The start of a new decade – our fifth! – saw us make good progress: here follows a digest of matters noted, discussed, and resolved (or not).
Having been asked, Ben Dollard does indeed remember the events Cowley has just described. We thought “visage” a bit high, however it might be pronounced – ‘envisage’ might relate to remembering and wondering both – whereas “broad” indicates Dollard’s plumpness once more. We had a number of questions about this “other business” of Molly’s, few of them having definitive answers. How much space do the Blooms have for all these clothes in this house or these rooms in Holles Street? Where have the clothes come from? Were women more likely to be involved in this kind of business? Are any of the garments Molly’s own? We noted a mix here of genuinely fashionable attire – the operacloaks are “luxurious” – and what must be theatrical costume, though there is also a blurring of the distinction (a secondhand operacloak, no matter how luxurious, might end up with a member of the audience or on the stage).
As Ben wonders, Simon wanders back in a dilatory fashion. Holles Street runs off Merrion Square, which is associated with the Anglo-Irish and high society (the Wildes’ address, of course), the sort of place where ladies might own more than one balldress and debutantes would require suitable attire in which to attend court (scurrilous suggestions were made that these clothes might have made their way off these premisses in the hands of light-fingered servants, but Dollard is only attending to the style, of course). Bloom’s generosity is demonstrated again, though we noted that this is Molly’s business and wondered what she might have made of this refusal of payment.
Dollard’s “What?” (and other effusions) seemed a bit over the top to us. He references some more unequivocally theatrical items here: the cocked hat (though we wondered how many in the viceregal cavalcade might have been wearing these), the bolero (appropriate for the ‘Spanish’ Molly), and the trunkhose; all archaic, operatic, even pantomimic.
Simon’s “Ay, ay” might be sounded in a number of different ways, but is clearing space for the joke to come, which is something of an old chestnut, the wording of genuine advertisements for left-off (secondhand) clothing (if it were to be written down, as it is not, the hyphen would spoil the same joke, which really needs to be spoken aloud to work). His “Mrs Marion Bloom” repeats the affront to her husband of Boylan’s letter in ‘Calypso’, but it did occur to us that this is possibly the name under which Molly performs as well (which excuses Simon saying it, if not Boylan writing it).
We return to the jingle as the cab heads along the quays: the “bounding tyres” may relate to the bouncing of these across cobbles, though the first word relates to the bounder within as well, “sprawled” in his solitude, manspreading avant la lettre. With the next line, we weren’t sure if this was the food being ordered or the food arriving at Bloom and Goulding’s table – we ended up leaning more towards the latter, Pat repeating the order as he arrives with it (and “Right, Pat” possibly the narrator then).
The next two lines repeat verbatim little bits from ‘Calypso’, all bar the “Mrs Marion” being the words of Molly herself (though she does not go all the way to “pike hoses” there, Bloom having supplied the phrase entire in ‘Lestrygonians’). We came down against considering this as interior monologue: Bloom cannot hear the conversation in the bar (a glance ahead confirms this); this is the narrator at play (but we did note how “Kock” echoed “cocked” and “hoses” “trunkhose”).
In the ensuing exchanges, we had difficulty working out who was saying what, since we couldn’t discount the idea that Cowley might be chipping in somewhere, but the opening question and the observation on buxomness is Dollard asking to be reminded, rather than informed, what Molly’s maiden name was. It is presumably Simon who supplies the answer. We eventually took “alive” (“And kicking”) less literally than we did at first sight: there were some sharp observations here about forms of exaggeration in Irish speech that can catch out non-Irish listeners, especially where it comes to blurring the distinction between life and death; we also recalled Molly Malone’s cockles and mussels, ‘alive, alive, oh’.
“Daughter of the regiment” translates the title of Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, while “the old drummajor” alludes to Offenbach’s adaptation of the same, La fille du tambour-major: Simon and Dollard are steeped in this musical culture. Molly is not daughter of the entire regiment (though we caught the insinuation: one woman, many men), nor was her father a Drum-Major (he was a Major in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers), though this continues the musical theme. Both men presumably knew Tweedy, or knew of him.
We admired the lighting of Simon’s pipe and the stress laid on sound here, especially “whizzed”, which we took to be capturing the noise of a match of the time (we don’t know for sure what kind of match this is, of course, but in 1904 none were obliged to conform to modern safety standards regarding use of various forms of phosphorus – thus a proper good whizz?). It also suggests the match being brought to the pipe swiftly.
[In the Gabler, there is no full stop after “after”, though there is in both the Little Review and the 1922 versions. Having subsequently consulted the synoptic edition, I’m afraid I’m none the wiser: this version, no full stop, falls under the heading of “authorial reading conjectured for the lost final working draft by the evidence of the typescript”, which is way beyond me in the absence of that typescript and the Rosenbach manuscript, also instanced (aR) at this point – though, from what I can see, supportive of the other version, i.e. the one with the full stop. A dropped full stop in a chapter where there aren’t many, if any, other dropped full stops is all I’m saying. Expert advice gratefully received. Should the next “Puff” really take a capital ‘P’ in this case?]
The next question – “Irish?”, presumably Dollard’s – seems to arrive out of thin air, in response to the actually unnamed ‘Tweedy’: if something has been omitted here, it might relate to Simon’s distracted state as he concentrates on his pipe (he seems to catch on to it quite slowly when he does respond). With the discussion of the same question in relation to Bloom in ‘Cyclops’ in mind, we wondered what ‘Irish’ might mean exactly here (we tried not to make too much of “faith” and rightly so), given Gibraltar below and various references elsewhere to Molly’s Spanish looks.
A “stiff” intake of breath here, but also the stiffening of the wad of tobacco in the bowl of the pipe, the two being parts of the same attempt to get this little fire started (a tricky operation not much practised any more, at least in public, let alone in hotel bars). As Stephen tells us in A Portrait, Simon has been a medical student at some point, but “Buccinator” is quite the mouthful; the word derives, delightfully, from the Latin buccinare, ‘to blow the crooked trumpet’ according to the OED. Is he still cavilling at the prospect of singing: “bit rusty” – or is this referring to his memory? ‘My Irish Molly O’ was a popular ballad of the time, though there is some suggestion that it was American in origin, which would complicate all this affirming of Irishness: we thought here also of the description of Simon in ‘Eumaeus’ as “Irish […] All Irish […] All too Irish” (16.382-84).
We overran; and still didn’t quite get to the natural break that arrives with the pining sirens at line 516. Dutiful to the last, we will resume at line 514 in February, “He puffed a pungent, plumy blast.”