TRIM; The Smell of Literature

By Thessa Verwolf

Ida Arnold, one of the characters in Graham Greene’s novel The World of Brighton Rock is a maternal, but sensual, figure. She is a well-rounded character, with many different facets to her personality. Caring, but ambitious and grounded, but interested in the supernatural. Main character Pinkie, a baby-faced murderous seventeen year old, has killed a man and will do everything to make sure he doesn’t get caught. To ensure his alibi, he marries the innocent waitress Rose, as she then can’t testify against him. Pinkie is, however, not prepared for Ida Arnold’s involvement.

Ida is very righteous and a foil to Pinkie’s psycho tendencies, but at the same time she is promiscuous. A flirty, Cockney, voluptuous lady; not necessarily a literary character you would expect to inspire a perfume brand, would you?

Miller Harris has explored the idea of literature as inspiration for perfume before, with Scherzo and Tender, based on a passage of text in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Their new fragrance Violet Ida evokes the atmosphere of The World of Brighton Rock. This 1938 novel was adapted for film in 1947 and 2010, portraying the dark underworld of Brighton, brightened by the fierce and colourful Ida Arnold.

Rather than focusing on the gritty side of Brighton and the bloodshed of Greene’s protagonist Pinkie, the English gangster, Harris takes Ida Arnold as its muse for its fragrance. Ida, the good-hearted detective with violets in her hair, represents the glamour of the seaside town. She is the avenger of wrongs, a brave and bold woman, full of vitality and ardour: “Life was sunlight on brass bedposts, Ruby port, the leap of the heart when the outsider you have backed passes the post . . . Death shocked her, life was so important” (Graham Greene).

Because of Ida, the fragrance is supposed to make you visualise Brighton in the summer, the arcade, the pier at sundown, “the highest heels, perhaps too much lipstick and a saucy weekend away on the coast” (Miller Harris). A nostalgic and melancholic feeling creeps up on you when smelling Violet Ida, as it reminds of long lost glamour and a yearning for those summer nights.

The fragrance is like a cloud of iris, with a hint of sweet violets. The head notes are a blend of “earthy, mineral facets of carrot seed” and “the sparkling top note of bergamot.” At the centre of the fragrance lie the heart notes with a “core of iris” together with “the sweet almond scent of heliotrope” for a touch of the confectionery, the Brighton rock sweets sold in the old days. “The base presents a silky trail of vanilla and liquid amber” (Miller Harris), giving a lasting impression lingering on your skin much longer than the average perfume.

Ultimately the first hit is the smell of your grandma’s handbag, that moment when she took a handkerchief out to wipe your dirty face when you were a child; all suede lining, powdery compact and waxy lipstick.  It dries down into a magnificently modern fragrance.

Another brand that pays homage to literary figures is Immortal Perfumes. Their Catherine scent is inspired by the Wuthering Heights heroine and has “notes of white musk, amber, English Ivy, frangipani, rain, white patchouli, and heather” (Immortal Perfumes). You can layer this fragrance with its literary lover’s mate, the Heathcliff scent. Other pairs are Romeo and Juliet, or Hades and Persephone. Noteworthy, they also have a Dead Writers line, which sounds more sinister than it is, containing “notes of black tea, vetiver, clove, musk, vanilla, heliotrope, and tobacco” (Immortal Perfumes). Think a kettle of tea, leafing through yellow pages at an old library.

If you prefer pondering the planes of Prince Edward Island, Ravenscourt Apothecary sells the fragrance Anne of Avonlea.

Now available on the Miller Harris website, the nostalgic and glamorous fragrance Violet Ida, to take you back to Greene’s 1930’s Brighton.


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