Upscale, Downscale

What is that odor wafting from the butler, the dignified Mr. Treadcarpet as he paces noiselessly over the hall runner on his way to open the front door?  It is discreet, for butlers cannot drench themselves in scent.  Mr. Treadcarpet leaves that sort of vulgarity to the inaptly named gentlemen’s gentlemen.  Mr. Treadcarpet allows himself a single drop of Coty’s Chypre on his pocket handkerchief, and he quite enjoys a bar of their soap as well in the bath, but beyond this he will not venture.  That way lies the dissolution of those firm traditional values of which Mr. Treadcarpet, and butlers generally, are the domestic guardians.

This is in distinction to young Mr. Entailed-Estate, who likes to drench himself in that fancy new perfume from Guerlain known as Mitsouko.  He has heard that the Russian Impresario Diaghelev uses it, and Mr. Entailed-Estate wants to be on the cutting edge of fashion even if the fellows at the Dolittle Club chaff him about his “pong”.  The difference is chiefly price, Mr. Treadcarpet’s chypre can be found for a few shillings and Mr. Entailed-Estate’s Mitsouko is to be found at Harrod’s for a few pounds.

A similar situation simmers in the kitchen where Mrs. Crashplatter the cook wears a “mite” of L’Origan.  Lor’ bless you, she can’t pronounce it, but it’s a fine smell, that it is, and ever so much better than Lady Entailed-Estate’s L’Heure Bleue, which do get up the guest’s noses at dinner parties.  Why, Lord O’Finickybite once left the table in the middle of the fish course on account of it, though all he said was that the dining room was a bit “close”. Well, we all know what that means below stairs! Lady E’s been overdoin’ it again.

The cost of Mrs. Crashplatter’s L’Origan? It was $4.00 for extract in bulk, sent from her sister who lives in Boston, bless her.  We really couldn’t say what Lord E paid for Lady E’s L’Heure Bleue in the fancy bottle, while he was in Paris on “business”. But you know the fancier the bottle, the more no good the gents have been up to, that’s Mrs. Crashplatter’s opinion.

Finally there are the two young women of the household, the Hon. Cordelia Dorothea Victoria Entailed-Estate, who loves the fancy new French perfume called Shalimar!    She wears it every evening to dinner and it’s a wonder, between the Shalimar, and the L’Heure Bleue, and young Mr. E’s Mitsouko, that guests can breathe at all.

Her choice, however, is outdone below stairs, by Molly Dustruffle the upstairs maid who wears Emeraude, also new, but not new this year, and wears skirts three inches below her knees on her day off.  Constable Bluebottle, the local bobby on the beat, is smitten with Dustruffle, but then so is young Mr. E (when he forgets about Diaghelev) and Mrs. Crashplatter has already had to deliver a few lectures to her on the subject of sporting young gents.

Will Dustruffle succumb to Mr. E?  Will Cordelia Dorothea accept the vulgar self-made millionaire Mr. Marginbuy (who wears Penhaligon’s English Fern)? Will Lord Entailed-Estate smoke one cigar too many and die of his “gaspers” and will Lady E. ditch L’Heure Bleue in favor of melancholy, widow’s weeds, and Apres L’Ondee?

Tune in to next week’s episode of Smellton Abbey, and continue tuning in, until the writer runs out of ideas or the ratings drop, whichever comes first, because heaven knows, this vehicle isn’t plot driven.

(By the way, feel free to suggest any further olfactory story twists.)

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21 Responses to Upscale, Downscale

  1. Mals86 says:

    Bwahahaha!! Delicious. I have no further suggestions at the moment; I am too busy sniggering. (That’s good old-fashioned American ‘snickering,’ but with a British accent. I spent several days over Christmas holidays catching up on Downton Abbey seasons 1 and 2 and have begun watching season 3 on PBS, leading me to spend Mondays speaking in my best BBC accent. Which tends to annoy my family, more’s the pity.)

    Words cannot express what those old Cotys do to me. I love them. Every one of them I’ve tried (L’Origan, Chypre, Emeraude, Paris, L’Aimant) has been an emotional sock in the gut, in an “ain’t life grand, stop and smell the roses” sort of way. I would give my left kneecap for some pristine Chypre in parfum, and I’m stocked up on vinty Emeraude but I love the stuff.

