Typed pages from the working papers of Aytoun Ellis's for his book Essence of Beauty. Published by Secker in 1960. A litre of brandy?
Fragrant waters have been in use for thousands of years, Theophrastus mentioning them nearly 400 years before the Christian era.
Oldest of all, if one excepts rose-water from this category, is HONEY WATER (which) there seems little doubt, was used in this country from an early date but it was in the reign of JAMES II that it really became popular, George Wilson making it for the King to such a formula as the following:
100 Coriander fruit
6 Gum benzoin
6 Vanilla pods
10 Yellow lemon rind
To one litre of the distillate add:
150 Damask rose water: 150 Orange flower water:
0.1 Musk: 0.1 Ambergris.
Grind the musk and ambergris in a glass mortar, and afterwards put all together into a large matrass and let them circulate three days and three nights in a gentle heat; let them cool.
Filter and keep the water in bottles well stoppered."
Whether the King used Wilson's preparation for his hair or his complexion is uncertain but it certainly had some merit and reveals the perfumer as knowing a great deal about his craft.
In that age of quackery when many harmful ingredients were being used, it is interesting to see in his recipe a rational approach to the subject. With such innocuous ingredients the HONEY WATER could not have harmed His Majesty even if it had found its way into his mouth. A very different case was that of a Belgian singer, M. Zegler, less than a century ago when, during a performance of William Tell at the Royal Italian Opera House, some of his make-up trickled into his mouth. Being a deadly poison it cost him his life.