The pineapple, that most desirable of eighteenth-century fruits, the taste of which was not only savoured but the shape of which influenced the periwigs of the period, was first cultivated in Ireland by a gentleman called Daniel Bullen at his nurseries in New Street, Dublin, just around the corner from St Patrick’s Cathedral, and sold on by John Phelan at his shop ‘The Sign of the Pineapple’, on nearby Christchurch Lane. The exotic delicacy of his products was much sought-after, and robberies at the shop commonplace; eventually armed guards had to be retained.
The lust inspired by the sight of this sought-after delicacy was not all bad, however, as evidenced in this biographical account of the celebrated eighteenth-century composer, actor, and vocalist Michael Kelly:-
“His singing masters were the best that could be procured in Dublin; but that improvement, it would seem, was not solely owing to the effects of tuition. Speaking of one of his instructors, Signor Giorgio, he says “I recall being with him once, when he entered a fruit shop, and ate peaches and nectarines, and at last, took a pineapple, and deliberately sliced it, and ate also. This completed my longing; and as my mouth watered, I asked why, if I assiduously studied music, I should not be able to earn money enough to lounge about in fruit shops, and eat peaches and pineapples as well as Signor Giorgio? I answered myself by promising that I would study hard, and I really did so, and, trifling as this little anecdote may appear, I really believe it was the chief cause of my serious resolution to follow up music as a profession.”
It’s difficult, in this ‘five a day’ era to imagine anyone being inspired to career success by the thought of eating fruit regularly, but presumably the same principle could apply to anything sought after, and apparently out of reach?
I wonder if the shop was ‘The Sign of the Pineapple’? I also hope that Michael enjoyed his pineapple, when he finally got to eat it. But even if he didn’t he probably enjoyed the success, and quite apart from all that, the enjoyment in itself of the work that the dream of it inspired…
Read more about the pineapple here.