Last week I was thinking about how people now probably couldn't even abide, smell-wise, people from the Fifties, let alone the 1700s. That sparked a conversation with Candide that ran from strigils to dress shields, and made me think of Doctor Panto Fogo, a memoir I read in the Sixties (if you've read it you know why). My 'rents had literally thousands of good books and our outings revolved around used bookshops often. A lot of the ones I remember vividly were memoirs or biographies, like Dr PF, Guerilla Wife, Return of the Tiger, The Girl With the Swansdown Seat, Time I Was Dead and bazillions of others including Pepys and Boswell, which are all worth digging out and reading today if you get the chance.
The difference is due to washing/laundry habits, woolen or otherwise less-washable clothing, lack of antiperspirants, etc. Women wore "dress shields" which were crescent-shaped things in their armpits. Some people used deodorant and some didn't but of course they still sweated regardless and some are naturally more sweaty/smelly than others - nerves, diet, and so forth.
If everyone is smelly no one smells it - it becomes the baseline so we've raised ourselves up so now things need to be smell-less to be considered normal. Lucia has a great poem about the body as a leaky vessel, which circumstance increases with disease.
Today, thinking about the Fragrance issue it occured to me that the recent semi-serious purported time traveller photos, if genuine, would feature a nose-muffling scarf or nose-cone or other Pong Inhibitor. Until such a time as a photo surfaces of a time traveller with a proboscis swaddled in gauze or such it's quite obviously NOT a time traveller at all, however much we'd like it to be so.
And speaking of Lucia, she's won more awards and leaves tomorrow to give readings in D.C. I ran into Jim today, which is how I know, then just now spoke on the telephone with Lucia.
posted by - 8:19 PM