19th century English novels about smells/perfumes/odours

    19th century English novels about smells/perfumes/odours

    post #1 of 7
    Thread Starter 
    Hi Guys! I am a student at English dept, from Israel. We were given an assignment to write a paper based on 19th century English periodicals, ands then to make a claim or possible connection/thesis to a literary text of that time. I found some nice articles from 19th century journals that speak about the rise of awareness of people to body odours, soap and perfume industry, and so on. But, I still don't have any literary primary text that I can base my paper on. Maybe some of you know about a 19th century English writer who wrote stories/novels which somehow connected to the development of hygienePerfumery/smells of those times? Please help me!!! :) Danil
    post #2 of 7
    I can think of a few early 20th C. texts that deal with more abject responses to bodily function/odor, but fewer from the 19th.

    You might look to symbolist writers such as Huysmans whose Á Rebours (1884) is grounded in all aspects of aestheticism and served as a precursor to Wilde. Scent comes up in that book, but it's hardly representational of laymen. Des Esseintes, the protagonist, is likeable, but ultimately quite ridiculous. It's not English lit., though -- it's French, but available in translation.

    I'm sure the realists/naturalists take it up in their work as well, but I can't think of a single thing right now. But I'm not sure it was a 19th c. phenomenon only as Chaucer was writing about it in his day, too. You might look to Bakhtin's Dialogic Imagination, specifically his writing on Carnivale -- that might provide a springboard to what you're looking for.
    post #3 of 7

    Dickens gave some powerful descriptions of the smells and sounds of his time. Try "Our Mutual Fried" and "Bleak House'. Later, into the 20th century , do you know "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists"?

    post #4 of 7

    Welcome!

    I know next to nothing about English Literature. But if you decide to go ahead with your project, I'd suggest you read, if you can find it, the chapter Unpainted Ladies: Beauty in the victorian age, from the book Compacts and Cosmetics: Beauty from victorian times to the present day by Madeleine Marsh. It doesn't talk about literature, but it talks about how cosmetics, beauty products, and soap were seen in victorian times. As you correctly identified, there was a rising interest in hygiene and cleanliness. Not however in cosmetics - obvious appearance of cosmetics was not considered proper for a victorian lady, and, similarly, obvious perfume was also looked down upon.

    Also, when talking about hygiene and perfect cleanliness, I think there's much to be said about the various religious and temperance movements of the era. Though this was probably more so on the other side of the ocean, in the US, with the various semireligious movements preaching a sanitized (in all senses) life.

    cacio

    post #5 of 7
    Thread Starter 
    Hello David, Thank you for your suggestion. I checked the words "perfume" and "smell" in Bleak House, and indeed, they are plenty. Now I have to think about my second step: the thesis: what exactly I want to demonstrate or to prove? Danil
    post #6 of 7
    Thread Starter 
    Hi deadidol, Thank you for your suggestion! "Against the Grain" by Huysman is a great idea! Oscar Wilde mentions it in "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Now I have to decide how I'm going to integarte these texts to my paper... Danil
    post #7 of 7
    Thread Starter 
    Hello Cacio! Thank you for your suggestion. I've just ordered the book via bookdepository site. It seems helpful! Danil
    class="

    7/21/13 at 6:02am

    Danil said:



    Hi Guys! I am a student at English dept, from Israel. We were given an assignment to write a paper based on 19th century English periodicals, ands then to make a claim or possible connection/thesis to a literary text of that time. I found some nice articles from 19th century journals that speak about the rise of awareness of people to body odours, soap and perfume industry, and so on. But, I still don't have any literary primary text that I can base my paper on. Maybe some of you know about a 19th century English writer who wrote stories/novels which somehow connected to the development of hygienePerfumery/smells of those times? Please help me!!! :) Danil

    7/21/13 at 6:44am

    deadidol said:



    I can think of a few early 20th C. texts that deal with more abject responses to bodily function/odor, but fewer from the 19th.

    You might look to symbolist writers such as Huysmans whose Á Rebours (1884) is grounded in all aspects of aestheticism and served as a precursor to Wilde. Scent comes up in that book, but it's hardly representational of laymen. Des Esseintes, the protagonist, is likeable, but ultimately quite ridiculous. It's not English lit., though -- it's French, but available in translation.

    I'm sure the realists/naturalists take it up in their work as well, but I can't think of a single thing right now. But I'm not sure it was a 19th c. phenomenon only as Chaucer was writing about it in his day, too. You might look to Bakhtin's Dialogic Imagination, specifically his writing on Carnivale -- that might provide a springboard to what you're looking for.

    7/21/13 at 11:58am

    David Ruskin said:



    Dickens gave some powerful descriptions of the smells and sounds of his time. Try "Our Mutual Fried" and "Bleak House'. Later, into the 20th century , do you know "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists"?

    7/21/13 at 9:30pm

    cacio said:



    Welcome!

    I know next to nothing about English Literature. But if you decide to go ahead with your project, I'd suggest you read, if you can find it, the chapter Unpainted Ladies: Beauty in the victorian age, from the book Compacts and Cosmetics: Beauty from victorian times to the present day by Madeleine Marsh. It doesn't talk about literature, but it talks about how cosmetics, beauty products, and soap were seen in victorian times. As you correctly identified, there was a rising interest in hygiene and cleanliness. Not however in cosmetics - obvious appearance of cosmetics was not considered proper for a victorian lady, and, similarly, obvious perfume was also looked down upon.

    Also, when talking about hygiene and perfect cleanliness, I think there's much to be said about the various religious and temperance movements of the era. Though this was probably more so on the other side of the ocean, in the US, with the various semireligious movements preaching a sanitized (in all senses) life.

    cacio

    7/24/13 at 4:37am

    Danil said:



    Hello David, Thank you for your suggestion. I checked the words "perfume" and "smell" in Bleak House, and indeed, they are plenty. Now I have to think about my second step: the thesis: what exactly I want to demonstrate or to prove? Danil

    7/24/13 at 4:42am

    Danil said:



    Hi deadidol, Thank you for your suggestion! "Against the Grain" by Huysman is a great idea! Oscar Wilde mentions it in "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Now I have to decide how I'm going to integarte these texts to my paper... Danil

    7/24/13 at 4:54am

    Danil said:



    Hello Cacio! Thank you for your suggestion. I've just ordered the book via bookdepository site. It seems helpful! Danil





Loving perfume on the Internet since 2000