Monday, July 20, 2009
Lavender...the stuff of romance
I think one of the most wonderful scents is lavender, and I use it often as the scent of my heroines’ hair because it smells divine and it was commonly used in Regency England.
According to The Naturalist's Diary, lavender is in blossoms in July.
English Lavender, or Lavandula Angustifolia, contains essential oils with sweet overtones, frequently used in perfumes, a final hair rinse, balms, salves, and cosmetics. It was and still is often used in sachets for bedding and clothing.
Because of its soothing scent, it was a favorite of European royalty. Charles VI of France reportedly required lavender-filled pillows wherever he visited, and Queen Elizabeth I of England required lavender conserve at the royal table and bunches of lavender in her rooms.
Lavender has a reputation of being a miracle plant, used to treat just about everything; insomnia, dizziness, nerves, stomach problems, poor vision, infections, convulsions, viper's bites, swooning fits, and palsy. It’s also an insect repellent for fleas, flies, and midges.
So not only is it a lovely scent, it’s practical, too. And what Regency hero wouldn’t want his lady to be insect-free?!
Here’s a home recipe from the Regency era:
Put two pounds of lavender pips into two quarts of water, put them into a cold still, and make a slow fire under it; distil it off very slowly, and put it into a pot till you have distilled all your water; then clean your still well out, put your lavender water into it, and distil it off slowly again; put it into bottles and cork it well.
Lavender is also the stuff of songs of course and one we all know. Lavenders Blue Dilly Dilly......
It emerged as a children's song in Songs for the Nursery in 1805:
Lavender blue and Rosemary green,
When I am king you shall be queen;
Call up my maids at four o'clock,
Some to the wheel and some to the rock;
Some to make hay and some to shear corn,
And you and I will keep the bed warm.
Similar versions appeared in collections of rhymes throughout the nineteenth century.
But the earliest version I found is in a broadside printed in England between 1672 and 1685, under the name Diddle Diddle, Or The Kind Country Lovers. It is quite different that the one I grew up singing. The first of ten verses are as follows:
Lavenders green, Diddle, diddle,
You must love me, diddle, diddle,
cause I love you,
I heard one say, diddle, diddle,
since I came hither,
That you and I, diddle, diddle,
must lie together.
The scent invokes visions of romance, contentment and peace. No wonder people wax poetic when they smell it!