Waugh and the New Perfumes

As reported in the Daily Mail, a new line of perfumes is being marketed by a company called Deco London. According to their Creative Director, Sophie Fannon-Howell:

Her six Eau de Parfums capture the elegance, glamour and frivolity of the Roaring Twenties, taking inspiration from the bright young things of the era and bring back to life fragrance notes that had fallen out of fashion in modern scents. … ‘The personalities of 1920s London were larger than life, glamorous, hedonistic, tragic and elegant; coming to terms with a new changing world following World War I. I wanted to capture those characters in the fragrances I created and introduce my audience to British history.’

One of the new perfumes called “Millicent” is pictured in the Mail with the caption: “Each perfume’s name is inspired by a glamorous character from the 1920s, such as Millicent…”

There follows an insert of four members of the Bright Young People with brief character descriptions of each: Cecil Beaton, Daphne Fielding, Patrick Balfour and Sheila Chisholm. They were all friends of Waugh, and the story mentions that Sheila had inspired Waugh’s novel The Loved One (more on this below). This list suggested, to me at least, that there were perfumes in the product line named for each of them. Daphne or Patrick perhaps, but Cecil and Sheila seemed a stretch. I am sorry to report that I was misled. None of the perfumes in the Deco line are named for these BYPs. In addition to Millicent noted above, the other perfumes are named Loretta, Constance, Ernest, Lawrence and Quentin. On second thought, “Cecil” and “Sheila” (or maybe “Sir Cecil” and “Lady Sheila”) would not be so terribly out of place in this line after all.

Sheila Chisholm was an Australian friend of Waugh’s from the 1920s. She is usually referred to as Sheila Milbanke which was the name of her second husband. She was by chance in Los Angeles in 1947 at the same time the Waughs were visiting in connection with an abortive attempt to license film rights for Brideshead Revisited. They met at a dinner party, and she convinced Waugh to make a trip to Forest Lawn Memorial Park which she had just visited and which “for sheer exquisite sensitive beauty surpassed anything she had seen of that kind” (Sykes, p. 411). She accompanied Waugh on his first trip to Forest Lawn the next day. He made several more in the following days. It became Whispering Glades in the novel.

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One Response to Waugh and the New Perfumes

  1. David Bittner says:

    Jeff, I have to tell you something funny , even if it does qualify me for membership in the “Ugly American” club… Hitching around France during the summer of 1973, I had the good luck of getting a lift from a youngish Frenchwoman. I can’t remember where in France I was or where I was trying to get to. But that’s not important. Anyway, I noticed several big boxes in the car that led me to think she was probably a traveling saleswoman. So, politely, I said, “Est-ce que vous vendez des parfums?” She laughed and said she sold “guides juridiques.” I don’t know what kind of people bought these guides—maybe they were like today’s “divorce kits.” But there you have the story! Yours, David

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