By Janice Carlisle
Who smells? Surveying approximately 80 novels written within the 1860s to reply to that rude query, universal Scents presents a brand new analyzing of Victorian values, relatively as they verify the relative advantages of guys and ladies, spirit and topic. In depictions of comparative encounters, the general conferences of lifestyle, such fiction frequently registers the inequalities that distinguish one person from one other by way of marking one in all them with a scent. In a shockingly constant model, those references represent what cultural anthropologists name an osmology, a method of differentiations that finds the prestige inside of a selected tradition of the people and issues linked to particular odors. that includes frequently harmless or even very likely wonderful aromas emanating from nutrients, vegetation, and likely sorts of hard work, novels of the 1860s array their characters into unique different types, discovering in a few instead of others olfactory evidence in their materiality. primary to this osmology is the adaptation among characters who provide off odors and people who don't, and this examine attracts upon the paintings of Victorian psychophysiologists and renowned commentators at the senses to set up the subtlety with which fictional representations make that contrast. through exploring the far-reaching implications of this osmology in particular novels via Dickens, Eliot, Meredith, Oliphant, Trollope, and Yonge, universal Scents argues that the strikingly related plots and characterizations standard of the 1860s, responding as they do to the commercial and political issues of the last decade, reconfigure traditional understandings of the family members among women and men. selecting who smells unearths what Victorian tradition at its epitome takes with no consideration as a deeply embedded good judgment, the popularity of whose self-evident fact appears to be like as instinctive and automated as a reaction to an scent.
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Extra resources for Common Scents: Comparative Encounters in High-Victorian Fiction
That, you say, was my fault! Truly so. ” (33). Making much of her sense of her social superiority, the countess casts it in terms of a sensory delicacy that forces her, like the witnesses to Magwitch’s trial in Great Expectations, to use her nosegay as a defense against a journalist, a gesture that identiﬁes him as a kind of social criminal. Because such encounters underscore the primarily aﬀective nature of smelling as a sensory process, they cast those who experience them as relatively reﬁned, even if the characters in question are the children of a penniless miller.
In the context of the relatively genteel and inodorous regions charted by the ﬁction of the 1860s, adaptation is not noted in relation to the poor, whose stench, as I have pointed out, is all but absent there. It pertains consistently, however, to their betters, the ladies and gentlemen who smell others but do not smell themselves. The Adventures of Philip oﬀers an eﬀective demonstration of this phenomenon. Philip’s relation to virtually all those whose homes he visits is charted by their responses to the smell of the cigar or pipe smoke that he carries with him as a sign of his life as a journalist: his old nurse is delighted by it, his ﬁancée ﬁnds it attractive, his social-climbing relations are revolted by it, and his old friends Pendennis and his wife, Laura, barely notice it; but Philip’s fellow journalists are never recorded as having any responses to the aura of tobacco that invariably attends him.
This assertion has two meanings: diﬀerent races give oﬀ diﬀerent olfactory stimuli—Europeans do not smell like American Indians—and diﬀerent races have diﬀerent capacities for olfaction—Peruvian Indians are more fully capable of smelling others than Europeans are. Oﬀering an example that conﬁrms the point made in Lewes’s reference to Peruvian Indians, Wilson can locate no universalized responses when he discusses perfumes, which, he argues, are more important to ancient than to modern peoples, more prevalent in their uses among “Oriental and Southern peoples, than .