Seminar, 2 December 2016 – ‘Aeolus’, 784-822

On the 2nd of December, we rattled through an abnormally large chunk of ‘Aeolus’, moving from line 784, or thereabouts – 785, really – to line 822. Any aspirants out there, coveting the title of slowest reading group in the world, would be well advised not to go looking for any longterm trends in this surprising turn of speed.

  • According to Gifford, the “yankee interviewer” was identified by Richard Kain as Cornelius Weygandt and the interview with Russell – moved from 1902 to 1904 – appeared in his Irish Plays and Playwrights of 1913. But did it appear in print at any point earlier than that? The idea that Joyce would have brought up “planes of consciousness” as a topic of conversation seems farfetched; nor does the interview actually suggest this, nor do most of the other accounts of Joyce’s first meeting with Russell suggest the men discussed anything aside from literary matters.
  • After all, this whole digression of O’Molloy’s revolves around the idea that Stephen, like Joyce, was merely feigning an interest in theosophy. In which context, the leg-pulling would very likely have been something of which Magennis would have disapproved. We found the word “morale” confusing – nor was the OED of much assistance here – though we inferred it meant something like moral in this instance  (‘Magennis’ became ‘More Guinness’ as ‘morale’ became ‘more ale’ . . . and then we pursued this no further).
  • “Speaking about me”: We found it near impossible to decide here whether Stephen is genuinely flustered or whether this piece of interior monologue is expressing a form of self-mockery. The age-old (for us) question of sequence and simultaneity arose at this point: is Stephen thinking this immediately after O’Molloy says the words which seem to trigger it, so that the thoughts are being thought during the rest of O’Molloy’s speech, synchronous with it though appearing after it? It would seem so.
  • Refusing the cigarettecase (O’Molloy’s), MacHugh attempts to take the conversation back to the cigarettecase owner’s remarks about Bushe (we noted that the Professor is about to say rather more than just the “one thing”). John F. Taylor – another figure uniting journalism and the law – gave his speech to the College Historical Society, Trinity’s debating society, on the 24th of October 1901. Joyce was in attendance, as was Roger Casement, whose pamphlet ‘The Language of the Outlaw’ Joyce drew upon to assist his own memories of Taylor’s speech.
  • The unnamed essay debated by Taylor and Gerald Fitzgibbon may not have been Douglas Hyde’s ‘The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland’ – hardly “an” essay – but it would surely have been influenced by it, we thought. In the light of which, “new for those days” strikes an odd note here: Hyde’s essay dates from 1892, a year before the Gaelic League was founded.
  • MacHugh attempts to draw in Myles Crawford once again; O’Molloy then tries to change the subject again almost immediately afterwards – more rumour –  only for the re-engaged Crawford to steer it back in MacHugh’s direction (“Go on. Well?”). That said, the gossip is indeed juicy, that Fitzgibbon will sit with Tim Healy on Trinity College’s estates commission, the body responding to the repercussions for TCD and its landholdings of the Wyndham Land Purchase Act of 1903, the central pillar of Constructive Unionism.
  • We discussed “sweet thing” for a while: the seat on the estates commission may itself be a sweet thing, but Crawford, we assumed, must be implying something about a sexual predilection of Fitzgibbon’s also. Either way, the words, unwittingly or not, deliver a picture of Tim Healy “in a child’s frock” – a scurrilous image that may not have displeased Joyce, whatever was intended by it (Gifford’s suggestion, for instance, is that Healy is here the faux naif prude in relation to Parnell’s fall).
  • MacHugh builds up Fitzgibbon in a polished period of his own, drawing on language both biblical (“vials of his wrath”) and Shakespearean (“proud man’s contumely” – “pouring”, remembering line 750, unheard by MacHugh, also brings us back to Hamlet). The “chastened diction” – an addition made after publication in The Little Review – suggests that Fitzgibbon speaks more in sorrow than in anger, against a movement then new (well, sort of). The “We” is noteworthy also, used by MacHugh elsewhere in the same spirit . . . but who here actually speaks any Irish?
  • MacHugh’s own oratory is clearly energising him, making him “eager to be on”. The “outspanned hand” touches the top of each leg of the wearer’s spectacles, we thought (thus ‘outspanned’, which itself appears to be a new word here, unrecorded by the OED any earlier than this). Does the hand tremble due to some form of stagefright, nervousness, or is MacHugh in some way becoming here the ailing Taylor? A “new focus” achieved, he presses on.
  • “IMPROMPTU” sets up the idea of Taylor’s speech being unrehearsed, but “ferial” might also fit, since no amount of dictionary trawling could help us out with anything that seemed to work. Can MacHugh really be being jovial here? In the sense of a weekday on which no festival is celebrated, what tone might this be? Unsurprisingly, we kept getting waylaid by ‘feral’ instead, though that’s clearly no better.
  • Having set up Fitzgibbon as an oratorical Goliath, MacHugh proceeds to Davidify Taylor, stacking the odds against him as he approaches from his sickbed. The logic of MacHugh’s belief that the speech could not have been prepared because there was “not even one” (emphasis) shorthandwriter present eluded us. Would shorthandwriters normally have attended the university debating society? What about Joyce’s own memory here?
  • The “growth of shaggy beard” opposes the unshaven, Mosaic and Irish Taylor to the patrician, Roman Fitzgibbon. The “loose white silk” (a nod at the bar) encircles the throat of a man who “looked (though he was not) a dying man”: we appreciated what looks an awful lot like stagecraft here, whether intended by Taylor at the time, or a product of MacHugh’s account in the here and now (though presumably neither would want his own sincerity or veracity questioned).
  • Here occurs something we thought really was a “False lull. Something quite ordinary” (l. 761). MacHugh is checking to make sure that O’Molloy and Stephen are listening – the double “at once” is striking – but it is also as if he is deliberately enfeebling himself here, so as better to take on the part of John F. Taylor. The double use of “seeking” is also striking, though it is presumably his memory that he is searching, as we scan his “unglazed” (unstarched and old) collar and his dirty and receding hair.

