When writing her novel, The Somnambulist, the VV wanted to introduce a perfume that would have been in production during the mid nineteenth century; a fragrance that might have been suitable for men and women alike - and the heady and glamorous Hammam Bouquet fitted that need to perfection.
First created by William Penhaligon in 1872 this lovely fragrance, which is still being manufactured today, is described by Penhaligon's as being ‘...animalic and golden... warm and mature, redolent of old books, powdered resins and ancient rooms. At its heart is the dusky Turkish rose, with jasmine, woods, musk and powdery orris.
Hammam Bouquet, which soon became a great favourite with respectable gentleman during the Victorian era, actually owed its provenance to the smells of the Jermyn Street Turkish Baths that William Pengalion had hoped to replicate. The VV finds it amusing that, considering the sexual repression of the age, this seductive and musky fragrance intoxicated the senses with fantasies built on the romance of Empire, of naked sultans in steamy baths, of harems and boudoirs which reeked of sex.
The Turkish bath became very popular in later Victorian days, the concept first introduced to England by one David Urquhart, a diplomat and sometime Member of Parliament who had travelled through Spain and Morocco.
A Turkish Bath, which actually had more in common with the ancient Roman custom, consisted of first sitting in a ‘warm room’ which was heated by dry air to encourage a free perspiration. A second, even hotter room was followed by being splashed in cold water, then a full body wash, then a massage, and finally a period of calm relaxation.
An advertisement for the Southampton Turkish Bath
No doubt there were various methods of relaxation on offer, and then there was also the fact that from 1888 the Jermyn Street Baths also employed a resident tattooist who excelled in artistic dragon designs, and ~ if the rumours can be believed, some of Queen Victoria’s sons were decorated in this way when visiting the establishment.
What would their mother have thought about that? Perhaps she might have encouraged her boys to keep away from Turkish baths and install a 'Quaker Cabinet' for their private use at home instead.
With thanks to Malcolm Shifrin and information gleaned from his website: Victorian Turkish Baths: Their Origin, Development, And Gradual Decline.