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Petra Ichor

Secrets Of The Perfumes - Part 3

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Graham's magazine, Volume 48
Philadelphia, January, 1856.


We have now found, we think, by this little bit of philosophy, a very interesting and elegant subject of inquiry for our fair readers, and raised the toilet-table to something like the dignity of the library table. A perfume to them will now convey an intellectual as well as a sensuous pleasure; and perhaps they may be now brought to listen to the counsel of Mr. Piesse, and educate that feature which, even in its present state of ignorance, and by whatever name it may be described—Grecian, Roman or retrousse—is so important to the character of their physiognomy. "Many persons," says our author, "will at first consider that we are asking too much, when we express a desire to have the same deference paid to the olfactory nerve as to the other nerves that influence our physical pleasures and pains. By tutoring the olfactory nerve, it is capable of perceiving matter in the atmosphere of the most subtile nature; not only that which is pleasant but also such as are unhealthful. If an unpleasant odor is a warning to seek a purer atmosphere, surely it is worth while to cultivate that power which enables us to act up to that warning for the general benefit of health."
We most now advert, in a few words to some of the other contents of this entertaining volume. Cold cream is prepared in a complicated way, although the ingredients are few. Rose cold cream, for instance, is composed of "almond oil, 1 pound; rose water, 1 pound; white wax, 1 ounce; and otto of roses, 1/2 drachm." Of Pomade Divine, we are told: "Among the thousand and one quack nostrums, pomade divine, like James' powder, has obtained a reputation far above the most sanguine expectations of its concocters. This article strictly belongs to the druggist, being sold as a remedial agent; nevertheless, what it sold is almost always vended by the perfumer. It is prepared thus; spermaceti, \1/4 pound; lard, 1/2 pound; almond oil, 3/4 pound; gum benzoin, 1/4 pound; and vanilla beans, 1 1/2 ounce." Pomatum appears to be the ointment of the Bible, and may be thus prepared. "If an apple be stuck all over with spice, such as cloves, then exposed to the air for a few days, and afterwards macerated in purified melted lard, or any other fatty matter, the grease will become perfumed. Repeating the operation with the same grease several times, produces real pomatum." Bears' Grease, we are sorry to say, has no contribution from Bruin. This seems hardly credible, for we have ourselves repeatedly seen perfumers' shops turned into small genteel butcheries, adorned with the carcass of the animal. Can it be that these creatures are slaughtered for the sake of mere make believe! that they fall victims, like Absalom to the luxuriance of their hair, and the mistaken envy of the bald-headed gentlemen looking in at the window? It is hard to believe this, yet here is Mr. Piesse's recipe for bears' grease: "Huile de rose, huile de fleur d'orange, huile d'acacia, huile de tubereuse and jasmine— of each 1/2 pound; almond oil, 10 pounds; lard, 12 pounds; acacia pomade, 2 pounds; otto of bergamot, 4 ounces; and otto of cloves, 2 ounces." The pomatum sold as marrow, is merely perfumed lurd and suet.

We have only a single depilatory, and even that one our author seems to give with reluctance, for he rather sneers at the taste of those ladies who regard as detrimental to beauty such "physical indications of good health and vital stamina," as hairs upon the arms and back of the neck, and moustaches upon the upper lip. The composition is, "Best lime slacked, 3 pounds; and orpiment in powder, 1/2 pound.

Mix the depilatory powder, with enough water to render it of a creamy consistency; lay it upon the hair for about five minutes, or until its caustic action upon the skin renders it necessary to be removed; a similar process of shaving is then to be gone through, but instead of using a razor, operate with an ivory or bone paper-knife; then wash the part with plenty of water, and apply a little cold cream."

We are now introduced to a cosmetic, which, we confess, we did not before consider so important. It is the absorbent powder. “ A lady's toilet-table is incomplete without a box of some absorbent powder: indeed, from our earliest infancy, powder is used for drying the skin with the greatest benefit; no wonder that its use is continued in advanced years, if by slight modifications in its composition, it can be employed not only as on absorbent, but as a means of personal adornment. We are quite within limits in stating that many tons weight of such powders are used in this country annually. They are principally composed of various starches, prepared from wheat, potatoes, and various nuts, mixed more or less with powdered talc—of Hany, steatite, (soap stone), French chalk, oxide of bismuth, and oxide of zinc, etc. The most popular is what is termed Violet Powder: wheatstarch, 12 pounds; orris root powder, 2 pounds; otto of lemon, ounce; otto of bergamot, ounce; and otto of cloves, 2 drachms. Rose Face-powder: wheat-starch, 7 pounds; rose pink, drachm; otto of rose, 2 drachms; and otto of .santal, 2 drachms." In the different rouges, carmine plays an important part, and it is a preparation with which four or five manufacturers supply the whole of Europe. Its composition is known by analysis; but there is required a nicety in the manipulation which narrows the field of manufacture.

There are various preparations for the teeth given, but these are withheld, for we have one of our own worth all the rest put together. Let our fair readers, instead of tooth-powder, use common soap, and they will have no need of a dentist all their lives after. We have only to add that although, in speaking of some of the perfumes mentioned above, we have given the proportions of ingredients used by manufacturers, the manipulation is of equal importance; and for that we refer those who are fond of experiments to the book itself.

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