Thursday, June 16, 2011

“[T]he creature cocoa”

Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, and a moment of hospitality:

How did Bloom prepare a collation for a gentile?

He poured into two teacups two level spoonfuls, four in all, of Epps’s soluble cocoa and proceeded according to the directions for use printed on the label, to each adding after sufficient time for infusion the prescribed ingredients for diffusion in the manner and in the quantity prescribed.

What supererogatory marks of special hospitality did the host show his guest?

Relinquishing his symposiarchal right to the moustache cup of imitation Crown Derby presented to him by his only daughter, Millicent (Milly), he substituted a cup identical with that of his guest and served extraordinarily to his guest and, in reduced measure, to himself the viscous cream ordinarily reserved for the breakfast of his wife Marion (Molly).

Was the guest conscious of and did he acknowledge these marks of hospitality?

His attention was directed to them by his host jocosely, and he accepted them seriously as they drank in jocoserious silence Epps’s massproduct, the creature cocoa.

James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
Most of the events of Ulysses take place on June 16, 1904, Bloomsday. The above passage is from the novel’s catechetical “Ithaca” episode, set in the wee small hours of June 17. Massproduct: yes, there’s something sacramental in this scene.

Why “the creature cocoa”? The Oxford English Dictionary explains: “[After 1 Timothy 4:4 (‘every creature of God is good’).] Freq. in good creature. A material comfort; something which promotes well-being, esp. food. Obs.”

[Advertisement from The Popular Science Review (1871).]

Other Bloomsday posts
2007 (The first page)
2008 (“Love’s Old Sweet Song”)
2009 (Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses)
2010 (Leopold Bloom, “water lover”)

comments: 4

thalkowski said...

Borges wrote a poem about James Joyce's masterpiece -

Sean said...

Tangentially related: what are your feelings about the possessive 's' for proper nouns ending with 's' (e.g. Epps's)? It is so uncommon anymore, perhaps because most are concerned with being tagged as having forgotten the rule for nouns ending with 's'. Pedant that I am, I prefer apostrophe -s on proper nouns, though the improper use of the possessive vs the plural is more of a pet peeve, e.g " the 1950's..."; " favorite CD's are...", etc.

Michael Leddy said...

I’m with you, and we’re both with Bryan Garner’s Modern American Usage. He points out four exceptions: possessive pronouns, biblical and classical names ending with /zǝs/ or /eez/ (Jesus, Aristophanes), names formed from plurals (General Motors), and the phrases appearance’ sake, conscience’ sake and goodness’ sake.

Michael Leddy said...

Timothy, thanks for the link to the Borges poem, which I for one didn’t know about.