Thursday, 14 January 2021

'Lets All Wake Brickfaced In Lucan'

Happy New Year Wake lovers! We may be locked down in our locations, but we can still travel in our imaginations. So let's go on a journey up the Liffey, six miles past Chapelizod to a leafy village on the south bank of the river. 

'Let's all wake brickfaced in Lucan'! 359.27

'Like we larnt from that Buke of Lukan in Dublin’s capital, Kongdam Coombe.' 255.

The name Lucan is either from the 'Leamhcán' (place of elms) or 'Leamhachán' (place of marsh-mallow plants). The marsh plants seem more likely, according to the Lucan Newsletter. Wouldn't elms have been a common sight all along the Liffey?

Lucan is famous for an earl, a Palladian mansion, a spa hotel, and a steam tram - all of them appearing in Finnegans Wake. More importantly, Lucan is mixed up with Chapelizod, creating a dream location which Joyce calls 'Lucalizod'.

In her Third Census, Adaline Glasheen suggested that the name 'links Issy and the two Isoldes to Lucia Joyce and Alice'. Perhaps Joyce chose it because it resembles 'localised'. 

'Gush Mac Gale and Roaring O’Crian, Jr., both changelings, unlucalised, of no address' 87.18

'When you’re coaching through Lucalised, on the sulphur spa to visit, it’s safer to hit than miss it, stop at his inn!' 565.33

Localised Lucalizod is the 'particular universal' (260.r3).


Joyce came up with 'Lucalizod' even before he had started writing his earliest sketches, for it appears in his 1922-3 Nice notebook (V1.B.10.33).

He first used the word in his second Wake sketch, on the big love scene between Tristan and Isolde. In the earliest fair copy, Isolde is 'the belle of Chapelizod'.

Here's the second draft, in which Isolde has become 'the dinkum belle of Lucalizod'.

Sadly, this phrase didn't make it into the published book (where Isolde is simply 'the dinkum belle' at 384.21). But the name Lucalizod stuck.  In the second chapter, the narrators discuss HCE's name:

'The great fact emerges that after that historic date all holographs so far exhumed initialled by Haromphrey bear the sigla H.C.E. and while he was only and long and always good Dook Umphrey for the hungerlean spalpeens of Lucalizod and Chimbers to his cronies it was equally certainly a pleasant turn of the populace which gave him as sense of those normative letters the nickname Here Comes Everybody.'  32.14

In his first draft, Joyce wrote 'the ragged tiny folk of Lucalizod'. Arthur Young gives a derivation of 'spalpeen' in his 18th century Tour of Ireland.

In the fourth chapter, the place became 'folkrich Lucalizod':

'Who, but who (for second time of asking) was then the scourge of the parts about folkrich Lucalizod it was wont to be asked, as, in ages behind of the Homo Capite Erectus...
' 101.10-13

The name made its fourth appearance in the earliest title of Anna Livia Plurabelle's letter defending HCE against the slander, spread 'all around Lucalizod':

First and Last Only True Account all about the Honorary Mirsu Earwicker, L.S.D., and the Snake (Nuggets!) by a Woman of the World who only can Tell Naked Truths about a Dear Man and all his Conspirators how they all Tried to Fall him Putting it all around Lucalizod about Privates Earwicker and a Pair of Sloppy Sluts plainly Showing all the Unmentionability falsely Accusing about the Raincoats 107.01-7

A few pages later, Chapelizod and Lucan are again combined as 'Isitachapel-Asitalukin' (Is it a chapel? Has it a look in?):

'That stern chuckler Mayhappy Mayhapnot, once said to repeation in that lutran conservatory way of his that Isitachapel-Asitalukin was the one place, ult aut nult, in this madh vaal of tares (whose verdhure’s yellowed therever Phaiton parks his car while its tamelised tay is the drame of Drainophilias) where the possible was the improbable and the improbable the inevitable.'  110.06-12

The place next became 'muchtried Lucalizod' in the description of Shem the Penman taking refuge in his 'inkbattle house' from the street fighting in Dublin:

After the thorough fright he got that bloody, Swithun’s day, though every doorpost in muchtried Lucalizod was smeared with generous erstborn gore and every free for all cobbleway slippery with the bloods of heroes.... 178.08

The first draft has 'Bloody Sunday'. Listen to Lorcan Collins' revolutionary Ireland podcast to hear the full story.

It was a placename Joyce could play with. In 'Haveth Childers Everywhere', HCE boasts of his achievements as a city builder:

'if I was magmonimoss as staidy lavgiver I revolucanized by my eructions' 545.32


Lucan was famous for its sulphur spring, discovered in 1758 by the wonderfully named Agmondisham Vesey, owner of the Lucan demesne.

The water was vividly described by John Rutty in his 1772 Essay Towards a Natural History of Dublin, Vol 2 :

'It may be smelt at a distance of many yards....It resembles the Aix-la-Chapelle water in smell and taste...having the flavour of a boiled egg and when strongest of a semitputrid egg.'

The spring's medicinal qualities are described by Mrs James J Daly, in 'Curative Wells in Old Dublin', a paper she read to the Old Dublin Society on 9 December 1957.

The original Spa House Hotel was rebuilt as the Hydropathic Spa Hotel in 1890-1

'Hydropathy' is what we now call 'Hydrotherapy'.

F.W.Crossley's Visit Ireland  guidebook (1892) carries a full page advert for the brand new hotel.

'Lucan is principally known as a health resort. Recently there has been a splendid hotel erected, called the New Spa Hotel, which is excellently appointed, and contains every convenience and comfort which the visitor can desire. It is situated on an eminence commanding a view of some of the finest scenery in the county Dublin, and within a few yards of a valuable sulphur spa, which is now attracting much attention and patronage....Persons suffering from gout, rheumatism, and hepatic disorders, could not do better than spend a week or two here, where they would not only find relief from their ailments, but may also have an enjoyable holiday.'

F.W.Crossley, Visit Dublin, Irish Tourism Development, 1892, p.15

In Finnegans Wake,  'hydropathic' becomes 'hydrocomic', and the hotel becomes another version of Earwicker's pub:

'They near the base of the chill stair, that large incorporate licensed vintner, such as he is, from former times, nine hosts in himself, in his hydrocomic establishment and his ambling limfy peepingpartner' 580.33

'When you’re coaching through Lucalised, on the sulphur spa to visit, it’s safer to hit than miss it, stop at his inn!'  565.33

The Lucan Spa Hotel is still going, but a busy motorway now separates it from the river.


From the collection of Joe Williams

'Visitors who are staying in Dublin for a few days are strongly recommended before leaving to pay a visit to the little village of Lucan. The steam tram is an excellent mode of conveyance, and accomplishes the journey in about three quarters of an hour.'

F.W.Crossley, Visit Dublin, Irish Tourism Development, 1892, p.15

The South Dublin Libraries Local Studies Blog has a fascinating piece on the Lucan steam tram, which you can read here. It started running on 20 February 1883, and was the only service to operate during the Easter Rising.

'The village and the Spa Hotel were crowded with visitors from all parts of Ireland ....‘peace and plenty’ reigned in Lucan, disturbed only by the boom of the distant guns in the city and the glare at night of the conflagrations.' 

Freeman’s Journal 9th May 1916.

In Finnegans Wake, we can hear the cry of the tram conductor, as the west-bound tram stops at Chapelizod

'Issy-la-Chapelle! Any lucans, please?' 80.36 


'Before there was patch at all on Ireland there lived a lord at Lucan.'  452.28

'You make me think of a wonderdecker I once. Or somebalt thet sailder, the man megallant, with the bangled ears. Or an earl was he, at Lucan?' 620.08

In 1566, the Lucan demesne was acquired by Sir William Sarsfield, a wealthy merchant and Lord Mayor of Dublin.  The most famous member of his family was Patrick Sarsfield, who was born in Lucan. James II's leading general in the war against William of Orange, Sarsfield was made first Earl of Lucan in 1690.

As a Jacobite title, this earldom was never recognised in the United Kingdom.  Like Joyce, Sarsfield went on a 'wildgoup's chase across the kathartic ocean' (185.06) and spent his last years as an exile in France. There is now a campaign by the Wild Geese Festival to repatriate his remains, but to Limerick rather than Lucan.

