A Shakespearean Scent?

Posted by: on Apr 20, 2011 | No Comments

Do you ever read something and immediately dial your phone so you can tell someone what you’ve read?  Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I get too excited to wait.  Well tonight when reading Glamour in Six Dimensions: Modernism and the Radiance of Form I came across some speculation regarding the origin of Chanel No.5 and nearly rolled out of my chair reaching for my iPhone. 

The author, not the first person to suggest this, claims that the perfume’s name could in fact be a reference to Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 5, which famously contains the following lines:

A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it nor no rememberance what it was:
But flowers distill’d, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.

Ok, it could just be that Mlle. Chanel’s birthday was May 5 or that this was the fifth formulation, but I’m going to stick to this much more Romantic co-incidence along with Ms. Judith Brown.  If you’re at all interested in the aesthetic principles which construct and convey something as nebulous as “glamour” do check out the book.  Where else can you find Coco Chanel, Virginia Woolf, Josephine Baker, and a history of cellophane all in one convenient package?

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