Wednesday 16 March 2011

A Tale of Formal Neckwear

I just stumbled upon this and laughed immoderately, so I pass it on simply as a contribution to the gaiety of the nation:

'Around the time that Chapman was becoming disillusioned with his friend Keats’s flock of dotterels, acquired for seven and six from a man in the Dandelion Market and put out to roost in their back garden, the birds redeemed themselves by showing an unexpected talent as gentlemen’s outfitters. Picking up the large quantities of thread and fabric that Keats liked to keep lying around the place in the garden, God only knows why, the birds would get to work and several hours later would have produced a dazzling array of formal neckwear. The products of their labours, it must be said, were not in the best of taste. The colour schemes were gaudy and the patterns in the ‘novelty’ genre beloved of salesmen on their way to office Christmas parties and other such occasions. Yet the public went wild for their designs, especially a garish green number known as the ‘Happy Leprechaun’. Why, even Eamon de Valera was spotted wearing one. Sitting in their kitchen one day, our heroes discussed these changes in gentlemen’s fashions. ‘All is changed, changed dotterelly’, observed Keats. ‘A terrible bow-tie is born’, agreed Chapman.'

(It is of course one of the Keats and Chapman tales of the great Flann O'Brien. They are all along these lines. Oddly this form - or something like it, but a whole lot less funny - was pioneered by the French proto-surrealist and nutter Raymond Roussel, and enjoyed another lease of life as a regular round in the long-running radio word game My Word.)


  1. We are in need of some good old gaiety - thank you!

  2. This Nige, from a book that has not been out of reach these forty years: 'Keats was once presented with an Irish terrier, which he humorously named Byrne. One day the beast strayed from the house and failed to return at night. Everybody was distressed save Keats himself. He reached reflectively for his violin, a fairly passable timber of the Stradivarius feciture, and was soon at work with chin and jaw. Chapman, looking in for an after-supper pipe, was astonished at the poet's composure, and did not hesitate to say so. Keats smiled (in a way that was rather lovely). 'And why should I not fiddle,' he asked, 'while Byrne roams?'

  3. Brilliant Mahlerman! It's the little details, isn't it, that makes these things so funny...