Back in Ireland, the demesne passed into the hands of the Veseys, who married into the Sarsfield family. In 1772, Agmondisham Vesey, discoverer of the sulphur spa, built a magnificent Palladian mansion here, working with the architect William Chambers (designer of the Casino at Merino). According to the Irish Times, its oval dining room was the inspiration for the Oval Office in the White House.  

Vesey's wife Elizabeth was a founder of the Bluestockings Society, and friend of Samuel Johnson.

Here's a view of the house, now the official residence of the Italian ambassador,  from Itsmyireland.


The title was revived in 1795, when Sir Charles Bingham, who had married Anne Vesey, was made the first Earl of Lucan.  It was his grandson, George Charles Bingham, the Third Earl, who ordered the Charge of the Light Brigade, as shown on the television set in Earwicker's pub.

The Bingham estate was in Castlebar, Mayo rather than Lucan. Here the third earl earned a reputation as a monster.

'During the Great Famine he engaged in wholesale evictions and showed a complete disregard for public opinion. In the parish of Ballinrobe alone he demolished over 300 cabins and evicted 2,000 people (1846–9). He then consolidated the holdings and leased them to wealthy ranchers.' 

James Quinn, 'The Exterminator', History Ireland

'To the people of Mayo an Earl of Lucan, a Bingham, was an oppressor, responsible for the cruelties of the past and the misery of the present, automatically to be hated. .....He cherished an equally powerful contempt for them. From the bottom of his heart he despised them, swarming, half starving, ignorant, shiftless, and Roman Catholics into the bargain. It is doubtful if he considered the Irish as human beings at all.....Evictions became numerous, and it began to be said in Mayo that he possessed 'all the inherited ferocity of the Binghams.'
Fear of the third Earl bit deep into the consciousness of the people, and he still survives as a bogey in Castlebar. Tales are told of the fierce Earl galloping through the town, the hoofs of his great black horse striking sparks from the cobble-stones, bringing terror to his tenants' hearts. When least expected he suddenly appeared, for though he gained the credit of being a resident landlord, he seldom stayed in Castlebar more than a few days -- it was his custom to swoop down a dozen times a year. On one occasion, believing him to be safely in England, the inhabitants of Castlebar were burning him in effigy on the Mall when suddenly the sound of the great black horse was heard and the Earl galloped into the midst of the crowd, shouting as they scattered in terror, 'I'll evict the lot of you.''

Joyce refers to this story at the end of the games chapter, when HCE's sudden appearance ends the children's fun:

'One must recken with the sudden and gigantesquesque appearance unwithstandable as a general election in Barnado’s bearskin amongst the brawlmiddle of this village childergarten of the largely longsuffering laird of Lucanhof.'  253.25

Crimean War veterans in bearskins

If you mention Lord Lucan today, people think of Richard John Bingham, the notorious Seventh Earl, who vanished in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

To finish, here's 'Lord Lucan is Missing', a 1978 song from the Dodgems, a band I used to see regularly in Brighton back in the punk years. They ask, 'Is he in the Clerment Club or in the south of France? Playing on a roulette wheel In another game of chance? Is he dead upon the Downs rotting in the grass? Or is he hid behind the cloak of the British ruling class?'

Forty-two years after they asked the questions, we still don't know the answers.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

The Dream of H.C.Earwicker?

A scene from Passages from Finnegans Wake 

'The Dream of H.C. Earwicker' is the title of Edmund Wilson's review of Finnegans Wake, published in The New Republic on 28 June 1939, and later reprinted in The Wound and the Bow

Wilson was the first critic to argue that the Wake represented Earwicker's dream. He believed that the book had a 'realistic foundation' which he describes at length:

'Let me try to establish some of the most important facts which provide the realistic foundation for this immense poem of sleep.  The hero of Finnegans Wake is a man of Scandinavian blood...Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, who keeps a pub called the Bristol in Dublin.  He is somewhere between fifty and sixty, blond and ruddy, with a walrus moustache, very strong but of late years pretty fat. When embarrassed, he has a tendency to stutter...he is married to a woman named Ann, a former salesgirl, who is more or less illiterate and whose maiden name seems to have begun with Mac. They are both Protestants in a community of Catholics, he an Episcopalian and she a Presbyterian...It is a Saturday night in summer, after a disorderly evening in the pub....Earwicker has been drinking off and on all day and has perhaps gone to bed a little drunk. At any rate, his night is troubled. At first he dreams about the day before....'

Having decided that the book is happening in Earwicker's sleeping mind, Wilson complains that a Dublin publican could not be having a dream like this!

Edmund Wilson
'We are continually being distracted from identifying and following Earwicker, the humble proprietor of a public house, who is to encompass the whole microcosm of the dream, by the intrusion of all sorts of elements – foreign languages, literary allusions, historical information – which could not possibly be in Earwicker's mind....We are in the first place asked to believe that a man like H.C.Earwicker would seize every possible pretext provided by his house and its location to include in a single night's dream a large number of historical and legendary characters. And is it not pretty far-fetched to assume that Earwicker's awareness of the life of Swift or the Crimean War is really to be accurately conveyed in terms of the awareness of Joyce, who has acquired a special knowledge of these subjects? Also, what about the references to the literary life in Paris and to the book itself as Work in Progress, which take us right out of the mind of Earwicker and into the mind of Joyce?'

Where were we 'in the first place asked to believe' any of this?

I read all this as a convincing argument that Finnegans Wake is not the dream of Earwicker.

Much of Wilson's description* of the Earwickers is taken from Bk III chapter 4. This leads to another complaint about Joyce's incompetence as a writer:

'In Finnegans Wake we are not supplied with any objective data until the next to last chapter....It seems to me a serious defect that we do not really understand what is happening till we have almost finished the book.'

*Wilson has taken the name of the pub, the Bristol, from the Prankquean episode: 'And where did she come but to the bar of his bristolry'. 21.33. In fact, the Wake pub is more usually the Mullingar Inn.


The Earwicker dream theory was further developed in 1944 with Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson's A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake. They invented a branch tapping on the sleeping Earwicker's window, intruding on his dream. This is first mentioned in a footnote to the word 'Tip' in the Museyroom scene:

'The repetition throughout Finnegans Wake of the word 'tip' finally turns out to be a dream transformation of the sound of a branch knocking against HCE's window as he sleeps beside his wife in the upper room. This branch is the finger of Mother Nature, in her desiccated aspect, bidding for attention.'

A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, Viking Press, 1964, p 41

They don't explain how or where Tip 'finally turns out' to be a branch. 

The branch is not mentioned again until they reach Book III Chapter 4, the chapter which gave Wilson his 'objective data'. Here Campbell and Robinson have made Wilson's summer dream a midwinter one.:

'It is the morning after the night of the winter solstice. A dry leaf still clinging to the tree outside the window has been scratching at the panel; and this sound has drawn the inexhaustible dream from the depths of the psyche...'

A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, Viking Press, 1964, p 325

I find this baffling, for the 'Tip' motif does not appear anywhere in this chapter (You can read all 39 appearances of this motif in fweet).  The only mention of a leaf is the description of the sleeping Issy as 'like some losthappy leaf' (556.19).


In 1965, Anthony Burgess adopted Wilson's Earwicker dream theory and Campbell and Morton's branch at the window:

'We are primarily in a bed above a bar in Chapelizod, Dublin, on a Saturday night, with a dry branch tapping or tipping at the window, and we must never let ourselves forget it. In the final chapter we are not allowed to forget it. The fact that we we have to look at the near-end of the book to find out where the dreamer is dreaming does not imply that the whole thing is badly made or that Joyce is withholding anything from us. Finnegans Wake is cyclical like a riverrun, and we can enter the river at any point we wish.'

Here Comes Everybody: An Introduction to James Joyce for the Ordinary Reader, 1965, Hamlyn Paperback edition, 1982, p219 

Here Burgess is defending Joyce from Wilson's criticism, 'It seems to me a serious defect that we do not really understand what is happening till we have almost finished the book'.

A year after Here Comes Everybody, Burgess published A Shorter Finnegans Wake, in which he now argued that the dreamer's real name was not Earwicker but Porter, a name used in Bk III 4.