MacHugh is now ready and so are we. We will resume on the 6th of January at line 823 “When Fitzgibbon’s speech had ended” and will no doubt be hearing from the man himself, at or near the start of the session. Until then, a very merry holiday season to one and all.

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Seminar, 11 November 2016 – ‘Aeolus’, 766-784

This may not have been the best attendance at a seminar in our entire history – tales were told later in the evening of monstrous gatherings back in days of yore – but it was certainly the fullest in recent times: from our founders to at least one new face and all the diehards we can’t do without and those of whom we don’t see enough in between. We eventually got down to business and looked at lines 766 to 784(ish).

  • But not before going back to give the previous paragraph a second look, relating it to the style of Matcham’s Masterstroke and similar fictions – H. Rider Haggard was also mentioned – and noting that “Messenger” may have some relation to Stephen’s “Come, mess” in ‘Scylla’ (9.892). A further foreshadowing of the ninth chapter was also teased out, in that Lenehan can be seen as playing Buck Mulligan to O’Molloy’s Stephen.
  • “A POLISHED PERIOD” (whether this headline is much cop in the first place was questioned by some) picks up on something already said (l.747), an unusual manoeuvre for the episode. Having thought about it back there in terms of verbal formulae, here our thoughts turned to sculpture and the polishing of the same, O’Molloy “moulding his words.” Pater was mentioned, as were Yeats’s relations to the visual arts.
  • In moulding his words, does O’Molloy speak in a different voice here, enunciating more clearly, or in a mannered fashion? As to whether the words spoken are those of Seymour Bushe at the Childs trial, the answer at which we arrived was yes and no: they must resemble what Bushe actually said (O’Molloy attended the trial, as did Joyce himself), but the revisions to the Little Review text mean that it is unlikely to be exactly what was said. Was Joyce altering for effect or simply remembering more clearly by 1922? Are phrases derived from Schelling and Blake Bushe’s or Joyce’s? It was pointed out that an early version of Joyce’s recollection of the speech can be found in the Pola notebook of 1904.
  • The rhetorical device whereby “soultransfigured” (past participle) gives way to “soultransfiguring” (present participle) is polyptoton – we considered this better than anything Stuart Gilbert offers at this point – but is it the viewer’s soul that is transfigured, or is the marble ensouled here? We considered Michelangelo’s own ideas about statuary and heard about Freud’s thoughts on this particular statue in his essay of 1914.
  • Moses will be coming up as a fuller presence as ‘Aeolus’ goes on, of course, but we had many unanswered questions here as to what Bushe meant by his device. Free of the context of the rest of the speech, is it possible to tell whether Mosaic and Roman are being synthesised, or whether the superiority of one or the other is being demonstrated, or how one gets from the Mosaic code to the Moses of Michelangelo in the first place? The statue captures Moses’s fury (thus “terrible”) on discovering the Israelites have turned to worshipping false idols, but the statue has itself become a focus of idolatry here.
  • O’Molloy’s “slim hand” may be a reminder of the state of his health. We were very struck by the use of the word ‘grace’ as a verb here (another was located at 12.1278, but this is still far stranger than that) and considered other uses of ‘grace’ also. Crawford’s “Fine!” is an expression of admiration, but perhaps also a further act of concession (O’Molloy continuing to press home the quality of Bushe’s speech in answer to the earlier question “Who have you now[?]” at line 740).