    There is something… too rarefied? too artsy? too intellectual?… about those corresponding Guerlains, to my way of thinking. The Cotys catch my heart. The related Guerlains are more sophisticated, yes, but I don’t love them. They leave me cold.

    Oh, yes – we forgot the Dowager Countess Lady Propriety Entailed-Estate, who clings to her Victorian wardrobe and her sumptuous hats, and scents her handkerchiefs with lavender toilet water or one of the numerous violet perfumes popular in the previous century.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Oh I love old Lady Propriety! That’s marvelous, and she would wear something like lavender water. Don’t know if you ever watched (or read the books of) the series Rumpole of the Bailey, about a veteran barrister in London from the 70′s thru the 90′s, but his British lioness of a wife, was always referred to as “She Who Must Be Obeyed”. Of course, like your Lady Propriety she wore lavender water-exclusively.

      I take your point about the Guerlains. In fact the salient aspect of the Coty/Guerlain comparison is that the Guerlains are always just a bit abstract. Take L’Origan. Gorgeous, very wearable, Apres L’Ondee, lovely, depends on the woman though. L’Heure Bleue is …let me put it this way, can you wear it? Because I can’t. I’ve tried. L’Origan? Sure no sweat.

      • Kafkaesque says:

        I love L’Heure Bleue and my vintage bottle is one of my more hoarded treasures. Oh dear, shall I be sent to the scullery to do the dishes? I feel a bit like Ruby who did something untoward before Mrs. Bridges or Mr. Hudson. ;)

        Speaking of old 70s British classics, have you ever seen To The Manor Born?

        • Blacknall Allen says:

          No you just have better perfume instincts than I do, and darn it. Just can’t wear L’Heure Bleue, but did wear Apres L’Ondee! So, no scullery for you.
          Oh and yes, I love To The Manor Born, Penelope Keith. A marvelous comic talent!

          • Kafkaesque says:

            She really was. It’s rather embarassing how much British television — especially of the 70s and 80s — I’ve seen. Decades may have passed, but I can tell the voice of “Livia” from “I, Claudius” probably better than I can Jay Leno. From shows about the First Churchills, Upstairs/Downstairs, All Creatures Great and Small, Edward the King, Lillie Langtry…. I better stop before I inundate a perfume blog with British period pieces. Have I mentioned how thrilled I am to find your blog and someone who not only loves perfume but history and classic British television too? :D

          • Blacknall Allen says:

            Oh, I know what you mean about the British tellie classics. I loved all those too, and went on to watch britcoms from the nineties as well. Indeed these days, one of my favorites is Top Gear- which I suppose must seem really peculiar for a perfume blogger- but I grew up with a gear head brother.
            As to Penelope Keith, oh what a gem, and this is not even to mention the wonderful Patricia Routledge. We seldom produce such brilliant comediennes in the States, ours are shiny, but not so multi-faceted

      • mals86 says:

        I can wear L’Heure Bleue, but only in parfum, and I don’t really enjoy the experience that much. The EdT I think of as Hell’s Medicine Cabinet. L’Origan is lovely. I do love Apres l’Ondee, but that one is something of an outlier on the early-Guerlain spectrum, in that it is so simply pretty. Complex, yeah, and as abstract and impressionistic as Monet and Degas and Debussy, but the whole of it adds up to something wistfully beautiful, and more of a candid shot than those posed-for-effect portraits that are Mitsouko and Jicky and Shalimar.

        There is a softness to those old Cotys – as you say, less of an attempt at abstract art and more of an attempt at smelling attractive.

        • Blacknall Allen says:

          That seems to be consistent with L’Heure Bleue, the extract is the thing to wear if you can afford it, but your comment reminded me of this post on Persolaise.
          I very much like your comparison of Apres to Impressionists. Oh yes, Apres is kind of like the Monet Water lily paintings to me. Beautiful, out of focus, and on the whole, mauve.
          The Cotys were just beautiful, and if over thought at all, the over thinking had to do with how they would wear on skin. The early Guerlains have got a self consciousness to them, being essentially Guerlain reverse engineered Cotys.

  2. Kafkaesque says:

    Absolutely marvelous. Bravo. BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so glad I found your site through Undina. This is going on FB!

    You know, I actually choked at the “because heaven knows, this vehicle isn’t plot driven.” Few things are better than really dry, wry senses of humour!

