July 12th, 1944
FROM THE ARCHIVES:Myles na gCopaleen took Frank O’Connor to task for describing a man in one of his short stories as having “a red face, an apoplectic face, that looked like a plum pudding you’d squeezed up and down till it all bulged sideways, so that the features were all flattened and spread out and the two eyes narrowed into slits ...” – JOE JOYCE
MR. O’CONNOR and I are old friends, though heaven knows of whom, and I yield to nuns [sic] in my admiration for his work – if not for his literary work. But if he wrote that bit about the plum pudding – and, melawd, we are not admitting that he did – then I, in my capacity as an old and trusted chef de l’état major de cuisine, must . . . must really protest.
If this be so, and I still doubt it, I can only ask Mr. O’Connor to come along down to the club some evening, black tie, bring a few friends, and also bring a mangle, steam press, or whatever instrument he may choose for the experiment. I shall put up the plum pudding – no charge to guests of the nation – and it only remains for him to go to work, the results to be published in one evening two morning papers.
Gentle reader, have you ever squeezed a plum pudding up and down? What is the strength of a plum pudding in compression and tension? What is its modulus of elasticity, where its extensible limit, in what elevated thermic stratum its flash point? Who will attempt to deny that even the worst plum puddings fracture at something under 1.05 oz. per superficial yard? Fracture, mark you, crumble and lose all integrity!
I have had Purcell test more plum puddings in my day than any other man in these islands; he will tell you the same thing – test them at seven days, test them at twenty-eight, their strength – -be the fault in mixing or in aggregate – declines as they mature!
There is one other matter. It is this question of the ‘features’ and the ‘two’ (sic) ‘eyes.’ Hmmmmmmm. Strong drink I have never permitted to pass these lips – true there is always a bottle of Hennessy in the house but that is in case the missus should have a seizure (blast those rate collectors!) but this much I can say with my hand upon my heart: Never, never have I seen a plum pudding with features, never a pudding with even one eye. Never, never, never.
There was one Christmas, I admit, but something . . . someone . . . I don’t know, but that cider-cup was . . . ah, well. The best of us have our lapses and human nature is human nature.
I am, of course, terribly interested in our younger writers and if they be from Cork, then my warm understanding of their problems is boundless, my sympathy immense. I may well be mistaken in the mild strictures I have felt bound to make above. I add with candour that I have never seen a Cork plum pudding. For all I know it may be a very different thing from the dun confection that is known to me. The Cork plum pudding may wear a hat and go to Limerick Junction races.