  • “The divine afflatus” led us to breath, inspiration, grace (again), certain theological curiosities and the possibly slightly commonplace nature of this phrase, which we assumed O’Madden Burke to be offering sincerely, though some detected a mocking note. This line is a later addition, as is the Blakean “human form divine“, Joyce drawing out the religious notes of the speech in revision.
  • That O’Molloy considers Stephen fittest audience for all this was again noted. It was proposed that Stephen caught in the act of admiring something said by somebody else is a very rare thing indeed (if not unique?). He has been genuinely moved by the “grace of language and gesture” here and, unmoved as we were, we felt the historical distance between ourselves and these men in their aesthetic predilections. Then again, we don’t get to see this: O’Molloy is performing, even becoming Bushe (a flash here of the barrister O’Molloy might have become had his career gone to plan). Is Stephen embarrassed to be “wooed” or is he blushing from sheer embarrassment (he doesn’t respond to O’Molloy’s question after all)?
  • The cigarette case (he is also resting his case in presenting it to Crawford) has been in O’Molloy’s hand – acting the part of Moses’s tablets, perhaps – since line 760; he flung aside his last cigarette at line 728 (ought a consumptive to be smoking this much?); Lenehan lights their cigarettes “as before” having done so previously at lines 465-6. The “trophy” is the cigarette Lenehan has taken here (we thought this might well be racing language also) and he thanks O’Molloy in cod schoolboy Latin.
  • We spent almost no time on the headline here, preferring to turn directly to the man of high morale himself. Magennis was professor of various things – of metaphysics at UCD – and later worked as an adviser for the censors in the Irish Free State. An Ulsterman, he chaired Joyce’s presentations before the Literary and Historical Society (‘Drama and Life’ in 1900 and ‘James Clarence Mangan’ in 1902).
  • O’Molloy has fallen away from the heights of Seymour Bushe here, turning to gossip and rumour, looking for Stephen to side with him in his own opinion of “that hermetic crowd”, suspecting that the young man cannot be serious in taking an interest in theosophy. Reasons both feigned and sincere for taking an interest in theosophy in turn-of-the-century Dublin were discussed and we were reminded that we were in the presence of someone who had actually read Isis Unveiled in its entirety, a far from common occurrence.
  • Whatever O’Molloy may mean here by “opal hush” – and the term seems to have been in general currency in literary circles in Dublin – an opal hush is also a drink (a quarter glass of claret topped up with lemonade), quite possibly named such by W. B. Yeats. We found this quite amazing: James Joyce Online Notes has all the necessary information.
  • “A. E. the mastermystic” involves a kind of low punning – we wondered whether this was the first reference in Ulysses to AE (the man himself soon gave up the unequal struggle with printers about how it should appear). We convinced ourselves it was, although Russell is referred to by that name in ‘Nestor’, in the list of Stephen’s creditors (2.257). Things were also said of Mme Blavatsky, fraudulence (and Kipling’s views), yankee interviewers and the possibly anti-imperial nature of theosophy . . .

