Quotations on Smells, Perfumes, Odors, and Fragrances

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

1762 Dec. 25. "And as for admiration I am sure the man who powders most, parfumes most, embroiders most, and talks most nonsense, is most admired." (Jefferson to J.Page, PTJ, 1:55)

c1786 "Heliotrope. To be sowed in the spring. A delicious flower, but I suspect it must be planted in boxes and kept in the house in the winter. The smell rewards the care." (List of Plants sent by Jefferson from Paris to Francis Eppes, Betts, Garden Book, 635)

1771 "'The pride, the pèrfume of the regions round' Shenstone. Elegy. 16. 'The fragrance of the bean's perfùme' ib. Ode on rural elegance" (In list of phrases from English poetry as examples of pronunciation, entered into memorandum book after list of plants for his landscape schemes, MB)

1787 Regarding the differences between negroes and whites: "[The negroes] have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the kidnies, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour. This greater degree of transpiration renders them more tolerant of heat, and less so of cold, than the whites." (Notes on the State of Virginia, 138-9)

1788 Nov. Comparison of whale oils in the American and English markets: "That of the Spermaceti whale....yields no smell at all. It is used therefore within doors to lighten shops, and even in the richest houses for antichambers, stairs, galleries etc....The Groenland whale oil is next in quality....but it has a smell unsupportable within doors...." (Observations on the Whale-Fishery, PTJ, 14:249-50)

1791 Jun. 5. New England botanical specimens "either unknown or rare in Virginia" include "an Azalea very different from the Nudiflora, with very large clusters of flowers, more thickly set on the branches, of a deeper red and high pink- fragrance. It is the richest shrub I have seen." (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, PTJ, 20:465)

1792 Mar. 30. "...I inclose you some seeds of the Acacia Farnesiana the most delicious flowering shrub in the world." (Betts, Garden Book, 175)

1806 July "I remember seeing in your greenhouse a plant of a couple of feet height in a pot the fragrance of which (from its gummy bud if I recollect rightly) was peculiarly agreeable to me..." (Jefferson to W.Hamilton, Betts, Garden Book, 323)

1806 July 15. "I shall go in a week to Monticello....my situation there and taste, will lead me to ask for curious and hardy trees, than flowers. Of the latter a few of those remarkeable either for beauty or fragrance will be the limits of my wishes..." (Jefferson to Bernard McMahon, Betts, Garden Book, 322)

1807 Nov. 5. "Further trial of the Stylograph convinces me it can never take the place of the Polygraph but with travellers, as it is so much more portable. The fetid smell of the copying papers would render a room pestiferous, if filled with presses of such papers." (Jefferson to Charles Willson Peale, Papers of Charles Willson Peale, v.2 pt.2, 1043)

1809 Nov. 28. "I have received safely...the foliage of the Alleghany Martagon. A plant of so much beauty and fragrance will be a valuable addition to our flower gardens." (Jefferson to W.Fleming, Betts, Garden Book, 417)

1814 Oct. 7. "Botany I rank with the most valuable sciences, whether we consider its subjects as furnishing the principal subsistence of life to man and beast, delicious varieties for our tables, refreshments from our orchards, the adornments of our flower borders, shade and perfume of our groves, materials for our buildings, or medicaments for our bodies." (Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, Betts, Garden Book, 534)