    My suggestion: Miss Modern Knickers who smokes cheroots and wears Molinard’s Habanita. She is young Mr. E’s fancy piece on the side and she fancies herself A Thoroughly Modern Millie. She has rooms in disreputable Chelsea with Cora Artsy Bits who dabbles in art now that she’s left service to that poor Oscar Wilde. Cora wears Caron Narcisse Noir ever since she overheard Mr. E talk about Diaghelev’s dancers wearing it en masse. Cora, you see, wants to be graceful like one of those lithe beauties but, instead, she bears a strong resemblance to Gertrude Stein….

  3. Blacknall Allen says:

    Oh poor Cora, looking like Gertrude! Maybe she should stick to Fougere Royale? Or maybe, Tabac Blond? There being no Chanel masculine around in 1920 or so.

    As for Miss Modern Knickers, she’s pitch perfect. Very garconne! I wonder does she have a green hat like the girl in the novel?

    • Kafkaesque says:

      I see Tabac Blond as being too avant-garde for her. She is someone who dreams of being risky but, ultimately, is old and too grounded in the past to actually dare do it. As for Fougère Royale, perhaps a touch too masculine for one who dreams of being a young, lithe ballerina? I shall have to ponder what would work for a slightly frumpy, older (well, older than Miss Modern Knickers) who wants to be modern and artistically risky, but who is actually very grounded in the past. BTW, I’ve shared your piece with my FB friends and the early reaction has been enormous applause thus far. You really are incredibly witty and original. I cannot tell you how very impressed I am. I really hope you continue this series.

      • Blacknall Allen says:

        Kind of you to say so. Maybe I shall post about Smellton from time to time while some other series that will go un-named here is on the air. Possibly Cora wears some of the old Crown perfumes? They would play off her conservative side.
        Then again maybe Miss Cora went to the ballet and saw Nijinsky, and afterwards adopted Molinard’s Baiser d’une Faune?

  4. Meg says:

    I’m waiting for the scullery maid, little Dorothea “Dolly” Rocker, to chance upon some handsome city lad declaiming Marx upon a milk crate in the village square, after which she begins to trail Knize Ten all over the pantry and to address Mrs. Crashplatter as “Comrade Ma’am.” ;)

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      None of that in this house, thank you very much, and I think Constable Bluebottle will have to keep on eye on that young man. Smells of brimstone and treacle to Bluebottle!

    • mals86 says:

      What *would* Knize 10 smell like among all the food? I’ve never managed to smell it myself. I like Cuir de Lancome in proximity to dinner, either cooking it or eating it, but that’s a gentle sort of thing.

      • Blacknall Allen says:

        Do you know, I’ve never smelled Knize 10 either! I did have a sample of Cuir de Lancome, and it was almost floral, but would a leather smell good around food? The initial note in K10 is supposed to be …strawberry? So maybe Dolly’s choice wouldn’t shock Mrs. Crashplatter so much?

        • Meg says:

          Yes on the strawberry, but also on the leather (which is polished to a proud high shine). Knize Ten strikes me as a revolutionary little devotchka in matching bandolier and patent leather maryjanes– cute as a button, but stern as a drill sargeant. I am pretty certain Bluebottle’s brought her in for questioning… the result being that they’ve got a hot date this Friday night.

          • Blacknall Allen says:

            Can’t imagine how that interrogation would go anyhow. The only response you’d get from little Dolly being the opening up of her big brown eyes very wide and “Whay?” or possibly, “Whay not?” to any inquiry. Then later, “Whayt’s a Cul-tu-ral Re-vo-lu-tion when it’s at home?” to Mrs. Crashplatter.

  5. HemlockSillage says:

    Spot on! This is brilliant, and I didn’t want the episode to end. I’ve admired your blog for months, but had to de-lurk and compliment your skill in capturing the style of DA, perfect period perfumes and making the whole effort sing. Thanks for bringing a huge grin to my day. I’m off now, to tell my DA (but mostly non perfumista) buddies about this! You may create some vintage perfume hunters. Be well.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Aren’t you nice! Had a lot of fun doing this, and if in the process we encourage a few more vintage perfume appreciators in the world…well, isn’t that a good thing?
      And please feel free to comment any time you like in future! Love the conversations.

  6. Pingback: Upscale Downscale, Part II | aperfumeblog by Blacknall Allen

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