Perfumed pages… Endymion by Benjamin Disraeli and Penhaligon’s The Dandy Celebrates World Book Day

“It was a rich, warm night, at the beginning of August, when a gentleman enveloped in a cloak, for he was in evening dress, emerged from a club-house at the top of St. James’ Street, and descended that celebrated eminence. He had not proceeded more than half way down the street when, encountering a friend, he stopped with some abruptness. “I have been looking for you everywhere,” he said. “‘Tis as warm as noon. Let us cross the street and get into St. James’ Place. That is always my idea of solitude.”

Velvet-jacketed and heavily scented, rarely without an outlandish hat of some description, sporting be-jewelled rings worn over white silk gloves, a well know author of romantic fiction, Benjamin Disraeli was hardly the archetypical Imperial British Prime Minister, even before the matter of his Jewish descent is taken into account.

Yet this striking, dandy-like figure, whose first fiction, Vivian Grey, would inspire the eponymous hero of Oscar Wilde‘s only novel, was Queen Victoria‘s favourite and ‘Dizzy‘ as he was widely known would lead his country not once but twice and be engaged in political battle at the highest level with his nemesis Gladstone over decades.

“Without tact you can learn nothing. Tact teaches you when to be silent. Inquirers who are always inquiring never learn anything.”

Endymion was Disraeli’s final work to be published in his lifetime, the last he finished.

It is a nostalgic fantasia on his own youth. A roman a clef with more than slightly camp overtones.

An assortment of improbable romances and intricate political intrigues, that ultimately ends up a heap of sentimentality rather than making anything approaching narrative sense.

For all that, taken on its own terms, it is a thoroughly enjoyable romp, a joyful, colourful whirl.

A glimpse into the late Georgian world, a world of possibilities, where a young man with hunger and ambition could change almost anything, including himself, in order to get ahead.

“I do not think you are capricious, and yet the world sometimes says you are.”

Penhaligon’s may have had Keats or classical myth more in mind when they created their antique anachronism of the same name in 2003, yet it is Disraeli’s Endymion to which their aroma owes most.

From it’s colourful burst of citrus to it’s front parlour full of lavender at the start.

Through the soft leather of the ‘nice’ gentleman’s gloves at it’s heart to the complexion-enhancing patent powder of the dry down, this is an arch nineteenth fey fellow’s fragrance.

It is an Aubrey Beardsley sort of scent.

“My idea of an agreeable person.. Is a person who agrees with me.”

Just as Disraeli was a Wildean sort of politician.

Apply the perfume without moderation and frequently to achieve full effect.

Peruse the book in short bursts while sipping sweet tea dressed in a purple smoking jacket.

Happy Reading.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Perfumed pages… Endymion by Benjamin Disraeli and Penhaligon’s The Dandy Celebrates World Book Day

  1. Lilybelle

    Now that ^^^ sounds like my type of thing! Something to cuddle up with and savor. And Endymion the fragrance – lemon, lavender, leather, powder – sounds wonderful. I need to sample that one tout de suite.

    • Dearest Lily
      On some people’s skin Endymion passes in a flash, others dismiss it as ‘generic’ a term I feel that is somewhat over and misused.
      It is perhaps best understood as latter day cologne (in the European sense) and used as such.
      As to the novel, it comes across as a giant work of whimsy now, but in its day it was a bestseller. Dizzy received an advance of around $50,000 from Longman’s for the text, around $1.2 million in today’s money and the sales allowed him to buy a rather charming house in Mayfair…
      It’s not a short or an easy read, but if one allows it wash over one, it’s a warm bath of a book.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Cheryl

    Is Endymion at all like Le Troiseme Homme? Loved this review, and love reading about Queen Victoria’s relationship with Disraeli. Many thanks!