'His name is, as far as we can tell, Mr.Porter....Mr. Porter and his family are asleep for the greater part of the book. It has been a hard Saturday evening in the public bar, and sleep prolongs itself some way into the peace of Sunday morning. Mr. Porter dreams hard, and we are permitted to share his dream....Sleeping, he becomes a remarkable mixture of guilty man, beast, and crawling thing, and he even takes on a new and dreamily appropriate name – Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker.'

A Shorter Finnegans Wake,  Faber, 1966, p7

Wilson and Burgess base their arguments on a belief that the penultimate chapter is more 'real' than the rest of the book. This is the book's most visual chapter, with a mass of physical detail missing elsewhere. But that doesn't make it more real.  Here's how the bedroom setting is described on p558-9:

'Scene and property plot. Stagemanager’s prompt. Interior of dwelling on outskirts of city. Groove two. Chamber scene. Boxed. Ordinary bedroom set. Salmonpapered walls. Back, empty Irish grate, Adam’s mantel, with wilting elopement fan, soot and tinsel, condemned. North, wall with window practicable. Argentine in casement. Vamp. Pelmit above. No curtains. Blind drawn. South, party wall. Bed for two with strawberry bedspread, wickerworker clubsessel and caneseated millikinstool. Bookshrine without, facetowel upon. Chair for one. Woman’s garments on chair. Man’s trousers with crossbelt braces, collar on bedknob. Man’s corduroy surcoat with tabrets and taces, seapan nacre buttons on nail. Woman’s gown on ditto. Over mantelpiece picture of Michael, lance, slaying Satan, dragon with smoke. Small table near bed, front. Bed with bedding. Spare. Flagpatch quilt. Yverdown design. Limes. Lighted lamp without globe, scarf, gazette, tumbler, quantity of water, julepot, ticker, side props, eventuals, man’s gummy article, pink.'

This is not a real room but a stage set, with many of the words taken from William George Fay's Short Glossary of Theatrical Terms, 1930 (see the list in fweet).  The casement is fitted with argentine, 'a material used on the stage as imitation of glass for windows' (Fay).

When the action begins, we see HCE and ALP in their most grotesque incarnations. There is also the sense that we are watching a film, with a closeup of the lead players.

'Closeup. Leads.
Man with nightcap, in bed, fore. Woman, with curlpins, hind. 
Discovered. Side point of view.....Male partly masking female. Man looking round, beastly expression, fishy eyes, paralleliped homoplatts, ghazometron pondus, exhibits rage. Business. Ruddy blond, Armenian bole, black patch, beer wig, gross build, episcopalian, any age. Woman, sitting, looks at ceiling, haggish expression, peaky nose, trekant mouth, fithery wight, exhibits fear. Welshrabbit teint, Nubian shine, nasal fossette, turfy tuft, undersized, free kirk, no age. Closeup. Play!' 559.20-30

This is the source of Wilson's 'objective data', and the reason why he says that Earwicker is a blond and ruddy Episcopalian and Anna a Presbyterian. But HCE here is wearing a wig and stage makeupArmenian bole is 'a fine red powder used on the stage to give the appearance of sunburn on the skin' (Fay). So he is playing a blond and ruddy Episcopalian. 

Although this stage publican version of HCE is called Mr Porter, elsewhere in the chapter he is called Albatrus Nyanzer, Honuphrius 'a concupiscent exservicemajor' and Humperfeldt - names just as real or unreal. 


The biggest problem with the Earwicker dream theory is that we never see anything in the book from his point-of-view. Apart from the 'Haveth Childers Everywhere' section (532-554), when we hear his voice in a seance, he is either being investigated by the narrators (the 'we' voice of most of Book One) or discussed by other characters, such as the washerwomen in Anna Livia Plurabelle. 

'And the cut of him! And the strut of him! How he used to hold his head as high as a howeth, the famous eld duke alien, with a hump of grandeur on him like a walking wiesel rat.' 197.01

In the Porter chapter, we see him through the eyes of the four old men, and their first sight as they enter his bedroom is of his bare buttocks as he lies on top of his wife. His backside is also Dublin's Phoenix Park.  See my earlier post, Dublin's Phoenix Park as a Giant Male Arse.  The scene is described by the second old man, Marcus Lyons:

'The straight road down the centre (see relief map) bisexes the park which is said to be the largest of his kind in the world. On the right prominence confronts you the handsome vinesregent’s lodge while, turning to the other supreme piece of cheeks, exactly opposite, you are confounded by the equally handsome chief sacristary’s residence.' 564.10-15

Did you ever have a dream in which you were inspecting your own arse? An arse which was also a park?


If Joyce intended the book to be Earwicker's dream, he would surely have said so, since he discussed his book at length over many years. Apart from conversations, formal interviews and letters providing glosses, he oversaw a book of explanatory essays, the Exagmination and an authorised biography by Gorman with a lengthy account of his aims. See my post Joyce describes Finnegans Wake.

He often talked about his book as representing a dream, without mentioning a dreamer.

'Work in Progress? A nocturnal state, lunar. That is what I wanted to convey: what goes on in a dream, during a dream.'

Jaques Mercanton, 'The Hours of James Joyce', in Portraits of the Artist in Exile (ed Willard Potts), pp 209-221

'One great part of every human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cutandry grammar and goahead plot.'

To Harriet Shaw Weaver, 24 November 1926, Letters Vol 3, p146 (Selected Letters p.318)

'[Finnegans Wake] would have the gigantic dimensions of a Myth and yet it would be contained within the fleeting instants of a dream. It would be a Myth of sleeping life as Ulysses had been a Myth of waking life'

Herbert Gorman, James Joyce, Bodley Head, 1941, p.331

'I want to describe the night itself. Ulysses is related to this book as day is to night....There are, so to say, no individual people in the book – it is as in a dream, the style gliding and unreal as the way it is in dreams. If one were to speak of a person in the book, it would have to be of an old man, but even his relationship with reality is doubtful.'

Ole Vinding, 'James Joyce in Copenhagen', in Portraits of the Artist in Exile, pp 149

This last quotation is an explicit rejection of Wilson's claim that Finnegans Wake has a 'realistic foundation.' 


It's a shame Joyce didn't say more about  'an old man'. But it may relate to the only published remark in which he ever mentioned a dreamer, given here by Ellmann:

'Joyce informed a friend later, he conceived of his book as the dream of old Finn, lying in death beside the River Liffey and watching the history of Ireland and the world – past and future – flow through his mind like flotsam on the river of life.'

Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, OUP 1982, p544

Clive Hart gives a slightly different version of this story, as well as its source:

'Mrs Adaline Glasheen reports that Dr O'Brien, a friend of Joyce's, told her in conversation that Joyce had told him 'that Finnegans Wake was 'about' Finn lying dying by the River Liffey with the history of Ireland and the world circling through his mind.''

Clive Hart, Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake, Northwestern University Press, 1962 p81

This comment must date from 1938-9, when Joyce became friends with Dr Daniel P O'Brien of the Rockefeller Foundation. He spent a lot of time with Joyce in La Baule in September 1939, following the outbreak of the war.

Perhaps Vinding's 'old man' is Finn MacCool.

If Joyce saw the book as a dream of old Finn, it would be after November 1926. That was when his patron Harriet Shaw Weaver asked him to write a piece about the Giant's Grave at Penrith, inspiring the opening chapter. Here's Danis Rose's great description of Joyce's reaction to Weaver's commission:

'Joyce was electrified: here exactly was what he needed to give spin to his work in progress: the notion of HCE as a (sleeping) giant interred in the landscape and, beyond that, of a man assumed dead but sleeping....And with MacCool came the ballad-hall Tim Finnegan with his hod....With his fall off the wall came the first Fall, Adam and Eve and all their descendants down to Mr and Mrs Porter shagged out in their bed. In a word, Miss Weaver's fortuitously brilliant idea gave Joyce the notion for a chapter, or prelude, that was destined to become the common picture of Finnegans Wake: a giant dreaming of falls and walls, a babble of tongues, a tale of howes and graves and burrows and biers.'

Danis Rose, The Textual Diaries of James Joyce, Lilliput Press, 1995, p.95

Joyce had already written most of books one and three by this time.  

