Jeremy's relationship with Miss O'Shaughnessy
was difficult from its inception in 1900, in part because
of her intense God-fearing piety that would not suffer Jeremy
to approach within an offensive distance but mainly
because of Josiah's outspoken disapproval. His staunch Presbyterian
beliefs, fixed immovably by the short sermon he had heard
on the only occasion he went to church, were offended by her
family's 'elaborate and tawdry' Catholicism. In addition,
and even though her parents represented the cream of Dublin
society and socialised regularly with Sir William and Lady
Wilde (parents to the now disgraced Oscar) he considered her
to hail from an improper background: "Now't but incestuous
papes and sodomites!" was his summation.
In consequence, Jeremy's first invitation for her to take
tea with his parents was an occasion where all parties found
it difficult to relax. It was Josiah who broke first, just as
Miss O'Shaughnessy was removing her coat. "I'll have no Fenian scum in this house," he
screamed to all assembled, "and no son of mine will consort
with that rabid whore of Satan." So saying, he grabbed
her prayer book and threw it on the fire with a roar of victory.
He then had her forcibly ejected from the house by four footmen
who hurled her into the street.
Afterwards, Jeremy could not but feel partly responsible.
He endeavoured to make amends with a present accompanied by
a tender note: My Dear Miss O'Shaughnessy. Please find
enclosed a replacement prayer book. Also, a slice of the cake
that you missed. I fear I must apologise for my father's brutality.
Also for the dryness of the cake. Cook left it in the oven
a little too long because she received news that her father
had died suddenly. Sorry. I hope I may see you again. Affectionately
yours, Jeremy. But her parents returned his package with
a stiff note.