    • Dearest Cheryl
      Oh that it were! Le 3eme Homme is amongst The Dandy’s most favourite smells ever, without exception. It belongs, with Yatagan, and Caron Pour Un Homme, to that house’s holy trinity of ‘made of men’ perfumes.
      Endymion, cannot reach those heights, but it is a minor delight. Diverting, comforting, sprightly at the start gently powdery at the conclusion. Something one can imagine a gentleman of the theatre wearing.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Cheryl

        Dearest Dandy,
        Thank you for such a lovely reply. I regularly wear several Caron scents.
        Le 3eme Homme, Yatagan, Nuit De Noel, Parfum Sacre and Pois de Senteur.
        Le 3eme Homme and Yatagan , often fill the bill for this woman.
        With love,
        Cheryl

      • Dearest Cheryl
        Le 3eme Homme is wonderful on women, and Yatagn an adventurous choice.. I love it! Nuit de Noel and Parfum Sacre I have written about here and both have my heart. Pois de Senteur… now I wish someone would recommend I try that!
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  3. SallyM

    I have a feeling that Dizzy and The Dandy would have been great chums! Indeed I can see why Penhaligon’s offerings might appeal to your good self – as it says on their website: “Our fragrant adventure began in the Victorian era of decadence and carries us into the future as we strive to create original scents for the discerning eccentrics of today. True modern dandies and bold women who are proud to go their own way.”
    I do quite like some of their fragrances; Violetta is one of the few violet perfumes that I can wear and The Husband likes Sartorial. The Lavandula bath oil is truly luxurious and a must at the end of one of “those” days. It was quite a treat to go to their Covent Garden store the last time I was in London and its on my agenda for the next visit.
    Fascinating to read about this book – I will see if its available at the library…

    • Dearest Sally
      I’d not read that copy on the website, but, if the glove fits…
      Penhaligon’s have many fine perfumes and some that pass me by, not because they are unpleasant, but as they do not arrest.
      I too like Violetta and English Fern, Opus, Blenheim Bouquet and especially Hammam Bouquet.
      The shops are splendid. Have you been to Floris on Jermyn Street? That’s quite something too, I go there for my shaving soaps, or Trumpers sometime over in Mayfair.
      Sadly, though madly popular in his day Disraeli is practically unread today. It may be a struggle to find Endymion outside a university library (it runs to three volumes) but Vivian Grey. Sybil or Collinsby are all worthy of an hour or two of one’s time… as look as one doesn’t expect too much of them!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • SallyM

        I haven’t been to Floris but its on my list – isn’t it the oldest perfume house in London? I’ll look in the Uni library here in Portland – being a [“mature” ]student, I have access to it, so when I go for my books next semester, I’ll hop on over and see what I can find.

      • Dearest Sally
        Floris is among the oldest… a few have their genesis in the 18th century and there’s a little squabbling as to who came first, and having been in continuous production and so forth.
        The lovely thing about Floris is that their shop interior dates exactly from 1851 as it comprises the counters and display cabinets they commissioned for the great exhibition.
        Quite lovely.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  4. rosestrang

    He was quite a character, well worth reading about, great dress sense too of course. A well turned out gentleman is a joy to behold, especially in these days of sober suits! For all Gladstone’s integrity his biography would never be so readable.
    I completely missed World Book Day as I was in the land of your forbears for a couple of days visiting some relatives, I had a lovely time – the Welsh are so friendly!

    • Dearest Rose
      A character indeed… and then some! His father too by all accounts was quite a fellow and his, ahem, wife, was not without interest.
      Interesting you should say that about Gladstone though, for though he might be on the surface a far less appealing subject for biography he was not without his foibles. His near obsession with prostitutes (not for that purpose) and their salvation. His early grasp of PR and his incredible stamina. The late, great Roy Jenkins, whom HM The Queen once marvellously described as ‘far too grand for Us’, rendered William Ewart brilliantly in his biography a hefty tour de force.
      We Welsh, of which Roy was, sort of one, are a very friendly lot, it is both our triumph and our tragedy…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

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