This Finn idea may even have come to Joyce at the very end of writing the book. In 'Finn MacCool and the Final Weeks of Work in Progress'  (A Wake Newslitter October 1980) Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon showed that Joyce took most of his notes on Finn in 1937-1938. 

Joyce talked a lot about Finn MacCool in the opening months of World War Two:

'For Joyce himself, Finnegans Wake had prophetic significance. Finn MacCool, the Finnish-Norwegian-Irish hero of the tale, seemed to him to be coming alive again after the publication of the book, and in a letter from France I received from him last spring, he said: '...It is strange, however, that after publication of my book, Finland came into the foreground suddenly....the most curious comment I have received on the book is a symbolical one from Helsinki, where, as foretold by the prophet, the Finn again wakes, and volunteer Buckleys are hurrying from all sides to shoot Russian generals....'

Eugene Jolas, 'My Friend James Joyce', 1941 in Sean Givens (ed) James Joyce: Two Decades of Criticism, Vanguard Press, 1948, p17

Perhaps Joyce discovered that the giant was his dreamer after he finished writing the book!

In a letter to J.S.Atherton, Weaver rejected the Earwicker dream theory:

'I own that The Skeleton Key, though extremely useful in many ways, has its irritating features – at least it has to me.  The authors seem to me to read unwarranted things into the book. Their ascription of the whole thing to a dream of HCE seems to me nonsensical....My view is that Mr Joyce did not intend the book to be looked upon as the dream of any one character, but that he regarded the dream form with its shiftings and changes and chances as a convenient device, allowing the freest scope to introduce any material he wished - and suited to a night piece.'

quoted in The Books at the Wake, Southern Illinois University Press, 1959 p17

The idea of a mythological giant being the dreamer would also allow him 'the freest scope to introduce any material he wished'.


J.S.Atherton came up with my favourite dreamer theory, in a brilliant lecture, 'The Identity of the Sleeper', which he gave at the very first James Joyce Symposium, at the Gresham Hotel, on Bloomsday in 1967.

'I do not wish to deny any of the theories which have been put forward as to the identity of the dreamer: they are all true up to a point. For, as I see FW it is everyone’s dream, the dream of all the living and the dead. Many puzzling features become clear if this is accepted. Obviously we will hear many foreign languages: Chinese will be prominent if we know Chinese; German if we know German, and so on....It is the universal mind which Joyce assumes as the identity of the dreamer; he, of course, is writing it all down but everyone else contributes.'

I've posted the whole lecture here in 'Who is Dreaming Finnegans Wake?' 

For more on Joyce's belief in a Universal Mind see 'Finnegans Wake as Magical Evocation'.

For an argument that challenges Atherton's universal mind, see John Bishop's 1986 Joyce's Book of the Dark,  the most recent version of the single dreamer theory.  I am more persuaded, and inspired, by Atherton's idea, but I recommend PQ's four part review of Bishop's book in his excellent Finnegans, Wake! blog.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Festy King

Frank McNally had a great 'Irishman's Diary' in the Irish Times last week, in which he revealed that the CNN news anchor, John King, traced his family back to Connemara, and had a grandfather called Festy King and a grandmother who was a Joyce.

 Irish Post 11 November 2020

'The forename 'Festy' is itself peculiar to Connemara. It’s short for the Latin Festus, which was often used for males christened in honour of the local saint, Feichin (whose name can be problematic in English)....There is at least one famous Festy in literature too, and he was a 'Festy King' to boot. That was the name given by another Joyce – James – to the defendant in a mysterious court case described at length in Finnegans Wake. Like everything about that book, unfortunately, the events involved are hard to follow. Even with his magic wall, John King might struggle to make sense of them.'

Frank McNally, 'A week of number-crunching with Alan Turing, John King, and Sam McConkey', Irishman's Diary, Irish Times, 11 November 2020

Festus in Latin means joyful, which is also thought to be the origin of the Irish surname Joyce. 

Father Ted fans will know at once why 'Feichin' or 'Fechin' can be problematic in English!

Festy is such a rare name that until recently most Wake scholars thought that Joyce must have made it up. When I first read the book I assumed Festy King was a title rather than a name. In 1969,  F.X.Mathews explored its many possible meanings:

'Perhaps Joyce, with his fondness for American dialect, intends feisty and fisty, apt epithets for the redoutable 'testifighter' (92.4)....Others suggest themselves. Faust King?  Feast King? feste: Festy King is literally king of the feast that is Finnegans Wake. Shem, in the image of Glugg, is the disillusioned poet who had hoped to become a 'feastking' (231.2) in his own right. But the real feastking is of course Shaun, who characteristically partakes of food while his brother scribbles.... Closely allied with the concept of the feast is a second implication. From the time we learn of the great 'mamafesta' (104.4) of ALP we are aware that Joyce is using the root word fest as part of a series of complex puns. The sons manifest the parents...'

F.X.Mathews, 'Festy King in Finnegans Wake', James Joyce Quarterly Vol. 6, No. 2 (Winter, 1969).


Vincent Deane is a brilliant genetic critic and literary detective, who has tracked down many of Joyce's notebook sources in newspaper archives. Among many other Deane discoveries was Joyce's use of the Thompson and Bywaters murder case, which I've posted about here. I took this photo of him last year, talking at the Finnegans Wake at 80 conference in Dublin.

Deane made the wonderful discovery that there was a real Festy King trial, which Joyce read about in the Connacht Tribune of 20 October 1923. It involved two Festy Kings, father and son and, like John King's ancestor, they came from Connemara. 

Bill Cadbury describes Deane's discovery:

'In addition to the plaintiff, Pat O'Donnell, there are two Festy Kings, father and son, as well as a number of other Kings, including a Simon King, whose name Joyce notes and uses. Also reported are two trials concerning altercations at different fairs between Pat O'Donnell and the Kings. In one trial Pat appeals his conviction for attacking the Kings. In the other, the one on which Joyce took notes, the Kings and a certain Peter Naughton are accused of attacking Pat, who they say stole some sheep.'

'The March of a Maker' in How Joyce Wrote Finnegans Wake, p79

Here are the quotations that Joyce used, as given in the James Joyce Digital Archive. I found these by clicking on the blue hyperlinks in the first draft version here.


'Mrs. Naughton swore that she was at the fair with a pig. She saw O'Donnell beat Simon King. Peter Naughton came to his assistance.'

Mr. Pat King, answering Mr. Connolly, said he lived at Myrus. He remembered the fair day at Kilkerrin. He met Festy King senr., and Festy King junr., while he was talking to them he heard a shot and saw O'Donnell arrested. Crossexamined by Mr. Ward: Did you hear that Festy King was arrested?
— I did.
— Did you hear for what reason?
— No.
— Is it not a wonder you did not find out or look after your uncle?
— I had a bullock to look after (laughter).
Festy King deposed that he saw O'Donnell arrested. He gave terrible abuse to the soldiers.
Mr. W: Did you fire at stone on the occasion?
— I did not.
— On your oath, did you not strike O'Donnell with a stone?
— On my oath, before God and his honor, I did not fire a stone either before or after I was born up to this day (laughter).'

Anne O'Donnell deposed that she was at the Kilkerrin fair on the day mentioned. She saw P Naughton strike Pat O'Donnell on the head. She saw Simon King strike him on the head also. Festy King struck him with a stone on the back. They called his mother a drunkard and called himself a son of an idiot...
Festy King senior., was recalled and closely examined by his honor, after which his honor remarked that this witness's last evidence differed from his first direct statement, and he was largely deciding the case on his contradictory evidence. He would give a decree for £10 and costs.'

