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What were the signature scents of famous authors?

Thanks to a post made at Book Riot, I got to thinking about my two favourite things in life: perfumes and books. I have a prodigiously large collection of both; yet it never occurred to me to find out what type of scents my favourite authors actually wore during their lifetime. Amanda Nelson of the irreverent book blog Dead White Guys came up with some cool concoctions of her own; and it inspired me to have a synesthete moment.

This is a bit of a tough mission, but one that yielded surprising results! Here’s what I have come up with so far…


Some authors like Anais Nin have already inspired a perfume, so admired were they in their lifetime. Anais Anais was the first perfume produced by Cacharel in 1978. To me, it evokes the scent-memory of France, my mother and the sweet yet deceptive innocence at the heart of all women. I also adore the fresh green smell and the O’Keefe-inspired artwork that has been used for many decades.

Top: Bergamot, galbanum, hyacinth, honeysuckle, orange blossom
Middle: Lily, lily of the valley, rose, ylang-ylang, tuberose, carnation
Base: Cedarwood, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss, incense, vetiver


What would a notorious super-dandy and aesthete like Oscar Wilde possibly wear as a perfume? Apparently the now discontinued (yet aptly named) Malmaison of Floris of London. It is described by experts as having a linear smell – that of almost purely red carnations. At first I couldn’t imagine a carnation as being Wilde’s smell, yet there is a certain exotic woodsy, clove-like aroma to carnations that does fit in with Wilde’s character. Red is certainly his colour too! The reintroduction of Malmaison Encore by Floris means people can relive the original fragrance in a more modern version.


Top notes: bergamot, black pepper, cardamom
Heart notes: clove, nutmeg, rose, ylang ylang
Base notes : amber, cedarwood, frankincense, heliotrope, tonka bean, vanilla


Many famous people including F. Scott Fitzgerald and later Marlene Dietrich wore Lieber Gustav #14. The perfume was created by celebrated nose Albert Kriegler and he states that ‘Perfume #14 was chosen by Fitzgerald because of its depth, and the connection between Berlin and Provence.’ I also find that scents hold geographical memories for me, yet even more interesting is that Lieber Gustav #14 was inspired by a love letter between a young girl and her fiancee… Reminds me of The Great Gatsby!


Leather, Black tea, Lavender, Musk and Woody notes.


Colette is another author who is epitomises sensuality and whose work’s forever obsess with the gratification of the flesh and of the soul. She owned her own beauty salon and being something of a perfumer herself used only the petals of white flowers. However, it has been recorded that she had a particular penchant for Coty’s Jasmin de Corse, which is again very hard to find. A 1925 ad described it as, ‘For the Woman of the Dreamy Elusive Type: Jasmine de Corse, La Jacinthe & Lilas Blanc.’ I can only imagine the closest we can ever get to this perfume with it’s heavy, smoky Jasmine undertones would be Lanvin’s Arpege which was created 20 years after.

So, that’s all I could find on authors and their favourite fragrance’s. Is there any I’ve missed out that should be in the list? Let me know.