But apparently not enough, since it was felt by the end that we would have to come back to these references. So we will resume on the 2nd of December at line 784 and have another crack at it. In the meantime, with regard to something else mentioned later that evening, I’ve tracked down our appearance as ‘the slowest’ in Jenny Hartley’s The Reading Groups Book, 2002-2003 Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p.50 and reproduced the relevant section below. A “couple of pages an evening”? Slow? Were we ever that quick?

The Reading Groups Book

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Seminar, 21 October 2016 – ‘Aeolus’, 737-765

On the 21st of October, the seminar examined lines 737 to 765 of Chapter 7, ‘Aeolus’. We were assisted by an unprecedented and unparalleled array of audio-visual resources, from the Little Review to the 1922 and the synoptic editions of Ulysses and one or two other things besides.

  • “LINKS WITH BYGONE DAYS OF YORE”: having noted the obvious tautology, we discussed how the headline itself works as a link – one of the many uses to which Joyce put these in adding them to the episode – since it augurs “Don John Conmee” walking and moving “in times of yore” in ‘Wandering Rocks’ (10.174).
  • The Freeman’s Journal is “this very paper” for which Grattan and Flood did indeed write; “cried” is appropriate for someone relaying news. We noted the contemporary resonance of “Irish volunteers,” which almost no reader after 1916 could miss. Crawford knows his history (1763, Lucas, Curran) but is leaping about between historical instances. The “you” here is rhetorical but also generational – Crawford and O’Molloy at separate stages of a postulated decline – and we spent some time with the “Psha!” which is missing the customary terminal ‘w’ (we remembered the noises the cat makes in ‘Calypso’ in considering Joyce’s regard for this kind of custom).
  • Alongside the electronic assistance, we also consulted a paper copy of Vivien Igoe’s The Real People of Joyce’s Ulysses, which had some useful information on Seymour Bushe, including the fact he became a K.C. in London (having previously been a Q.C. in Dublin) in 1904. We noted the change from “Seymour Bushe” in the Little Review text to “Bushe K.C.” in the 1922, Joyce perfecting and tidying up in this case.
  • Mention of Bushe clearly pulls Crawford up short: he finds himself unable to argue with the example O’Molloy has produced. A “strain of it in his blood” carries the ideas of both breeding (presumably intended) and disease (presumably not), as also getting the blood up or pumping. Kendal Bushe (1767-1843) for Seymour Bushe (1853-1922) – they were related – suggests that the latter does indeed belong in that august company (Flood, Grattan, et al.), Crawford’s slip acquiescing to O’Molloy’s point.
  • The scandal to which MacHugh refers obliquely (presumably known to all present – the truncated version in The Little Review is more oblique in this respect), in which Bushe ran away with a married woman in 1895, has not seen him disbarred, but it has presented a bar to his being elevated to the bench (nor did the real Bushe ever become a judge, even after his move to England).
  • O’Molloy turns to Stephen, not only as fitter audience for what is to follow, but also because his work with Crawford is clearly done (and he may not wish to rub his victory in, given he still wants work off the editor). The “polished period” made us recall Stephen’s “best French polish” of ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ (9.315) and falling from lips made us think of eloquence flowing or pouring.
  • The Childs murder case is another piece of prominent linking material: having been previously referred to at some length in ‘Hades’ (6.468-482), where the part played by Bushe in the trial was first mentioned, it then reappears at various points afterwards (three times in ‘Oxen’ and once in ‘Circe’). The ‘him’ whom Bushe defended was the brother of Childs, a case of alleged fratricide leads quite naturally to Hamlet . . .
  • But Stephen’s reasons for not paying attention are his own, lost as he is in a world of the intellect (q.v. his ruminations on Dante previously). He is here raising questions and rehearsing ideas which will reach fruition in ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ – so “how did he find that out?” here is answered there: “The poisoning and the beast with two backs that urged it King Hamlet’s ghost could not know of were he not endowed with knowledge by his creator” (9.469-71). With Stephen distracted, it is the Professor’s interest which is piqued.
  • “ITALIA, MAGISTRA ARTIUM” – Italy, mistress of the arts – a little high, a tad pompous? O’Molloy refers to Bushe’s drawing a contrast between Roman and Mosaic legal codes and we noted that “cited” (legalistic) was originally a second “spoke” (scriptural) in The Little Review. The “Moses of Michelangelo” brings Hebrew and Italian together.
  • We took some time over it, but eventually concluded that the “Ha” is most likely Professor MacHugh’s. Lenehan can be seen as either prompting O’Molloy or goading him here: we noted the peculiarity of “prefaced” (this is its only appearance in Ulysses) and the appropriateness to a courtroom of “Silence!”
  • “Pause.” If this word appeared on a line of its own, it would cause the reader few difficulties, since it would be easily identifiable as Stephen’s interior monologue. Which is still the likeliest identification – but coming as the word does immediately before the following sentence (third-person narration), the effect is highly unusual (in ‘Aeolus’, anyway: this is a configuration that would be more at home in a later episode).
  • “False lull” – what would this be exactly? We noted the logic, in that Stephen’s thoughts on Shakespeare lead to the appearance of something like stage directions. Stephen seems here to be working out rhetorical devices, a relevant enough activity for ‘Aeolus’.
  • O’Molloy becomes “Messenger” (Hermes? Moses? The character’s name?), his cigarette a cigar. After quite a lot of discussion, one conclusion was that these four lines represent Stephen experimenting with a new style, one certainly alien to this episode (he plays similar games in ‘Proteus’), an Edwardian novelistic style which Joyce took some care to worsen in revising the wording for the 1922 Ulysses.

We meet again on the 11th of November and will pick up at line 766, “A POLISHED PERIOD” . . . appropriately enough, since we will be marking the rounding out of a period of our own.

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Seminar, 23 September 2016 – ‘Aeolus’, 720-736

On Friday 23rd September, we reassembled for our first meeting after the summer, and managed to read around half a page of ‘Aeolus’, from 7.20.

