The Ephemeral History of Perfume
Scent and Sense in Early Modern England
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Introduction: Strange, Invisible Perfumes
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The mysterious power of smell to evoke a “remembrance of things past” (or what scientists now term a “Proustian” or “involuntary” memory) was recently revealed. On October 4, 2004, Dr. Richard Axel and Dr. Linda B. Buck were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking discoveries of “odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system.”1 ...
Chapter 1: Censing God: Frankincense, Censers, Churches
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On June 17, 1440, eighty-year-old Richard Wyche was burned alive for heresy near the public execution scaffold on Tower Hill in London. Long associated with Lollardy, Wyche, an Oxford-educated priest, was tried and imprisoned for preaching Wycliffite doctrines as early as 1401; though he ultimately recanted, Wyche continued his preaching in the north during the early fifteenth century. ...
Chapter 2: Casting Selves: Rosewater, Casting Bottles, Court
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According to Edward Hall’s The Union of Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and Yorke (1548), 1522 was a particularly trying year for King Henry VIII, though you would not know it from the staged courtly pleasures held that year. In January, a “great pestilence and death” ravaged London “and other places of the realme,” from which, Hall emphasizes, “many noble capitaines died.”1 This must ...
Chapter 3: Discovering Sassafras: Sassafras, Noses, New World Environments
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Sir Humphrey Gilbert, knight, merchant adventurer, veteran of English wars in Ireland, and an important early proponent of English colonization of the Americas, argued strenuously that English success in the new world required blind faith in the endeavor. In his widely read Discourse of a New Passage to Cataia, which circulated in manuscript form for almost a decade before it was published ...
Chapter 4: Smelling Disease: Rosemary, Pomanders, Shut-in Households
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Despite its title, Thomas Dekker’s The Wonderfull Yeare suggests that 1603 was anything but. After a description of the funeral of Elizabeth I, the famous plague pamphlet provides a “picture of London, lying sicke of the plague.”1 It is a gruesome picture, to be sure. The outbreak of the plague in 1603 was virulent and swift; in a few short months, more than thirty thousand Londoners were dead. ...
Chapter 5: Oiled in Ambergris: Ambergris, Gloves, London’s Luxury Markets
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In 1633, after a decade of success divining for London society about the fertility of Queen Henrietta Maria, Lady Eleanor Davies was fined and imprisoned for comparing King Charles I to the biblical tyrant Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon, and prophesying his death.1 Almost a year later, while still in prison for treason, Lady Eleanor Davies’s spirits were fortified by an angelic visitor, who, ...
Chapter 6: Bowers of Bliss: Jasmine, Potpourri Vases, Pleasure Gardens
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In his preface to his poem “The Garden,” published posthumously in Thomas Sprat’s widely read Workes of Abraham Cowley (1668), Cowley declares that what he desires most is to be the master of a “small house and a large garden.”1 Such desire, at least according to the preface, was never fulfilled. Cowley’s spatial yearning, “so strong, and so like to Covetousness,” remained frustrated by his ...
Conclusion: Ephemeral Remains
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In his 1751 treatise Philosophia Botanica, Carl Linnaeus introduced a radical new system for classifying botanical material that allowed him to attend to both generic and specific qualities of vegetative matter. His system involved surveying a plant’s reproductive organs and classifying them through binomial nomenclature; the inclusion of the secondary “diagnostic” term enabled botany to unfold, ...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 15 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2011