“It is the irresistibly deep and beckoning colour of leather, heather, feathers, sagebrush, winter slush, Tibetan mush, age, sage, shade, grapeade, a forest glade, mince pies, winter skies, a harlot’s eyes, a baby’s cries, vicious lies, butchers’ dyes, and purple drifts of evening snow.” ~from The Secondary Colors, by Alexander Theroux
From the same book, and the essay titled Purple, come the following bits of essential trivia:
1. Shakespeare never once uses the word violet as a colour, only purple; nor… does he ever employ the words heliotrope, mauve, lilac, or fuchsia. Burgundy was a place, a duke, and, by extension, a wine.
2. The Nile, in literature, is often said to be purple.
3. An amethyst placed under the pillow promotes pleasant dreams, and wine drunk from an amethyst cup is said never to intoxicate.
4. The infamous [in some circles] shade of ‘Tyrian purple’ was discovered by the Phoenicians by extracting the dye from the cyst or vein near the head of a mollusk; 250,000 shellfish were required to make one ounce of dye as each mollusk secreted only one drop.
5. Rimbaud regarded the letter ‘i’ as purple.
6. There is, apparently, purple soil [somewhere] in Tahiti.
7. Henry James saw Italy as picturesquely violet.
8. A polar bear’s tongue is purple. [Also a giraffe’s.]
9. Also the sunshine through a person’s paper-thin ears.
10. The spaceship Endeavour went into orbit on March 2, 1995, with the specific mission to try to determine the nature of ultraviolet light in space emitted from stars and quasars.
11. The rarest of food colours. There are no purple M&Ms, for instance, though they were made for a short time but proved so unpopular, they were replaced by tan ones in 1949.
12. Horace on purple prose: “Often to a work of grave purpose and high promise, one or two purple patches are sewed on to give the effect of colour.”
13. There’s speculation [in some circles] [what circles would these be??] that all seven of Salome’s veils were purple.
14. The dominant colour of Gillikin Country in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful World of Oz.
15. Except for plum, all shades of purple lose their lustre in candlelight.
16. The naturalist, John Muir, wrote a letter to a friend on purple sap from a 4,000 year old redwood.
17. Rumour has it Anatole France, Voltaire, Diderot, Flaubert and Balzac all wore a purple dressing gown while they worked.
18. Sherlock Holmes, on the other hand, owned three dressing gowns. One brown, one blue, one purple.
19. Daisy, in the film version of The Great Gatsby, wears a violet dress, scarf and hat, on her reunion with Nick, who sports a purple silk shirt.
20. Twiggy’s favourite colour.
21. Harriet Quimby, first women pilot to fly across the English Chanel, always wore a plum coloured flying suit.
22. From The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker: I think it pisses God off if you walk by the colour purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.
23. Gloaming = Twilight [and, according to Theroux, it is dark purple brown]