  • We started, as so often happens, by going backwards, in this instance to the half-remembered extract of Dante above. We thought about page layout and wondered if ‘Mentre’, which does not have ellipses above it, is so placed as to mark out the terza rima, but it seems the ellipses are placed as they are only in the Gabler edition. The 1922 and ‘Little Review’ editions both have ellipses that extend the full length of the text. Similarly, Gabler has split ‘mentreche’ into two words, which is just one in the other two versions.
  • We then discussed the Stephen’s conflation of the Dantean rhymes and the girls. ‘Proteus’, an episode that also demonstrates Stephen’s fascination with how words sound, featured frequently in this discussion. In the number, variety and richness of colours that Stephen thinks of, there’s almost a decadent, synaesthetic quality to these lines.
  • However, what these words might actually mean took us longer to unpack. ‘But I old men’ generated discussion, clarifying the ambiguous ‘He’ of the previous sentence, which could have been either Stephen thinking of Dante, or Joyce describing Stephen’s interior monologue. While the ‘old men’ might literally refer to the old men sitting around him in the newspaper office, we wondered if there was some jealously on Stephen’s part that, while he ‘only’ has English to write in, Dante has the Italian language at his disposal. This poetic anxiety might be gently hinted at in ‘leadenfooted’, a subtle joke about metre. ‘Underdarkneath’ is a more flummoxing word, that was added at the second level of poofs in the 1922 edition. It doesn’t seem to come from Dante, and while it possibly reads like a quasi-translation of a German phrase, it wasn’t clear to us how this word fits into its context. Whatever it means exactly, trusty Gilbert advises that it is an example of anastrophe.
  • Stephen’s thoughts are abruptly interrupted by Mr O’Madden Burke’s ‘Speak up for yourself’, by which he invites J. J. O’Molloy to defend himself against the claim that there are no good lawyers anymore.
  • We assumed that O’Molloy smiling ‘palely’ alluded to nothing more than his illness.
  • J. O’Molloy’s speech is delivered with a certain degree of camp, as he flings his cigarette and enjoys a joke about Cork legs; one could almost imagine these lines being read by Lenehan, would that he could supply his own cigarette. We noted that ‘I hold no brief […] qua profession’ was all added after the Little Review: does the build-up improve or weaken the Cork legs gag, once we finally arrive at it? Here we spent a while working out exactly what the joke is – of course, Joyce seems to take any opportunity he can to mention Cork, but given the discussion earlier in the episode about North Cork militia, this joke felt slightly misplaced. We thought also of Brendan Behan’s Richard’s Cork Leg (1972) and of the music hall song, ‘The Cork Leg’, about a Dutch sailor, and of Joyce’s own joke about the ‘Cork’ picture frame. While the preceding rhetoric might alter our interpretation of the Cork legs joke, we also noted that through it, O’Molloy not-so-subtly reminds Crawford that he is very much available for employment. In its rhetorical style it made us think of some of the later passages in Ulysses, especially from ‘Cyclops’ or ‘Eumaeus’.
  • The headline of the next section, ‘Sufficient for the day’, is a reference to the Sermon on the Mount, but the change from ‘unto’ to ‘for’ indicates, we identified, a move away from the King James Bible. We noted that this headline was a last minute proof addition, actually copied from O’Molloy who says it at the end of the passage. This point led to a discussion about the merits and purposes of the headlines in the episode, with some members claiming that Joyce adds in the headlines to compensate for the deficiencies of the Little Review edition of the text. This led to a discussion about how emotionally or aesthetically satisfying we might find it to read ‘Aeolus’, and how our reaction to the episode is/not guided by the headlines. (Or, can our responses to the novel really be discovered by answering the question, ‘How do you feel about Stephen?’) We noted that much of the expansion of ‘Aeolus’ lies only in the headlines and that these additions account for the vast pagination differences between editions.
  • ‘Why not bring in Henry Grattan and Flood and Demosthenes and Edmund Burke?’: we spent some time on this line, forging connections between these men but also recognising some of the differences, and trying to work out the overall logic behind O’Molloy’s statement. The anachronistic addition of Demosthenes makes the interest in rhetoric explicit, and with his being mentioned we thought of ‘Cyclops’ again, this line existing as a list of heroes with an incongruous name added in. Is O’Molloy trying to invoke lots of Irish failures here? Is there too much irony? The speech as a whole seems to be the 1904 equivalent of ‘you get the press you deserve’, indicating an anxiety around the perpetual crisis in newspaper production that is also suggested by the American allusion (the fear that American press contaminates British press degrades Irish press and so forth).

 On this note, we begin again on Friday 21st October at 7.737 (‘LINKS WITH BYGONE DAYS OF YORE’.

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Seminar Dates, 2016-2017

We have the dates for the coming academic year. Seminars will take place on Fridays, 18.00-20.00, in various rooms in Senate House.

Friday 23rd September 2016 – Room 246

Friday 21st October 2016 – G34 (Gordon Room)

Friday 11th November 2016 – Room 104 (Torrington Room)

Friday 2nd December 2016 – G35 (Bloomsbury Room)

Friday 6th January 2017 – G35 (Bloomsbury Room)

Friday 3rd February 2017 – G35 (Bloomsbury Room)

Friday 3rd March 2017 – G35 (Bloomsbury Room)

Friday 7th April 2017 – G35 (Bloomsbury Room)

Friday 5th May 2017 – G35 (Bloomsbury Room)

Friday 2nd June 2017 – G35 (Bloomsbury Room)

Hope to see seminarians old and new on the 23rd!

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Seminar, 3 June 2016 – ‘Aeolus’ 682-719

In our final seminar before the summer break, we missed some of our regulars but had a large turnout nonetheless, and covered more text than in the last few seminars.

