Now that I have completed the series of scents referenced in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, I thought it would be fun to track down perfumes that best match the references. It’s quite a list, and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
“You may fancy yourself safe and think yourself strong. But a chance tone of colour in a room or a morning sky, a particular perfume that you had once loved and that brings subtle memories with it, a line from a forgotten poem that you had come across again, a cadence from a piece of music that you had ceased to play – I tell you, Dorian, that it is on things like these that our lives depend. Browning writes about that somewhere, but our own senses will imagine them for us. These are moments, when the odour of lilas blanc passes suddenly across me, and I have to live the strangest month of my life over again.”
“And so he would now study perfumes and the secrets of their manufacture, distilling heavily scented oils and burning odorous gums from the East. He saw that there was no mood of the mind that had not its counterpart in the sensuous life, and set himself to discover their true relations, wondering what there was in frankincense that made one mystical, and in ambergris that stirred one’s passions, and in violets that woke the memory of dead romances, and in musk that troubled the brain, and in champak that stained the imagination; and seeking often to elaborate a real psychology of perfumes, and to estimate the several influences of sweet-smelling roots and scented pollen-laden flowers, of aromatic balms and of dark and fragrant woods, of spikenard that sickens, of hovenia that makes men mad and of aloes that are said to be able to expel melancholy from the soul.”
“Lord Henry went out to the garden, and found Dorian Gray burying his face in the great cool lilac blossoms, feverishly drinking in their perfume as if it had been wine. He came close to him, and put his hand upon his shoulder. “You are quite right to do that,” he murmured. “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”
Colour-printed, hand-finished stipple engraving entitled Lilas, engraved by Langlois (c.1800) after an original by Pierre Joseph Redouté (1759-1840). From P. J. Redouté’s Choix des plus belles fleurs, published in parts (each part containing four plates) in Paris from 1827 to 1833. Plate 76.