Saturday, 12 October 2013

A Pint in Earwicker's Pub

Although I've been to Dublin many times, until last Saturday I'd never been to Chapelizod, the little suburb beside Phoenix Park, three miles west of the city centre. This is in spite of the fact that Joyce told Eugene Jolas that Finnegans Wake was the story of a 'Chapelizod family':

'I might easily have written this story in the traditional manner....But I, after all, am trying to tell the story of this Chapelizod family in a new way. Time and the river and the mountain are the real heroes of my book.' (quoted by Jolas in My Friend James Joyce).

After leaving the Phoenix Park, we walked west along the Chapelizod Road, until we came to the Mullingar House pub. This has an extraordinary plaque above the door, which was the main reason I wanted to visit Chapelizod. Dublin is full of pubs with Joycean plaques and signs. Usually they make limited rational claims, such as, 'This pub features in Ulysses.' But the Mullingar House makes the wonderful claim to be 'HOME OF ALL CHARACTERS AND ELEMENTS IN JAMES JOYCE'S NOVEL 'FINNEGANS WAKE''!

So we went to the Mullingar House, half expecting to find 'the whole stock company of the old house of the leaking barrel'(510.17).

I've been looking into where this claim comes from. Most of Book Two of the Wake takes place in and around a pub, run by Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. There's a letter from Lucia Joyce to Frank Budgen (written in May 1933, when Joyce himself couldn't see to write), which says, 'The principal bistro he [Joyce] says is the Mullingar Inn, of which in W.i.P. [Work in Progress] the big man is assumed to be the landlord'.

Frank Budgen had been commissioned by Joyce to do a painting of Chapelizod. In his great book, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses (1934), Budgen described his visit to the pub. This must be the source of the word 'elements' on the plaque:

'An atmosphere, sweet and glad, hangs over the river at Chapelizod...All Joyce's elemental shapes are there. I painted a picture on the south bank of the river in front of a row of cottages....Shem and Shaun and a murmuration of Maggies gathered round me to criticise and admire....When it began to ''darkle'' I adjourned to the Mullingar Inn. Sawdust was strewn in ''expectoration'' and a quorum of ''representative civics'' already assembled to ''drain the mead of misery to incur intoxication''. The subject of their ''conflingent controversies of differentiation'' was the Irish Grand National. Mr Keenan, blond, burly, affable, authoritative and bright-eyed, entertained us in his custom-house. He was called away, and in his absence an amiable lady served us with pints...Here in the space of a few hours, and in their own locality, I made acquaintance with many of the elements of Work in Progress - river, hill, forest, human habitation, laughing girls, brothers in conflict, citizens in council, a woman serving and a big man presiding.'

The Liffey at Chapelizod from the bridge
Earwicker is largely based on Joyce's father, John Stanislaus Joyce. Joyce told Budgen that 'the whole basis' for Finnegans Wake was an encounter his father had with a tramp in the Phoenix Park. Like HCE, John Stanislaus was a disgraced patriarch, a man who was 'one time the king of our castle/ Now he's kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.' (45.07)

In 1873-6, John Joyce had a well-paid job as Secretary to the Chapelizod Distillery, and spent many happy times drinking in the Mullingar Hotel, as it was then called. In later years, after he had squandered his inheritance, John Joyce looked back to his times in the Mullingar, run by the Broadbent family, as a lost golden age:

'Broadbent and I were very great friends. He had the Mullingar Hotel there, and a fine decent fellow he was. We used to have great times there. There was a bowling green at the back of his hotel and I was considered a celebrated bowler...On one occasion Dollymount challenged us to a game. We won and we stood them food and drink after it. This was followed by a splendid musical evening as we had a lot of musical fellows down with us....We beat Dollymount and I made a big score; and by God I was carried around the place and such a time we had....I was made a lot of and was taken around by the boys on their shoulders; and my God the quantity of whisky that I drank that night! It must have been something terrible for I had to go to bed. I was not very long in bed when half a dozen of the fellows came up to me and said that they were having a singsong downstairs, adding: 'Come on Jack, don't have them beat us at the singing.'...Begor I could not walk so I told them to clear out to Blazes...'

(Interview with John Joyce, found among his son's papers after his death)

Here's a painting of John Joyce by Patrick Tuohy, commissioned by Joyce in 1923, the year he began writing Finnegans Wake.

'This old man, ruddy and hoary, dignified and truculent, stubborn as a mule and witty as the devil, would soon dominate his son's life again, this time from a portrait painted by an Irishman and hung on the drawing-room wall. Joyce attached at least as much importance to this painting as to the portrait of Mrs Svevo, named Anna Livia, who, as we know, was to lend her golden hair to Anna Livia, and to the waters of the Liffey.'