  • When Lenehan bows ‘to a shape of air’, what shape is he making, exactly? We ventured something performative – like a big, elaborate bow to a pretend audience – or something suggestive – maybe the shape of a woman? The first interpretation seems more consistent with the self-consciousness delivery of his palindrome (‘Madam, I’m Adam. And Able was I ere I saw Elba’). We couldn’t see anything especially significant about the mention of Elba, at least in this context, while Lenehan only makes this quip, it seems, to bring himself back into the fray.
  • We thought about the nickname ‘The Old Woman of Prince’s street’ for the Freeman’s Journal, reflecting on the similar nickname for the Bank of England (‘Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’; is there perhaps a distinction to be made between ‘lady’ and ‘woman’?) and for the BBC (‘Auntie’). There seems no real need for Crawford to repeat himself, but it serves him an opportunity to puff himself and his rhetoric up anyway. Interestingly, Crawford moves the shift of the achievement from the individual to the institution.
  • Gregor Grey and his involvement in ‘an advert’ kept us busy for a while. Gregor Grey was an Irish artist living in Dublin, it is true, but Crawford can’t possibly be referring to him: he lived from 1870 – 1911, so clearly wasn’t of the right age to make the advert in question in 1882, while there is no evidence to suggest that he worked in advertising, having instead been a painter who displayed at the Exhibitions each summer, specializing in pastoral scenes. We paused to note that a fair bit of this paragraph was added post-Little Review, including this particular detail: in expanding, was Joyce adding incorrect details to expand the confusion of this part of ‘Aeolus’?
  • Crawford continues his memorializing of the previous generation with this run of older journalists. Hooper was a real journalist on the Freeman’s Journal; Tay Pay (T. P. O’Connor, see Gifford) was Irish but worked in London. Here we reflected briefly on the internationalism of journalistic circles. (NB: Information on Hooper from this potentially useful source – but no replacement for JJON, Gifford, or ourselves – Blumenfeld is another ‘Bloom’ (along with the dentist Bloom), again a real newspaperman, and quite possibly Jewish too, though his ONDB entry does not mention this. The entry does note, however, his association with dramatic news stories: his dramatic account of a fire, published in Albert Pulitzer’s Morning Journal, so impressed Pulitzer’s rival newspaper tycoon, James Gordon Bennett Jnr., that he offered Blumenfeld a job on his New York Herald. Might Crawford be thinking of this particular event too, as much as his status as a prominent newspaper man?
  • Pyatt was another famous newspaperman of the time, known for escaping the Paris Commune. Missing our regular rhetorician, we could only guess that there might be a Gilbert-identified technique associated with ‘That’s press. That’s talent’ (note: exclamation marks were used in the LR edition of this passage). But is Lenehan definitely referring to Pyatt when he remarks ‘The father of scare journalism’? Or does he mean Gallaher?
  • If he is thinking of Gallaher, ‘the brother-in-law of Chris Callinan’ seems a strange put-down. Is Joyce really suggesting a brother-in-law relationship – as one of these mini biographies that Joyce attaches to even his most minor characters – or is he trying to suggest that there is some distance even between Callinan (according to Gifford, known for his ‘gaffes, bloopers and Irish bulls’) and Gallaher, who nonetheless would suffer for the association. Who is the woman who links these men if he’s being literal? Finally, it seems somewhat ironic for Crawford to end his speech evoking these two if he’s about to ask ‘Where do you find a pressman like that now, eh?’.
  • The Professor’s ‘Hello?’ reminds us of Bloom’s incoming call to the office. ‘Are you there?’ indicates again the sense of a wary confusion about using new technology, perhaps made clearer by the ellipses used in the LR version of this passage, removed by 1922.
  • ‘Clam dever’ – we assumed this referred to Gallaher’s telegram trick. The Spoonerism (so-named, anyway) was actually quite a new flourish at the time: the OED records they were used informally around Oxford from about 1895 (named after the Rev William Archibald Spooner (1844 – 1930), warden of New College) and the first record of the term dates from 1900 (the LR version originally only read ‘clever idea’). O’Madden Burke’s ‘Very smart’ has a touch of weariness about it, understandably.
  • By this stage of ‘Aeolus’ any sensible reader will be pretty sceptical of narratives of past events, and the anecdote about the postcards in the park is a prime example of what generates readerly scepiticism: why would Lady Dudley buy a postcard when she lives in Dublin? Why should the reader trust information that ends with the command, ‘imagine!’? The hot air of the anecdote is matched by the ‘big wind’ in the park, another example of wind in the chapter. Crawford’s response to the anecdote is pretty dismissive, suggesting that both press and the bar are only small fry. Of course what unites the two professions is, among other things, rhetoric. The insult of being in the hook and eye seemed a strange example of rhetoric to us and we couldn’t get much further than Gifford’s suggestion of inconsequentiality.
  • Cutting through the banter and confusion, the description of Crawford’s face (‘His mouth continued to twitch unspeaking in nervous curls of disdain’) suggests again his slight drunkenness and frustration with the state of his beloved profession.
  • The section closes with a return to Stephen. What is the question that can only be answered with a dialectical ‘How do you know’? The ‘it’ refers, again, to his poem as does the mouth, also anticipating the Dante of the next section.
  • ‘Rhymes and Reasons’ certainly sounds like a headline for a column but of course what Stephen thinks here would absolutely not go down ‘on a hot plate’, as Crawford suggests his readers like their journalism. While this is a particularly banal insight into the creative process, it nonetheless raises the question of how the sounds of words might be related to their meaning (is Joyce very lightly anticipating the Wake here, then?). The section is very much in contrast to the other rhymes and reasons of the episode, such as Lenehan’s riddle.
  • The extract of Dante that Stephen cites seems to be the ‘working out’ of Bloom’s earlier thought (‘That is how poets write, the similar sounds. But then Shakespeare has no rhymes: blank verse. The flow of the language it is’); while poets rhyme in twos, according to Stephen’s examples, Dante writes in threes. Another Bloom connection perhaps exists in the image of these Dantean girls, similar to the ‘evening hours, girls in grey gauze’.