The easiest way to see Joyce's use of this story is by reading the second draft of the Festy King trial from the Joyce Digital Archive, where the text is still in clear English:

'little headway was made when a countryman, Festy King, who gave an address in Joyce's country in the heart of a wellfamed poteen district, was subsequently brought up on an improperly framed indictment of both counts. It was attempted to show that King rubbed some dirt on his face as the best means of disguising himself and was at the fair of a Monday attended by large numbers with a pig when the animal ate some of the doorpost, King selling it because she ate a lot of the woodwork of her sty in order to pay off arrears of rent. An eyewitness said he personally was pleased to remember the fifth of November which was going to go down in the annals of history and that one thing which particularly struck a person of his observational powers was that he saw or heard Pat O'Donnell beat and murder another two of the Kings, Simon & Peter, between whom bad blood existed but it turned out in crossexamination that where the ambush was laid there was not as much light as would dim a child's altar and to the perplexedly uncondemnatory bench the first King of all, Festy, as soon as the outer layer of dirt was removed at the request of the jury declared through his interpreter on his oath and before God and all their honours that he did not fire a stone either before or after he was born up to that day and this he had the neck to supplement in the same language by postasserting that he would impart that he might never ask to see sight or light of this world or the next world or any other world if ever he up with a hand to take or throw the sign of a stone at man, sheep or salvation army either before or after being baptised down to that most holy and blessed hour.'

Connemara, from an 1880 map of Connaught

Here's an 1880 map of Connemara. The Festy King trial took place in Clifden the capital. Note the 'Joyce Country'.

Vincent Deane also discovered that Joyce had reused phrases from other stories in the same issue of the Connacht Tribune. The phrase 'improperly framed indictment' is from a story titled ''Lamentable': A Missing Mirror':

'At Galway Criminal Quarter Sessions at Wednesday, before his honour, the Recorder. … The Recorder said in every properly framed indictment there was a second count for receiving. That was the regular form.'

The vivid phrase 'as much light as would dim a child's altar' is from another story, 'Lighting the Railway Station':

'At the request of Mr. Greene it was decided to write again to the railway company with a view to getting the railway premises lighted by electricity. Mr. Greene remarked it was a shame that people coming off the train at night had to grope their way in the dark at the railway station for there was not as much light there as would dim a child's altar (laughter).'

Festy King's pig that ate the doorpost is from yet another comical story, 'Cheap Jacks':

'Mr. Greene also referred to an order formerly made by the board that sheep or pigs were not to be allowed on the sidewalks on fair days. After the last fair a trader complained to him the woodwork in front of her house was eaten away by a pig, and when she complained to the owner the only satisfaction she got was that the same pig ate the door of the pigsty at home, and that was the reason she sold it (laughter). ~'

In the final version, Festy's pig is called the 'gentleman ratepayer' (86.27) because a pig was known as the 'gentleman that pays the rent'. 

Tenniel's cartoon of the 'gentleman who pays the rent'

I like to think of James Joyce, sitting in the Victoria Palace Hotel in Paris, scouring the Connacht Tribune for reports of pigs and fights at Connemara fairs. He did feel a personal connection with the area, for this was the ancestral homeland of the Joyces. The region is still called the Joyce Country.

I visited the Victoria Palace Hotel in 2018


The big difference between the Connacht Tribune story and the Wake version is that Joyce's defendant is an Irish speaker, on trial in an English court, the Old Bailey. Ironically, the court has supplied him with an interpreter who speaks the wrong kind of Gaelic! He speaks Brythonic, the Gaelic of Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Festy should have been given a Goidelic (Irish, Scottish and Manx) speaker.

'Pegger Festy, as soon as the outer layer of stucckomuck had been removed at the request of a few live jurors, declared in a loudburst of poesy, through his Brythonic interpreter on his oath, mhuith peisth mhuise as fearra bheura muirre hriosmas, whereas take notice be the relics of the bones of the story bouchal that was ate be Cliopatrick (the sow) princess of parked porkers, afore God and all their honours and king’s commons that, what he would swear to the Tierney of Dundalgan or any other Tierney, yif live thurkells folloged him about sure that was no steal and that, nevertheless, what was deposited from that eyebold earbig noseknaving gutthroat, he did not fire a stone either before or after he was born down and up to that time.' 91.01-13

The uselessness of the interpreter is shown here by the words in the third line which look Gaelic. They are English, and pronounced as 'with best wishes for a very merry Christmas'.

After proclaiming his innocence, Festy King clumsily tries to make the sign of his Roman Godhelic (Goidelic and Roman Catholic) faith, which causes the court to erupt in laughter. 

'Here, upon the halfkneed castleknocker’s attempting kithoguishly to lilt his holymess the paws and make the sign of the Roman Godhelic faix, (Xaroshie, zdrst!— in his excitement the laddo had broken exthro Castilian into which the whole audience perseguired and pursuited him olla podrida) outbroke much yellachters from owners in the heall (Ha!) in which, under the mollification of methaglin, the testifighter reluctingly, but with ever so ladylike indecorum, joined. (Ha! Ha!)' 91.33

This echoes the frequent public laughter reported in the Connacht trial reports. The patricular source is another Connacht Tribune news story, identified by Mikio Fuse and Robbert-Jan Henkes, this time from 24 May 1924:

'At Galway District Court, before Mr. Sean Ford, Edward Connelly and John Keller were charged with firing into the residence of Mr. J. Bristley, stationmaster, Moycullen, smashing the windows and otherwise damaging the house. ... “Do you remember the statement you made and that you were on your oath?” asked the justice, and the witness replied “It was all lies,” at which there was some laughter in which the witness joined.  The justice remonstrated with the witness, reminding him that he was in a court of justice and not a concert room. He said it was a disgraceful thing that a youth of sixteen should take an oath and then swear that everything that he had sworn was untrue.'

The Maamtrasna Murder Trial

In revising the text, Joyce changed 'a countryman, Festy King' to 'a child of Maam, Festy King' (85.22). This points to a darker source, the Maamtrasna murder trial of 1882, the year of Joyce's birth. This ended in the wrongful hanging for murder of another Joyce Country man, Myles Joyce. The five victims were also Joyces. 

Myles Joyce was tried in Dublin, in English, which he did not speak, communicating with difficulty through an interpreter who spoke an unfamiliar Donegal dialect. Like Festy King, Myles Joyce gesticulated in a desperate attempt to be understood. 

Here's part of James Joyce's own account of the trial in 'Ireland at the Bar': written in 1907 for Il Piccolo della Sera:

Prison photograph of Myles Joyce
'Several years ago a sensational trial was held in Ireland. In a lonely place in a western province, called Maamtrasna, a murder was committed. Four or five townsmen, all belonging to the ancient tribe of the Joyces, were arrested. The oldest of them, the seventy year old Myles Joyce, was the prime suspect. Public opinion at the time thought him innocent and today considers him a martyr. Neither the old man nor the others accused knew English. The court had to resort to the services of an interpreter. The questioning, conducted through the interpreter, was at times comic and at times tragic. On one side was the excessively ceremonious interpreter, on the other the patriarch of a miserable tribe unused to civilized customs, who seemed stupefied by all the judicial ceremony.

The magistrate said: ‘Ask the accused if he saw the lady that night.’ The question was referred to him in Irish, and the old man broke out into an involved explanation, gesticulating, appealing to the others accused and to heaven. Then he quieted down, worn out by his effort, and the interpreter turned to the magistrate and said: ‘He says no, your worship'.

‘Ask him if he was in that neighbourhood at that hour.’ The old man again began to talk, to protest, to shout, almost beside himself with the anguish of being unable to understand or to make himself understood, weeping in anger and terror. And the interpreter, again, dryly: ‘He says no, your worship.’

When the questioning was over, the guilt of the poor old man was declared proved, and he was remanded to a superior court which condemned him to the noose. On the day the sentence was executed, the square in front of the prison was jammed full of kneeling people shouting prayers in Irish for the repose of Myles Joyce’s soul. The story was told that the executioner, unable to make the victim understand him, kicked at the miserable man’s head in anger to shove it into the noose.'

In 2018, Myles Joyce received a Presidential pardon.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

The Four Waves of Erin: Mrs Joyce takes Dictation

On 29 May 2002, the National Library of Ireland announced that it had bought an archive of previously unknown Joyce manuscripts from Alexis Léon, son of Joyce's friend and helper Paul Léon. One of its treasures was an early Finnegans Wake sketch, which the library has posted online. The big surprise is that this sketch is in Nora Joyce's handwriting (with corrections later added by Joyce). 

Yes, in 1923 Joyce, suffering from eye troubles, was dictating passages from his new book to his wife, who had never shown any interest in his writing. What did she make of it?

