauty Diana Cooper and her comment in extreme old age,”no wonder we were all so fat – even the ballerinas.”

So this is what the Astors, the Guggenheims and the Strausses (who owned Macy’s) tucked into. And the exquisite Lady Duff Gordon (sister of best-selling novelist and inventor of the “It” girl, Elinor Glyn). Under the nom de guerre of “Lucile” she was then London’s leading couturiere: later that night as she sat in a lifeboat in a icy sea surrounded by drowning souls, her only comment was to remark to her lady-secretary,”there is your beautiful nightgown gone!”

I discovered the Titanic one Christmas afternoon in the 1960’s when A Night To Remember popped up on tv: it was strong stuff for those days and made my parents (not generally squeamish)feel rather sick. But the disaster and all its attendant myths, legends and factoids cast its heady spell over us as it has done across the world for a century.
So many anecdotes, factoids and theories now encrust the wreck like barnacles: the cursed mummy of an Egyptian princess in the hold, bound for a New York museum; a priceless jewelled copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; the prototype of Creed‘s Erolfa found in a stateroom; the anti-Catholic propaganda encoded on the hull; “Nearer My God To Thee” as the liner finally roared to the bottom of the ocean; and was she in fact after all deliberately scuppered as part of an insurance scam?

I’ve also wondered (as the two tragic anniversaries coincide this spring), whether the news of Scott’s expedition and death in Antarctica was already known to Titanic passengers as they sailed. Did these two sagas of British bravery and (sometimes) heroism burst on the public almost simultaneously? And on a more frivolous note, had those hearty eaters in 1st Class flacons of Quelques Fleurs, L’Heure Bleue and Narcisse Noir tucked in their muffs and Dorothy bags? Not to mention Jicky for the bold, and Apres L’Ondee for the demure. Did they radiate sillage of Phul Nana, Hasu No Hana and other Grossmith perfume spectaculars as they walked off their meals on B deck; or unwound their fur boas and hobble skirts for a massage or Turkish bath?  No doubt Piver’s spicy masculine leather scents and Houbigant‘s innovative Fougere Royale were well known to the valets of Ben Guggenheim and J J Astor: “We are dressed in our best and prepared to go down like gentlemen”.

Technically all the above should have been available, tho I cannot yet trace the month in 1912 when L’Heure Bleue and Quelques Fleurs were launched. Perfume archives tend to be rather meagre; but, regular readers, please write in if you can shed more light. Your views on this and any topic always invaluable. Probably you’ve read about Night Star, the fragrance inspired by perfume phials found in the wreck. Maybe some of you are booked for the centenary memorial cruise out of Belfast in April and have already chosen an appropriate scent.

There is something magical and deeply moving to know that you will be smelling a perfume that was in the air on that fatal night of 14/15 April. People often neglect their sense of smell but think! To smell, say, Fougere Royale is the sensory equivalent of hearing Hartley’s band playing ragtime; tasting the corned beef hash or the salt air of the northern Atlantic; seeing the iceberg looming out of the dark….Brings it home to you, doesn’t it? Gives you goose bumps. As it should.

For C. – because it happened on her birthday.

Image from titanicuniverse.com