Finally to Montaigne’s essay, “On Smells.” I was hoping on a little insight. You see, I work at a nonprofit social services agency that serves mainly women. But due to some recent changes in programs and funding we are now serving some men and several boys. Since we didn’t serve males before we had the pleasure of not one, but two women’s restrooms. Now one of those restrooms is a men’s room used throughout the day by a handful of men. Meanwhile the women’s room is used by upwards of 100 people on some days. Need I say more on smells?
Montaigne’s essay disappointed me. No observations on smells, no insights. Just three pages of smelly prose. Given that Montaigne wrote in odoriferous times, the late 1500s, one would think he’d have more to say than if you smell sweetly you probably stink because you had to perfume yourself to cover up an odor.
He does credit himself with a good sniffer though and claims that his thick moustache is both a blessing–pleasant smells linger longer–and a curse–the bad ones do too. He also credits his moustache with being a great germ filter because he never gets sick like other people do.
Other than briefly mentioning that smells can be used to affect certain states, like incense in church inspiring contemplation, that’s the essay. I guess every one of them can’t be a home run. Some days even the great Montaigne stinks.
Next time’s reading: “That We Should Not Be Deemed Happy Till After Our Death”