The piece dates from the very beginnings of Finnegans Wake and was probably composed
between late March and June 1923, when he was unable to read or write due an attack of conjunctivitis followed by an eye operation. Despite this, he was still composing new material in his mind.

This is a first version of what would become the Mamalujo episode, the first part of the Wake to be published, in the transatlantic review in 1924. Unlike the later version, written in a rambling repetitive exhausted style, to express senility, this sketch is concise and lively. It also doesn't read like a first draft but a finished careful composition.  In writing about senility, Joyce drew on his astonishing powers of memory.

Illustration by John Vernon Lord from the Folio edition

To set the scene, this is a continuation of Tristan and Isolde sketch, the big love scene set on a ship (above), which ended with the mocking song of the seabirds circling above. In a cinematic shift of perspective, we move down into the sea where we find four ancient men, as blind as Joyce, listening in to the big kiss of the lovers. They are senile Irish historians and also waves of the sea, ancient voyeurs clinging to the Irish sea ferries and 'peering with glaucomatose eyes through the cataractic portholes of honeymoon cabins'.

Here is the text as dictated. In going through it beneath, I'll quote Joyce's revised version.


'The Four Waves of Erin also heard, leaning upon the staves of memory. Four eminently respectable old gentlemen they looked got up in sleek holiday toggery for the occasion, grey half tall hat frock coat to match fathomglasses and soforth, you know, for all the world apart from from the salt water like the fourth viscount Powerscourt at the royal Dublin societies annual horseshow. 

They had seen their share..the capture of Sir Arthur Casement in the year 432      Coronation of Brian by the Danes at Clonmacnois The drowning of poor Mat Keane of Dunlearery the scattering of the flemish armada off the coasts of Galway and Longford, the landing of St Patrick at Tara in the year 1798, the dispersal of the French fleet under General Boche in the year 2002. 

And such was their memory that they had been appointed extern professors to the four chief seats of learning in Erin, the Universities of killorcure, killthemall, killeachother, killkelly-on-the-Flure, whither they wirelessed four times weekly lectures in the four modes of history, past, present, absent and future

Saltsea widowers all four, they had been many ages before summarily divorced by their respective spouses (with whom they had parted on the best of terms) by a decree absolute issued by Mrs Justice Smashman in the married male offenders court at Bohernabreena, one for inefficiency in backscratching, two for having broken wind without having first made a request in writing on stamped foolscap paper, three for having attempted hunnish familiarities after a meal of decomposed crab, four on account of his general cast of countenance. 

Though that was ever so long ago, they could still with an effort of memory and by counting carefully the four buttons of the fly of their trousers recall the name of the four beautiful sisters Brinabride who were at the moment touring the United States.

Yet were they fettlesome anon, lured by beauty often would they cling to the sides of the Northwall and Holyhead boats and the Isle of Man tourist steamers, peering with glaucomatose eyes through the cataractic portholes of honeymoon cabins or saloon ladies' toilet apartments. 

But when those jossers aforesaid, the Four Waves of Erin, heard the detonation of the osculation which with ostentation Tristan to Isolde gave, then lifted they up round Ireland's shores the wail of old men's glee.

Highchanted the elderly Waves of Erin in four-part Palestrian melody, four for all, all one in glee of grief of loneliness of age but with a bardic license, there being about of birds and stars  quite a sufficient number.

This was their way

A birdless heaven, seadusk and one star,
Low in the west
And thou, poor heart, loves image, faint and far,

Her clear cold eyes and her soft lifted brown
And fragrant hair,
Falling as through the silence falleth now
Dusk from the air.

A why wilt thou,
A why wilt thou remember these,
A why,
Poor heart, repine,
If the dear love she yielded with a sigh
Was never thine!'


At this stage, Joyce has not yet named his four men, later called Matt Gregory, Marcus Lyons, Luke Tarpey and Johnny MacDougall, and collectively Mamalujo.

Nora first wrote 'The Four Waves of Ireland'. The change to the poetic 'Erin' is in Nora's handwriting, so Joyce may have decided on this while he was dictating.

As ‘waves of Erin’, the four are magical waves, drawn from Irish myth, which would roar a warning in times of danger. There were three of them but Joyce has made four:

‘The Three Tonns or Waves of Erin are much celebrated in Irish romantic literature. They were Tonn Cleena in Glandore harbour in Cork; Tonn Tuaithe outside the mouth of the Bann in Derry; and Tonn Rudraidhe in Dundrum Bay off the County Down. In stormy weather, when the wind blows in certain directions, the sea at these places, as it tumbles over the sandbanks, or among the caves and fissures of the rocks, utters an unusually loud and solemn roar, which excited the imagination of our ancestors. They believed that these sounds had a supernatural origin, that they gave warning of the  deadly danger, or foreboded the approaching death, of kings or chieftains, or bewailed a king's or a great chief's death.’

P. W. Joyce’s A Social History of Ancient Ireland, Vol II p.525

Later in the piece they become radio waves, wirelessly broadcasting history lectures. The waves' cries also inspired their 'wail' at the end, 'lifted up round Ireland's shores'.

Joyce later told Eugene Jolas that his aim was 'to build many planes of narrative with a single esthetic purpose'. This creation of old Irishmen who are also waves was the first piece he composed with multiple planes.

'leaning upon the staves of memory'

The four who have endured through all of human history, live in their hopelessly muddled memories, the walking sticks that support them. They are like Swifts Struldbrugs in Gulliver's Travels.

'They have no remembrance of anything but what they learned and observed in their youth and middle-age, and even that is very imperfect; and for the truth or particulars of any fact, it is safer to depend on common tradition, than upon their best recollections. The least miserable among them appear to be those who turn to dotage, and entirely lose their memories...' 

'Four eminently respectable old heladies'

Joyce dictated 'gentlemen', but then changed this to 'heladies'. One of the symptoms of senility running through Mamalujo is confusion about sexual identity.  He also changed 'spouses' to 'she-husbands'. This shows the beginning of the new style, where the narrative voice is not just describing senility but also expressing it.

'got up in sleek holiday toggery for the occasion...'

'TOG: a coat; to tog, is to dress or put on clothes; to tog a person, is also to supply them with apparel, and they are said to be well or queerly tog'd, according to their appearance. 
TOG'D OUT TO THE NINES: a fanciful phrase, meaning simply, that a person is well or gaily dressed. 
TOGS, or TOGGERY: wearing-apparel in general.'

James Hardy Vaux, A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language, 1819

'Togs' is 16th century vagabond's cant, and is short for 'togeman' meaning coat. The OED suggests that the 19th century spread of the word may be linked to its similarity with toga.

'grey half tall toque tailormade frock coat to match fathomglasses'

Joyce added 'tailormade' and changed 'hat' to 'toque', echoing 'toggery'.  They are formally dressed in Victorian frock coats and grey toques, but 'sleek' and 'grey' also makes me think of seals. 

He's invented the word 'fathomglasses' - perhaps opera glasses for looking through, or measuring, the fathoms of water. In the Wake, this became 'they had their fathomglasses to find out all the fathoms.' 386.16

'and soforth, you know'

This creates a conversational feel, as if we are being buttonholed for an anecdote. It's similar to the earlier Roderick O'Connor sketch which includes 'you say yourself', 'wait till I tell you' and 'what do you think he did sir'.

'for all the world apart from from the salt water like the fourth viscount Powerscourt...'

Apart from the salt water, they look like the Irish peer, Richard Wingfield, 4th Viscount Powerscourt (1762–1809). The family was well known in Dublin, with its townhouse, Powerscourt House on South William Street (now a shopping centre). Here he is - imagine him on his way to the Dublin horse show with salt water pouring off him!

'...or North the auctioneer at the royal Dublin societies annual horseshow.'

North the auctioneer is one of Joyce's additions to the dictated text. This is James H North the auctioneer and estate agent, whose business was at 110 Grafton Street – not far from Powerscourt House.   From Thom's 1904 directory.

It's now the Dublin Trading Company.

I bought this on ebay.

I expect John Joyce, with his many changes of address, had personal dealings with the company.

The Royal Dublin Society horseshow, one of the highlights of the Irish social and sporting calendar, dates from 1864. It was even held in August 1920, at the height of the war of Independence, when this cartoon appeared in the Sunday Independent.

