Seminar, 4 April 2014 – ‘Aeolus’ 89-98

On the 4th of April, the seminar considered lines 89 to 98 of Chapter 7, ‘Aeolus’. Though only after having first retreated for a second look at lines 88 to 89. Reculer pour mieux sauter? Well, no, not exactly – records may again have been broken. But it turned out that we had missed a couple of things in March.

  • Firstly, that “workaday worker” alludes to the regular column entitled ‘Work-a-Day World’ which ran in the Saturday edition of the Evening Telegraph and which was, according to his obituary, written by Nannetti (information courtesy of James Joyce Online Notes). Secondly, “boomed” was substituted for the original choice of word “ran” at some point after Joyce had introduced “L. Boom” to the report of the funeral in ‘Eumaeus’ (16.1260). We discussed whether or not this could have been a deliberate proleptic gesture.
  • Whether “side features” – including, perhaps, the kind of “little par” for which Bloom will shortly be asking – were literally to be found at the sides of the page in editions of the Weekly Freeman (moves at the British Library mean that we’re not currently able to check).
  • In view of its ability to help “sell a weekly”, advertising of various kinds clearly held a much more primary interest for readers of newspapers in 1904 than, perhaps, it does now. The front pages of both dailies and weeklies were certainly dominated by “ads” at this time (the Evening Telegraph for the 16th of June has almost nothing else on its front page).
  • The idea of “stale news” may apply to “a weekly” – a digest of news already covered by the dailies during the week – but hardly to the “official gazette”. The last four words of this sentence are a later addition to the chapter, as are the two longer sentences which follow “Queen Anne is dead”. This section of the paragraph originally ran: “. . . not the stale news. Queen Anne is dead. Nature notes. . . .”
  • “Queen Anne is dead”: a proverbial response to being told news that everyone already knows, this has, contra Gifford, nothing to do with Addison and The Spectator; indeed, the saying stems from the public suppression of the news of Queen Anne’s death, in spite of its being common knowledge, in the light of anxieties about Stuart claimants to the throne and the succession in 1714.
  • The phrase “Published by authority” was part of the masthead of the Dublin Gazette, the official organ of the establishment as recorder of court news, government business and the like. The oddness of the curtailed “the year one thousand and” was noted, in that it makes it seem as though a date in the 11th century is about to be supplied (the Dublin Gazette was first published in 1705 and was wound up in 1922).
  • From “Demesne” (attaching to Norman land law) to “townland” (Bally, baile, contrastingly Irish) to “barony” (n.b. Father Conmee’s book at 10.161-62), there is a movement upwards in scale. The language here is in keeping with the archaic and legalistic register of certain parts of the Dublin Gazette, but the second of the two sentences in particular seems altogether too comical. We had difficulty in placing these lines securely, both texturally and textually. Can this really be Bloom’s interior monologue? Is it any more probable that he is reading from a copy of the Gazette lying somewhere in Nannetti’s closet? Do these represent a kind of textual play more familiar from the ‘Cyclops’ episode?
  • Whether or not “jennets” (a small Spanish horse) was a term in use in Ireland at the time, it seems an odd partner to “mules”: we were reminded of the word’s appearance in ‘Venus and Adonis’ (“A breeding jennet, lusty, young and proud”).
  • With “Nature notes” (wildlife and garden birds) and “Cartoons” (not necessarily a drawing, but a sketch or a parody of some sort) we are presumably back with the kind of “side features” that “sell a weekly.”
  • Phil Blake (1869-1918) was, until 1905, a regular political cartoonist for the Weekly Freeman. Further information on Blake can be found online, as can examples of his work. Of especial interest is the fact that Blake shared the bill with Joyce, at the Antient Concert Rooms on the 8th of January, 1901, when the former sang the song ‘Save Me Not’ while the latter appeared in Margaret Sheehy’s Cupid’s Confidante.
  • “Pat and Bull story” proved more elusive than its supposed author. The figure of Pat the tenant farmer appears in one of Blake’s drawings, setting up the idea of an opposition to John Bull; there is also the idea of the Irish bull (14.578-650); while the nod at ‘cock and bull’ does make sense in that it connects, via Tristram Shandy, to Uncle Toby.
  • Gifford’s suggestion of Uncle Remus with reference to “Uncle Toby’s page for tiny tots” seemed to us a bit dubious (though, again, we’re not able to check the Weekly Freeman at present). At the same time, we had to admit to not being able to see the relevance of Tristram Shandy at this point either. The pleasing alliteration that results may be as good a reason as any.
  • Were queries such as this of the flatulent bumpkin genuinely sent in to the paper, or were they made up by sniggering journalists during quieter moments in the office? Bloom in the role (one meaning of “part” here, perhaps; see 2.45) of agony uncle might actually be attended to in print in a way he so rarely is in person, but he sees himself as the one who would be learning from the experience.
  • “The personal note” might attach to the manner Bloom imagines himself assuming when replying to letters about flatulence (etc.), but it also brings us back to things that sell papers, linking up to the ensuing ‘people’ hidden in the abbreviation “M. A. P.”
  • The penny weekly M.A.P. (Mainly About People) was one of many newspapers associated with – founded and edited by, as often as not – the legendary journalist T.P. O’Connor. We agreed on wanting to know rather more about the interest for Joyce of O’Connor, who was a Parnellite and Nationalist M.P., first for Galway and, after 1885, Liverpool Scotland, right up until his death in 1929.
  • “Mainly all” was possibly an Irish idiom at the time, but is certainly an oxymoron. We suspected the witticism, “Mainly all pictures”, was unlikely to have been of Bloom’s devising.
  • T.P. O’Connor worked on British and American titles as well as Irish ones, his internationalism leading us to the idea that although a picture of “Shapely bathers on golden strand” might appear in an Irish weekly, the bathers were unlikely to have been Irish themselves, whatever the word ‘strand’ might suggest.

On the 2nd of May, we will gaze in wonder at the “World’s biggest balloon” before pressing onwards.

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One Response to Seminar, 4 April 2014 – ‘Aeolus’ 89-98

  1. S.M. says:

    A couple of things, of varying relevance, I didn’t think belonged in the report itself.

    1. “Queen Anne is dead”. George I couldn’t be crowned until after the period of mourning for Anne was concluded (common practice, but giving rise to nervousness in 1714, for the reasons given above). The Spectator, then, was entirely unexceptional in making no mention of her death at the time – only in October (No. 606, 13 October 1714), one week before the coronation, did Addison make the following oblique reference, in writing about needlework: “all the fine ladies of England will be ready, as soon as their Mourning is over, to appear covered with the Work of their own Hands.” Whether or not the original saying was intended to mock any particular purveyor of stale news, its target clearly wasn’t Joseph Addison.

    2. T. P. O’Connor’s most recent venture, in 1904, was T. P.’s Weekly. I must have known this once upon a time, but had forgotten it and was then startled to be reminded of it – throughout 1904, T. P.’s Weekly was serialising Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo. Not all side features and ads in the weeklies, then. The next instalment would have appeared on the 17th of June. Was Bloom reading it? Would Joyce have read it there?

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