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Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Scents

I think one of the most wonderful scents is lavender, and I use it often as the scent of my heroines’ hair because it smells divine and it was commonly used in Regency England.

According to The Naturalist's Diary, lavender is in blossoms in July.

English Lavender, or Lavandula Angustifolia, contains essential oils with sweet overtones, frequently used in perfumes, a final hair rinse, balms, salves, and cosmetics. It was and still is often used in sachets for bedding and clothing.

Because of its soothing scent, it was a favorite of European royalty. Charles VI of France reportedly required lavender-filled pillows wherever he visited, and Queen Elizabeth I of England required lavender conserve at the royal table and bunches of lavender in her rooms.

Lavender has a reputation of being a miracle plant, used to treat just about everything; insomnia, dizziness, nerves, stomach problems, poor vision, infections, convulsions, viper's bites, swooning fits, and palsy. It’s also an insect repellent for fleas, flies, and midges.

So not only is it a lovely scent, it’s practical, too. And what Regency hero wouldn’t want his lady to be insect-free?!

Here’s a home recipe from the Regency era:

Put two pounds of lavender pips into two quarts of water, put them into a cold still, and make a slow fire under it; distil it off very slowly, and put it into a pot till you have distilled all your water; then clean your still well out, put your lavender water into it, and distil it off slowly again; put it into bottles and cork it well.

Lavender is also the stuff of songs of course and one we all know. Lavenders Blue Dilly Dilly......

It emerged as a children's song in Songs for the Nursery in 1805:

Lavender blue and Rosemary green,
When I am king you shall be queen;
Call up my maids at four o'clock,
Some to the wheel and some to the rock;
Some to make hay and some to shear corn,
And you and I will keep the bed warm.

Similar versions appeared in collections of rhymes throughout the nineteenth century.

But the earliest version I found is in a broadside printed in England between 1672 and 1685, under the name Diddle Diddle, Or The Kind Country Lovers. It is quite different that the one I grew up singing. The first of ten verses are as follows:

Lavenders green, Diddle, diddle,
Lavenders blue
You must love me, diddle, diddle,
cause I love you,
I heard one say, diddle, diddle,
since I came hither,
That you and I, diddle, diddle,
must lie together.

The scent of lavender invokes visions of romance, contentment and peace. No wonder people wax poetic when they smell it!

Do you have a favorite scent?


Sarah Raplee said...

What an interesting post, Donna! I keep lavender sachets in my dresser drawers. My husband had had insomnia for two nights; think I'll tuck one in his pillowcase.:)

I also love the scents of mints, rosemary,cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.

The history of perfumes/scents is fascinating, isn't it?

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Donna,
That was an interesting blog. I love lavender, but roses are my favourite perfumed flower.



Diana Mcc. said...

Lavender is wonderful. I also, like jasmine, honeysuckle, cinnamon, cloves and basil. In fact, I like a bouquet of basil just as it begins to bloom sitting on the kitchen counter. It makes the whole room smell good.

Bron said...

Lavender always reminds me of a holiday i took in the south of France. Beautiful plant and beautiful fragrace.

Donna Hatch said...

I love cinnamon, too, Sara.

Margaret, I admit to being partial to roses, too.

I didn't realize basil had that kind of a fragrance. That's a fun thing to learn, Diana. Jasmine IS a great scent.

Wow, Bron, that sounds wonderful! I hope to go to France someday.

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Donna,

Lavendar is one of my favorite smells. I took an Introduction to Aromatherapy class a few years ago and learned to make my own scent. I have several different kinds of lavendar growing in my yard and this year began using it to counter the itch in spider and mosquito bites. Really does work!

I use lavendar scented dryer sheets, lavendar sachets in my drawers, lavendar scented sprays around the house (including my very own creation that uses lavendar as a base). And, I have two gallon size plastic bags (the ones with the air holes for vegetables) half-filled with lavendar that I run over my sheets and pillows when I'm having problems sleeping.

Love the smell of fresh baking bread too.

Paty Jager said...

Fun information. I grow lavender because it's the only thing the deer don't eat! And I like the fragrance. But I think tea roses are my favorite flower scent.