It was cancelled this year, for the first time since 1940, due to Covid.

Here's how the passage expanded (and made more confused) appeared in Finnegans Wake.  Joyce has added more central Dublin locations and changed North's surname to Tickell, but added his real initials.

I drew the map was I was a student in 1983.

He's also increased the gender confusion, making the statue of Daniel O'Connell 'Mrs Dana O'Connell' and 'Battersby Sisters' from another Dublin auctioneer and estate agent, Battersby Brothers of 39 Westmoreland Street. Here they are in Thom's 1904 Directory.

Leopold Bloom thinks of these auctioneers while walking down Eccles Street in the Calypso episode of Ulysses:

'Number eighty still unlet. Why is that? Valuation is only twentyeight. Towers, Battersby, North, MacArthur: parlour windows plastered with bills.'

Another nice addition, made in 1938, fifteen years after the original sketch, is 'tailturn' making 'tailturn horseshow'. This combines the turning tails of the Dublin show horses with the Tailteann Games in County Meath. This was an ancient festival, which died out following the Anglo-Norman invasion – Joyce added 'angler nomads' at the same time. It was revived by the Irish Free State in 1924, when the new games were held in Croke Park Dublin. Like the horse show, it took place in August.


'They had seen their share.. the capture of Sir Arthur Casement in the year 1132 Coronation of Brian by the Danes at Clonmacnois the drowning of Pharoah F Phitzharris in the (proleptically) red sea. The drowning of poor Mat Keane of Dunlearery the scattering of the flemish armada off the coasts of Galway and Longford, the landing of St Patrick at Tara in the year 1798, the dispersal of the French fleet under General Boche in the year 2002.'

Since they are waves of the sea, their muddled memories are mostly of maritime events, such as landings, invasions and drownings.  When Joyce dictated this piece, the first date was 432 - the year of St Patrick's arrival in Ireland. So there were two famous dates - 432 and 1798, the year of the French, and one absurd date - 2002. 

Yet how extraordinary that Joyce should have chosen 2002 - the year that the National Library announced it had bought the manuscript!

'The computer on which I was viewing the Wake manuscript also contained images of the Léon cache, titled 'Joyce Papers 2002'. Perhaps, you may say, Joyce was clairvoyant as well as mischievous, or possibly this is a matter of absolutely no import, or perhaps again there is a more peculiar game in play . . .'

Joyce then made a momentous change, crossing out the 4 of 432 and writing 11. Yes, this is the moment he created 'the only real date in Finnegans Wake' (Anthony Burgess).

The darker penci is James' Joyce's handwriting. National Library of Ireland

It's possible Joyce was thinking of the law of falling bodies - 32 feet per second per second, which is on Bloom's mind in Ulysses. But his reason for making this change may have simply been to add an additional layer of confusion. In their senility they haven't even chosen an important date to remember. In the rewrite, Joyce made this the key date of the chapter, and later the whole book.

'the capture of Sir Arthur Casement in the year 1132'

In April 1916, Sir Roger Casement, was captured after being set ashore from a German submarine in Banna Strand in Tralee Bay, County Kerry. The old men have probably confused him with Sir Arthur Guinness (or Sir Arthur Wellesley).

'Coronation of Brian by the Danes at Clonmacnois'

Here the old men have almost got some facts right.  Brian Boru, who defeated the Danes at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, had a close connection with the monastery of Clonmacnoise by the River Shannon in County Offaly. The monastery was associated with the kings of Connacht, who may have been inaugurated there, standing on a sacred stone.

'the drowning of Pharoah F Phitzharris in the (proleptically) red sea'

This was added by Joyce to the dictated text, squeezed in, in a darker pencil, at the very bottom of the page (see above). The name suggests James Fitzharris, nicknamed Skin-the-Goat, the cabman who drove the Phoenix Park assassins, and who keeps the cabman's shelter in Ulysses. The 'Ph' spelling of his name goes with 'Pharaoh'.

The old men may have muddled his horse-drawn cab with the pharaoh's chariot.  I think the Red Sea is 'proleptic' (anticipatory) because its name anticipates bloodshed – the stabbing of Burke and Cavendish in the park.

F.A.Bridgman, Pharaoh's Army Engulfed in the Red Sea

Last year I found Fitzharris's grave, which is also a memorial to the Invincibles, in Glasnevin.

'The drowning of poor Mat Keane of Dunlearery'

This is Nora's misspelling of Matt Kane. He was a close friend of Joyce's father, and he really did drown in 1904 off Kingstown, which was called Dunleary before 1821, and given its old name, with the Irish spelling Dún Laoghaire in 1920. It's fitting that the old men only know the early name.

Kane was the original of Martin Cunningham in Dubliners and Ulysses. Joyce attended his funeral and used it as the basis for Paddy Dignam's – so Martin Cunningham in Ulysses is attending his own funeral.

I like 'Dunlearery' but it may be another of Nora's mistakes.

In Dubliners, we learn why, apart from drowning, he is called 'poor Mat Keane':

'His own domestic life was not very happy. People had great sympathy with him, for it was known that he had married an unpresentable woman who was an incurable drunkard. He had set up house for her six times; and each time she had pawned the furniture on him.

Everyone had respect for poor Martin Cunningham.'

Here's his grave, which I photographed last year. It mentions his appearance in Uysses. It's a shame it doesn't include Finnegans Wake!

Here's the Freeman's Journal report, which shows that it was a massive funeral. 

When Joyce rewrote the passage, he used the fictional name, and brought in the pharaoh's Red Sea:

'and then poor Martin Cunningham out of the castle on pension when he was completely drowned off Dunleary at that time in the red sea'

Here's the final transformation of the passage in Finnegans Wake, where he has become Merkin Cornyngwham - combining Martin Cunningham with Mark of Cornwall.

See also Casement's transformation into a Lady Jales Casemate and the reappearance of those Dublin auctioneers, now Queen Baltersby off the White Ship, wrecked in 1120.

'the scattering of the flemish armada off the coasts of Galway and Longford'

In 1588, the Spanish Armada was scattered by storms off the west coast of Ireland. The joke here is that County Longford, in the middle of Ireland, is landlocked.

As for flemings, The Annals of the Four Masters has this entry for the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169.

'The fleet of the Flemings came from England in the army of Mac Murchadha to contest the kingdom of Leinster for him: they were seventy heroes, dressed in coats of mail.'

The word 'flemish' suggests phlegm, which later inspired the old men's 'phlegmish hoopicough' at 397.24

'the landing of St Patrick at Tara in the year 1798 the dispersal of the French fleet under General Boche in the year 2002'

St Patrick had his duel with the High Druid at Tara, the subject of another 1923 sketch.

There were two failed French invasions of Ireland, in 1796-7 and 1798. Here's a Gilray cartoon showing the first one.

Boche was a mocking nickname for the Germans used by the Allies during World War I. It is thought to be a shortened form of the French portmanteau 'alboche', derived from Allemand and caboche ("head" or "cabbage").  In his rewrite, Joyce changed the name to 'Madam-general Bonaboche', bringing in Bonaparte, and then 'Motham General Bonaparte' (388.21)


'And such was their memory that they had been appointed extern professors to the four chief seats of learning in Erin, the Universities of killorcure, killthemall, killeachother, killkelly-on-the-Flure, whither they wirelessed four times weekly lectures in the four modes of history, past, present, absent and future' 

Here's the first suggestion that the old men represent the four provinces of Ireland. Kill is Irish for church but the echoes of killing suggest the Irish Civil War, and Joyce's own fears that he risked being shot if he visited the Irish Free State.  

The word before 'professors' is hard to read - it may say 'extern' (ie external) or  'exterm'. A professor living in the sea would have to be external!

The four province idea was more fully developed in the transatlantic review version, where we also get to hear their individual voices as wireless broadcasts cutting in. Here the four are radio waves as well as waves of the sea.

The old men's 'modes of history' are grammatical tenses, with the comical addition of 'absent' - suggested by the different meanings of the word 'present' (now and in this place). Originally, they included the future, hence the date 2002. Joyce cut this and the date in his rewrite – the old men live in the past. 


