Cornhill Magazine,  10 (1864), 427–33.

Flower Farming

[George H Lewes]




Horticulture, Botany, Agriculture, Analytical Chemistry, Laboratories, Chemistry, Commerce

    Rhapsodises over the vast fields of flowers in the South of France, where the 'soil, so marvellously adapted to flowers, has the reputation of being singularly adapted to man, and mud-baths are in great request'. Notes that 'M. Septimus Piesse, the well-known perfumer, who is an expert chemist, has analyzed this soil', and gives a breakdown of its chemical constituents. (428) Observes that 'Man is nasal; and the imperiousness of the Schneiderian membrane demanding scents for its gratification, and partly, also, for the suppression or mitigation of stinks, has, in all ages and among all tribes, forced the genius of man to extract perfumes from flowers'. The 'nose having its needs and luxuries, Commerce is but too happy to pander to it'. The processes of producing perfume from flowers are 'partly chemical, partly agricultural: the laboratory stands in the midst of the flower farms. Just as the farmer and the gleaner carry their corn to the miller to have it ground, the landholders carry their flowers to the laboratory'. (431) These processes, however, 'depend on a fact unknown in this country, at least unpublished, until M. Septimus Piesse brought out his work, "The Art of Perfumery". We allude to the property which pure oil, butter, grease, and fat, have of absorbing the fragrant principle from flowers in contact with them. Fats absorb odours, as a sponge absorbs water. If the fat, thus impregnated, be placed in pure alcohol, or any other spirit, the fragrant principle quits the fat, and we have then the scented spirit which perfumers sell' (432).

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