Originally Posted by scentemental
[If I may be allowed a flight of fancy in taking that difference in feel one step further: I would say that the enveloping warmth of Héritage is the end point and assuredness of substantive bourgeois success and prominence (hence the name Héritage); whereas, the cold distancing feel of Jicky and Mouchoir de Monsieur is the product of the uncertainty of bourgeois success in the tenuous aristocratic fin de siècle world of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Maybe this is the real connection between the three?scentemental
I too love this great observation, DesGrieux and gang, and I'll take a stab at what it makes me think and also at answering Fredricktoo's query on what's bourgeois.
I love Scentemental's observation, but it occurs to me that the flaw is that really, all applied fragrance products, Guerlain or otherwise, and of any period, can be called bourgeois. Isn't applied fragrance one of the adopted status claims inherent in what's bourgeois? Doesn't fragrance work as a signal to say "see, I'm special, and not of the brutes, I'm classy."
The bourgeoisie has sure been associated with the middle classes and before that the rise of merchants and guild/crafts/artisan economies, but it doesn't just define a class, bourgeois defines some aspirations of those who are part of those social classes. And most simply put, and thus open to huge and multiple qualifications, what is bourgeois is something or someone that has enough status to try to demonstrate how socially high one has gotten, and mostly in the form of imitation. Table manners--look how classy I've taught myself to eat with my utensils--I'm just like aristocrats in the movies! Violence in movies--oh! I'm so offended by these vulgar images, I'm made so virtuous by my disdain for violent things (this cloak of virtue is one of my pet-peeves). And a variety of similar things, often to manufacture virtue or cleanliness being close to godliness or something. Bourgeois is settled and deciding what is the decent thing and doing it. And then moralizing about it. Something pretty much all of us do.
There are specialists in intellectual history on this board and I encourage them to correct me.
Scentemental's post is beautifully fun in how it posits, as a fun line of thought and a great chuckle of insight late in the night for me, that in the stability or standoffishness of scents of different eras, we can come to a conclusion on the state of the bourgeoisie in those eras. Heritage, coming at the end of the century that had the greatest expansion of the bourgeoisie ever known, shows wholehearted contentment. Smell it and smell the leather chair, the wood fire, the brandy snifter (brandy snifter--classy special glass unique to certain beverage, illustration of classiness and dealing with the good things in life just the proper way--very bourgeois. Brandy is a liquid. Put it in any old glass. Just as much fun), the wool sweater and the warm pile lined slippers. Heritage is the arrived and solid bourgeoisie. Trust grandpa, the system surely works if you play by all the decent rules.
But Scentemental suggests that Jicky and Mouchoir represent the disquiet of the bourgeoisie at the beginning of the century that would expand the middle classes so. The end of the monarchies, the Boer War, the breaking down of the Nineteenth century's belief in ever rising moral standards. Conrad's Heart of Darkness, in which Kurtz's last words were "the horror, the horror," and later, when Marlow goes to see Kurtz's sister or cousin or whatever she was, she's dainty and refined and loaded with table manners, and she weeps at Kurtz's death and asks Marlow what his last words were. "Your name," Marlow replies, which comforts her greatly. The name for her and her world were "the horror," I'd argue was Marlow's point, and the horror of the brushing away or hiding the heart of darkness in living and in all of us.
Well, anyway, Scentemental posits the bourgeoisie before the Great War as being quite unsettled. Yup. What happened, but total war came. And social order revolutions like the Russian Revolution, which took itself as a way to get beyond and put behind bourgeois stability (this is complicated and I'm being too quick). So the bourgeoisie wasn't in a Heritage-smell frame of mind. Hahaha! Smelling good then was off kilter, and weird. Hence Jicky/Mouchoir.
That's all fun and games though. Fun with scent games and fun thinking about scent as art that reflects its time and the aspirations of the artists who create it. Oh peace and justice on earth will indeed come if we can just get the right scent out there.
The problem is that applied scent itself strikes me as inherently bourgeois. One could argue that Emperor Napoleon's taste for scent was different because he was a great and powerful leader of armies and a nation, not of the middle class, but he was also a soldier from the provinces in his beginning. Thus, despite his high social status, one could argue his taste for smells and making his Empress smell great was bourgeois.
I tried thinking if there are any scents out there that are avant garde enough not to be bourgeois, and I don't think there are any. The CdG Odeurs have pretensions to that title, but they are inherently an aspiration to reflect the world as we've really chosen it to smell. Very insightful, but they're within the camp that believe smell is a way to represent what is. They are less bourgeois than all the "pastoral pretty landscape off in la-la land the way decent folk of yore smelled" scents. But as a piece of representation, and aspiration to so much as smell nice, fragrance products are bourgeois.
That's not a bad thing. People often use the term bourgeois to mean conformity and unthinking social adaptation conformity at that, but what bourgeois is is something that makes the world fascinating, and people fascinating. In the West, all we life in is pretty bourgeois, so all commentary on it, like mine, is bourgeois of its own. So it's hard to learn directly from it. It's something that just keeps turning in the mind, like how we turn scents over and over for their meaning and our meaning and find ourselves mentally enriched by doing so.
All mistakes in this post are my own.