The image itself probably needs more work and so we start again – at some time in late September or early October – at 7.720 (‘He saw them three by three’). A happy summer to all.

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Seminar, 6 May 2016 – ‘Aeolus’ 658-681

On the 6th of May, the seminar covered lines 658 to 681 of ‘Aeolus’. We were some way into our reading of this section before it was observed that we were meeting on the one hundred and thirty-fourth (and not, pace Myles Crawford, the one hundred and thirty-fifth) anniversary of the Phoenix Park Murders. Failure to notice this earlier may have been attributable to fuzzy-headedness brought on by the warm weather, but we were otherwise in fine form. Among matters discussed:

  • We broke with our customary practice by leaping ahead to discuss “Davy’s publichouse in upper Leeson street,” mentioned twice within a few lines. In The Little Review, this was Burke’s on Baggot Street instead. In the 1922 Ulysses, the first reference is to Burke’s while the second is to Davy’s, as if Myles Crawford is correcting himself. Although Davy’s is certainly historically correct (see below), we thought a case might be made for the 1922 version: the tipsy editor correcting his own mistake, while simultaneously evoking what would have been contemporary uncertainty about the route the Invincibles had taken, while eyewitness accounts were still being pieced together.
  • Resuming customary practice – beginning at the beginning of this session’s reading – we noted Professor McHugh’s proprietorial air with regard to the office telephone, given that he has no official position at the Evening Telegraph. As was established earlier in the episode, he has, of course, heard this one before and has no reason to stick around. The comma after “said” is absent in some editions.
  • “B is parkgate”: is this the ‘B’ of ‘Bransome’s’? We tried to imagine how the journalists at the New York World were meant to decipher this. Was there a map of Dublin, common to both newspaper offices, which might be laid over or have laid over it the advert (not this advert, of course)? Or would crime scene and escape route be reconstructed merely from the advert alone (no map is mentioned, after all)? What too of the change in scale, from events within the confines of Phoenix Park, to the getaway route stretching across the city?
  • Crawford’s finger vibrates as it strikes a thick pile of paper. At the same time, leaping and striking “point after point” suggests a fencer, a swordsman and, by extension, the wielder of a knife as well. It may be the remembered thrill of Gallaher’s ingenious device that excites the editor here, but there is a political edge to his being swept up in that excitement, stemming as it ultimately does from a murderous act carrying its own political charge.
  • Just how many ‘C’s were there likely to be in an advert for coffee? Of course, we reminded ourselves again, this advert is not the one Gallaher actually used. Just the one ‘murder’ is referred to here – there were actually two (more of this sense of immediate doubt and uncertainty, the rush of rumour) – and we discussed the absence of definite articles. We were also reminded of Skin-the-Goat’s (“assuming he was he”) “untastable apology for a cup of coffee” in ‘Eumaeus’ (16.985, 1141).
  • Myles Crawford becomes birdlike once again, the “cock’s wattles” here, evidence of his age perhaps, completing the picture of “a scarlet beaked face, crested by a comb of feathery hair” (344-5) painted on his first emergence from the inner office.
  • The editor’s “illstarched dicky” – a clean shirt-front covering cheaper apparel beneath, common enough at the time – juts up here just as it did in many music hall routines and silent film comedies. After some discussion, most thought that too much starch was probably the problem, rather than too little. His “rude gesture” is rude in the sense of coarse, lacking elegance, but there is a kind of jokey priapic air to this whole sentence.
  • “Hello?”: Thomas Edison is credited with popularising the word – and this spelling – as a form of greeting with specific associations with the telephone (Miss Dunne answers the phone in the same fashion in ‘Wandering Rocks’, 10.389). In some editions, further ellipses rather than a full stop follow the final “Yes” (not the final final ‘Yes’, of course) and we noted the presence of two sets of three followed by one set of four dots, but refrained from making anything of it.
  • At this point, we thought we might have spotted a previously unobserved joke. When MacHugh answers the phone, Bloom doesn’t speak immediately because he was expecting Crawford to answer. Thrown by MacHugh’s voice, Bloom remains silent for rather too long, mentally jettisoning his prepared pitch on behalf of Alexander Keyes before coming up with something else. Is this conversation happening simultaneously with Crawford’s monologue, or is something missing here? (We never do get to hear about ‘A’.)
