You had to be able to distinguish sheep suet from

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You had to be able to distinguish sheep suet from calves’ suet, a victoria violet from a parma violet.You had to be fluent in Latin. You had to know when heliotrope is harvested and when pelargoniumblooms, and that the jasmine blossom loses its scent at sunrise. Obviously Pelissier had not the vaguestnotion of such matters. He had probably never left Paris, never in all his life seen jasmine in bloom.Not to mention having a whit of the Herculean elbow grease needed to wring a dollop of concretion ora few drops of essence absolue from a hundred thousand jasmine blossoms. Probably he knew suchthings-knew jasmine-only as a bottle of dark brown liquid concentrate that stood in his locked cabinetalongside the many other bottles from which he mixed his fashionable perfumes. No, in the good olddays of true craftsmen, a man like this coxcomb Pelissier would never have got his foot in the door. Helacked everything: character, education, serenity, and a sense for the hierarchy within a guild. He owedhis few successes at perfumery solely to the discovery made some two hundred years before by thatgenius Mauritius Frangipani-an Italian, let it be noted!-that odors are soluble in rectified spirit. Bymixing his aromatic powder with alcohol and so transferring its odor to a volatile liquid, Frangipanihad liberated scent from matter, had etherialized scent, had discovered scent as pure scent; in short, hehad created perfume. What a feat! What an epoch-making achievement! Comparable really only to thegreatest accomplishments of humankind, like the invention of writing by the Assyrians, Euclideangeometry, the ideas of Plato, or the metamorphosis of grapes into wine by the Greeks. A trulyPromethean act! And yet, just as ail great accomplishments of the spirit cast both shadow and light,offering humankind vexation and misery along with their benefits, so, too, Frangipani’s marvelousinvention had its unfortunate results. For now that people knew how to bind the essence of flowers andherbs, woods, resins, and animal secretions within tinctures and fill them into bottles, the art ofperfumery was slipping bit by bit from the hands of the masters of the craft and becoming accessible tomountebanks, at least a mountebank with a passably discerning nose, like this skunk Pelissier. Withoutever bothering to learn how the marvelous contents of these bottles had come to be, they could simplyfollow their olfactory whims and concoct whatever popped into their heads or struck the public’smomentary fancy.So much was certain: at age thirty-five, this bastard Pelissier already possessed a larger fortunethan he, Baldini, had finally accumulated after three generations of constant hard work. And Pelissier’sgrew daily, while his, Baldini’s, daily shrank. That sort of thing would not have been even remotelypossible before! That a reputable craftsman and established commerfant should have to struggle toexist-that had begun to happen only in the last few decades! And only since this hectic mania for

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Term
Fall
Professor
Mrs. Houseman
Tags
English, Olfaction, Candide, Odor, Watchmen, Wet nurse, Patrick S skind

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