This comedy sketch is not safe for work. It is, however, very funny. And one art historian actually fact-checked it. Find out why Victoria didn’t think that linden trees smell of that, and which tree Victorians believed actually did smell of it.
The point of this sketch is that a modern idea—linden trees smelled like semen—could not possibly be expressed during Victorian times. Ah, but apparently it could. Victorians just had a different idea of what semen smelled like, or a better tree to symbolize it, or both. Art historian Christina Bradstreet has a very interesting, if no-longer-updated blog, Art and Perfume, and was inspired by this very sketch to look into this very incident. According to Bradstreet:
I went through her online diaries the other day looking for references to smell and perfume, in the hope of being able to write a good Jubilee post, but disappointingly, it seems that apart from the occasional problem with the Palace drains and the odd gift of a scent bottle, she didn’t have too much to say about odours, and nothing at all about linden trees!
But Victorians weren’t impervious to the smell of semen from arboreal sources. While researching her PhD, she found that multiple Victorian books state that chestnut trees smell like semen. That, she thought, might be why one Biblical painting shows Eve, after eating the apple, surrounded by chestnut leaves.
The entire entry is very much worth reading, as Bradstreet describes bodily-fluid-scented plants around the world, and what various Victorians did to preserve their modesty from phallic foliage.