  • F to P assumes a larger scale, with the names of some further-flung locations (the double initial capitals of “Palmerston Park” are atypical of Ulysses, but the form is that used at the start of ‘Aeolus’). As has been noted by others previously, the route described is that of the actual Invincibles rather than Skin-the-Goat, who was driving the decoy car. Given which, “alibi” is very much the wrong word, since claiming you couldn’t have been in a car speeding away from the scene of a murder because you were actually in another car speeding away from the scene of the same murder is no sort of alibi at all, apart from in a highly technical sense.
  • “F. A. B. P.”: is this the same ‘B’ from line 659? How could it be? We were certainly not the first readers of this passage to wonder if we were missing something or to be puzzled as to how the offices of the New York World could possibly have made head or tail of all this. “Got that?” No. No, we haven’t. What we have is the gist of Gallaher’s stroke of genius, imperfectly conveyed through an approximate and error-ridden restaging. Whether Stephen has got much more than that either seems improbable.
  • “Davy’s publichouse” is ‘right’ where Burke’s is not (unless that really does refer to Skin-the-Goat’s route), because Davy’s is where the Invincibles stopped for a drink. We boggled at this: were they looking for an alibi (‘we’ve been here all day’)? Idiotic, or sang froid? The killer detail for any journalist of the time, certainly.
  • “Bloom is at the telephone”: though the meaning of MacHugh’s words are perfectly plain, it does suggest a ghostly Bloom having manifested himself in the inner office. Maybe it’s fitting that Crawford says “Tell him to go to hell” then (we remembered “damn its soul” from line 621 here), but we also discussed the editor’s apparent lack of concern with advertising revenue. Newspapers of the time probably could rely on sales, with advertising as supplementary, in a way they cannot today, but this would presumably be a lot less true of papers the sales figures of which were in steep decline.
  • “CLEVER, VERY”: we didn’t spend too long turning over what Stuart Gilbert says this is – Hysteron Proteron – because we didn’t think it was, but we did note that Lenehan merely says ‘Clever’ in The Little Review. It seems unlikely that he has derived much more than the gist of Gallaher’s device either, though, unlike Stephen (we assumed) he probably has heard it before.
  • The expression “hot plate” obviously derives from dining, but here picks up a touch of the hot metal of a printing press. Crawford uses the word “bloody” many times in the episode, but the word is double-edged here, since this piece of history really was bloody.
  • And so to Stephen’s reworking of his earlier thought from ‘Nestor’ and one of the best-known lines of the entire book. Is ‘you’ really the first-person in disguise here – as in “What if that nightmare gave you a back kick?” in ‘Nestor’ (2.379) – or is it indicating the impossibility of Crawford’s awakening, or even that of the Irish generally, whereas Stephen will continue to try to awake?
  • “I saw it, the editor said proudly. I was present.” The reader might be forgiven here for thinking that Crawford was present in Phoenix Park itself on the 6th of May 1881 1882, rather than one of three present at the moment of Gallaher’s cryptographic coup. That said, the murders were undoubtedly a highly significant moment for the press and not just in Ireland (though it was the occasion of the first ever Sunday editions of Irish newspapers).
  • Dick Adams was a real figure, not only a journalist, but a barrister who represented some of those caught up in the network of Fenians, pseudo-Fenians and informants accused of complicity in the Phoenix Park murders. That he was the “besthearted bloody Corkman” was read alongside Crawford’s earlier Cork-baiting when Simon and Ned Lambert were still in the office.
  • The Lord putting the “breath of life” into Dick Adams was mulled over at some length and the roots of the phrase in Genesis – with “Adam” coming up three lines later – was considered. The use of “myself” rather than “me” here seems authentically Irish and a nice rhetorical flourish as well.

Two pictures which may be of interest: an advert for Branson’s Coffee Extract which Helen discovered and a pictorial representation of murders and flight from the Illustrated London News which was passed around in the seminar (still not big enough to be able to read the captions at the bottom, I’m afraid). We will meet again on June the 3rd, beginning at line 682, “Lenehan bowed to a shape of air”.

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