Monday, 16 April 2012

Scents and Sensibility: The Fragrance of Decadence

“As perfume doth remain
In the folds where it hath lain,
So the thought of you, remaining
Deeply folded in my brain,
Will not leave me: all things leave me:
You remain.”
~Arthur Symons

The field of smell in 19th century art and literature certainly seems to be growing!  Indeed, I am meeting up with Dr. Catherine Maxwell to discuss the crossovers between my work on smell in 19th century art and her new book project on smell in 19th century literature.

Catherine is Professor of Victorian Literature in the School of English and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London and has published widely on sight, aesthetics and decadence in Victorian Literature - and has made important contributions to scholarship on Swinburne and Vernon Lee. Her book Second Sight: The Visionary Imagination in Late Victorian Literature (MUP, 2008) sounds right up my street.

Catherine is giving her inaugural lecture on Tuesday 29th May 2012 at 6.30pm at Queen Mary University on the theme of Scents and Sensibility: The Fragrance of Decadence - and her lecture will be chaired by one of the kindest, loveliest academics I have ever met - Dr. Hilary Fraser from Birkbeck's English department.

About Catherine's lecture... This lecture examines perfume in decadent writing with special reference to two male authors Oscar Wilde and Arthur Symons, both of whom have a strong awareness of fragrance and present themselves as olfactifs, individuals with a refined sense of smell. Establishing the prevalence of references to scent and perfume in Wilde and Symons writing, I ask what purpose do these references serve and what do they signify? And, in answering these questions, I consider whether such references to perfume reflect the taste and use of the time, taking note of the scents liked or cultivated by both writers.

Tickets are free for the inaugural lecture - and can be booked here
Please let me know if you hear of smell-related lectures or events that you think I would be interested in!


  1. Nice reading your blog. Like that poem poem too. :)

    human pheromones

  2. O, very much so! Symons was very unique to the majority of the poetry that was shown me in my youth. Still read him today. Love the way in which this excerpt was used- so remini"SCENT" of my youth. Thanks much!