'Saltsea widowers all four, they had been many ages before summarily divorced by their respective shehusbands (with whom they had parted on the best of terms) by a decree absolute issued by Mrs Justice Squelchman in the married male offenders court at Bohernabreena, one for inefficiency in backscratching, two for having broken rerewind without having first made a request in writing on stamped foolscap paper, three for having attempted hunnish familiarities after a meal of decomposed crab, four on account of his general cast of countenance.'

I love these grounds for divorce. Did they make Nora respond with a joke about her own possible grounds for divorce?  She had more to complain about than 'inefficiency in backscratching'.

'by a decree absolute'

The final decree ending a marriage after a decree nisi showing legal requirements have been met.
cf Bloom in Eumaeus: ' Then the decree nisi and the King's Proctor to show cause why and, he failing to quash it, nisi was made absolute.'

Here Joyce added 'rere' to 'wind', making 'rerewind'. 'Mrs Justice Squelchman' was originally 'Squashman' - but the meaning is the same, a fearsome female judge squashing men.

This passage reminds me of the
 'several highly respectable Dublin ladies' accusing Leopold Bloom of sending them improper letters.

'MRS BELLINGHAM Tan his breech well, the upstart! Write the stars and stripes on it!
MRS YELVERTON BARRY Disgraceful! There's no excuse for him! A married man!'

Bohernabreena is a townland in County Dublin beside the River Dodder. 

'Bohernabreena in old times was Boher-na-Bruighne or 'the road of the court' or 'great mansion', one of the five great palaces or breens, houses of universal hospitality, for which Ireland was famed.'

William Domville Handock', History of Tallaght, 1899

The inspiration for this divorce section was probably Swift's Struldbrugs.

'If a Struldbrug happen to marry one of his own kind, the marriage is dissolved of course, by the courtesy of the kingdom, as soon as the younger of the two comes to be fourscore; for the law thinks it a reasonable indulgence, that those who are condemned, without any fault of their own, to a perpetual continuance in the world, should not have their misery doubled by the load of a wife.'

In the expanded version, the sense that we are reading grounds for divorce is harder to follow.

'hunnish familiarities after eating a bad crab in the red ocean' 

Like Boche, 'hunnish' is WW1 slang for the beastly and underhand behaviour of the Germans.

Joyce, who believed his writing had prophetic power, quoted this line in a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver:

'It is strange that on the day I sent off to you a picture of an epicene professor of history in an Irish university college seated in the hospice for the dying etc after 'eating a bad crab in the red sea' I received a paper from Dublin containing news of the death at the age of 41 of an old schoolfellow of mine in the hospice for the dying, Harold's Cross, Dublin, professor of law in the University of Galway....More strangely still his name (which he used to say was an Irish (Celtic) version of my own) is in English an epicene name being made up of the feminine and masculine personal pronouns – Sheehy. It is as usual rather uncanny.'

Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 23 October 1923, Letters Vol I

Did he also prophesy the 1991 discovery that eating a bad crab can cause brain damage and lasting memory loss?


'Though that was ever so long ago, they could still with an effort of memory and by counting accurately the four periwinkle buttons of the fly of their knickybockies recall the name of the four beautiful sisters Brinabride who were at the moment touring the United States of Africa.'

Joyce dictated 'counting carefully the four buttons of their trousers' and later added 'accurately', 'periwinkle', the childish 'knickybockies' and 'of Africa'.

As waves of the sea, they have had briny brides, sister sea nymphs. But 'name' rather than 'names' suggests that all they can remember of their wives is their maiden surname. The idea that their wives are 'at the moment touring the United States of Africa' sounds like a senile delusion.

There are echoes of Brinabride elsewhere in 'Mamalujo'.
'in 1132 Brian or Bride street' 388.11
'O, come all ye sea nymphs of Dingle beach to cheer Brinabride queen from Sybil surfriding'. 399.03
This then became a Wake motif:
'An auburn mayde, o’brine a’bride, to be desarted' 13.26
'—Sold! I am sold! Brinabride! My ersther! My sidster!
Brinabride, goodbye! Brinabride! I sold!' 500.21
'the bride of the Bryne' 595.05

In the senile rewrite, the sense of this passage was lost - as well as 'touring the United States of Africa'.

'not forgetting about shims and shawls week, in auld land syne (up) their four hosenbands, that were four (up) beautiful sister misters, now happily married, unto old Gallstonebelly, and there they were always counting and contradicting every night‚ tis early the lovely mother of periwinkle buttons, according to the lapper part of their anachronism (up one up two up one up four) and after that there now she was, in the end, the deary, soldpowder and all, the beautfour sisters...' 393.14


'Yet were they fettlesome anon, lured by the immortal rose of Wombman's beauty. Often would they cling tentacularly about the ship's waists of the Northwall and Holyhead boats and the Isle of Man tourist steamers, peering with glaucomatose eyes through the cataractic portholes of honeymoon cabins or saloon ladies' toilet apartments.' 

The four are voyeurs, trying to peer, despite glaucoma and cataracts, through the portholes of the ships crossing the Irish Sea –  which explains why they are here beside the ship carrying Tristan and Isolde from Ireland to Cornwall.  

Expanding the dictated text, Joyce changed 'lured by beauty to 'lured by the immortal rose of Wombman's beauty'. 'The immortal rose of woman's beauty' sounds like a phrase he's read in a magazine. He also rewrote 'cling to the sides of', as the vivid 'cling tentacularly about the ship's waists of.' The low mid section of a ship is its 'waist'. We see the old men now as cephalopods.

1920 illustration from St Nicholas's magazine
'Fettlesome' is an invented word. 'Fettle' (state) is most commonly used in the phrase 'fine fettle'. Fettle is also an Old English word for a belt, which may link with their clinging to the ships.

Again, much of the original sense was lost in the rewrite:

'And after that so glad they had their night tentacles and there they used to be, flapping and cycling, and a dooing a doonloop, panementically, around the waists of the ship...'394.12

'like a foreretyred schoon-masters, and their pair of green eyes and peering in, so they say, like the narcolepts on the lakes of Coma, through the steamy windows, into the honeymoon cabins, on board the big steamadories, made by Fumadory, and the saloon ladies’ madorn toilet chambers lined over prawn silk and rub off the salty catara off a windows and, hee hee, listening, qua committe, the poor old quakers, oben the dure, to see all the hunnishmooners and the firstclass ladies'   395.06


The passage ends with their wailing musical lament as, hearing the big kiss of Tristan and Isolde, they are struck by 'grief of loneliness'.

'But when those jossers aforesaid, the Four Waves of Erin, heard the detonation of the osculation (cataclysmic cataglotism) which with ostentation (osculum cum basio 
suavioque) Tristan to Isolde gave, then lifted they up round Ireland's shores the wail of old men's planxty.

Highchanted the elderly Waves of Erin in four-part Palestrian melody, four for all, all one in glee of grief of loneliness of age but with a bardic license, there being about of birds and stars and noise quite a sufficient quantity.

This plashed their wavechant'

Joyce has made several changes, including adding Latin terms for kisses and changing 'glee' to 'planxty'. A glee is a three or four-part acapella song, but it also suggests gleeful and this is a lament. One theory is that 'planxty' derives from the Latin 'plancus' (lament).

Josser. 'A simpleton; a soft or silly fellow. So, in flippant or contemptuous use, a fellow, an (old) chap' (OED)
The pervert in 'An Encounter' is called a 'queer old josser' and he also has green eyes.

'four-part Palestrian melody'

Joyce loved the music of Giovanni da Palestrina (1525-1594), who wrote many motets, hymns and madrigals for four voices. He told Frank Budgen, 'In writing the mass for Pope Marcellus, Palestrina did more than surpass himself as a musician....He saved music for the Church.'

'This was their way' became 'This plashed their wavechant' - sadly lost in the final version.

The old men's final song is a version of 'Tutto e Sciolto' (All is Lost), a poem of nostalgic regret , inspired by a failed romance with a student, which Joyce wrote in Trieste in 1914, and which he published in 1927 in Pomes Pennyeach. Did Nora know anything about the background to this poem?

On rewriting 'Mamalujo', Joyce wisely decided to drop this personal poem and write a more suitable song - in which each of the old men in turn, and in a different Irish accent, fantasises about Isolde.

See my post Four Irish Accents