Nino Frank, 'The Shadow that had Lost its Man', in Portraits of the Artist in Exile (ed Potts) pp 86-7
John Joyce's drunken collapse into bed in the Mullingar House reminds me of the end of the pub sequence in Finnegans Wake, when we learn what befell 'to Mocked Majesty in the Malincurred Mansion' (380.04). Following scenes of riotous drinking and singing, HCE, now identified as 'His Most Exuberant Majesty King Roderick O'Conor', last High King of Ireland, drinks all the dregs and collapses unconscious in his pub. This is one of the many falls in the book.

There's another link between John Stanislaus Joyce and the Mullingar House - Sheridan Le Fanu's novel, The House by the Churchyard, set in 18th century Chapelizod. Joyce told his biographer, Gorman, that this was one of the four books which made up his father's 'library'. It's a major source in Finnegans Wake. A lot of scenes take place in the village inn, called the Phoenix, which may have stood on the site of the Mullingar House.

Here are a few more references to the Mullingar House in Finnegans Wake: 'the whole history of the Mullingcan Inn' (64.08); HCE  'owns the bulgiest bungbarrel that was ever tiptapped in the privace of the Mullingar Inn' (138.18); 'the boss's bess bass is the browd of Mullingar' (286 L06); 'that mulligar scrub' 321.33; 'The other foregotthened abbosed in the Mullingaria.' 345.34; 'those Mullinguard minstrelsers are marshalsing.'  371.3; and 'the bogchaps of the porlarbaar of the marringaar of the Lochlunn gonlannludder of the feof of the foef of forfummed Ship-le-Zoyd.' 370.27
Joyce's death mask above the bar

But is the Mullingar House really 'home of all characters and elements' in the book?
Lucia Joyce's letter uses the phrase 'the principal bistro'. Nothing in Finnegans Wake is fixed, and HCE's pub moves around Dublin and Ireland and even turns into a ship in the Roderick O'Connor scene. Elsewhere in the book, it's identified with the Royal Banqueting Hall at Tara ('House of cedarbalm of mead' 558.35); The Nancy Hands pub, east of Phoenix Park; The Hydropathic Hotel, Lucan ('his hydrocomic establishment' 580.25); and a pub called the Goat and Compasses. Chapelizod also gets muddled up with another suburb, Lucan, in a dream location Joyce calls 'Lucalizod'.
A picture of Joyce on the wall of the pub

In his
Finnegans Wake Gazeteer, Louis Mink writes, 'Earwicker's public house is no doubt everywhere, or everywhere that pints are drawn and songs are sung.'

The Mullingar House has a James Joyce Bistro at the back, and drawings of Joyce and his death mask on the walls. But it's very much a locals' pub, away from the tourist trail. The bowling green where John Joyce had his triumphant game in the 1870s is long gone, and the pub now stands on a busy road.

Even if it doesn't live up to the great claim made on the plaque, the pub is well worth a visit. Sitting in the bar, I imagined the landlord drinking the dregs and the whole place transforming into a ship. Looking at the curving wood of the bar, Lisa said, 'It does look a bit like a ship.'

A pint of Guinness from Earwicker's pub!



  1. you say "the village inn, called the Phoenix, which stood on the site of the Mullingar House" but according to there was still a Phoenix Tavern in 1912, along with a Mullingar Hotel (run by a woman born in Gibraltar!)

    1. Good find! I wish I could remember where I read that the Mullingar House was on the same site. It's possible that this is a different pub with the same name, or that I'm mistaken

    2. I have a photo of the phoenix tavern on my site "chapelizod old photographs"

    3. Would love to see that.Where can I find it?

  2. first, thank you so much for this site and the articles you've written. i've been reading them backwards. what's earwicker with the backwards E? whatever. this was the first post i read. my wife and i are visiting ireland next month for a wedding and i was poking around the internet looking for fw sites to visit and came upon this. we've been to ireland before, visited phoenix park, martello tower, etc., but i had no idea there was a "pub zero." i got so excited i kind of peed myself a little. i'm still going through your posts, but wondered if you had any other fw sites you would recommend? i recognize that's a rather stupid question, kind of like, "we're going to italy, know where to get some good pasta?" but i'm kind of stupid and thus i'm a fan of stupid questions. anyway, thank you again for all your work and this tip about the mullingar house.

  3. Thanks Bozo Monkey Bear! You could go and visit Howth and watch the Liffey flow by.

    There's also the Vico Road down in Dalkey ('The Vico road goes round and round to meet where terms begin.'452.22)

    If you visit Chapelizod, you could revisit Phoenix Park, with Adam Harvey's guide to Wake locations

    Love your blogs - I see you like beer, and there are some fantastic pubs in Dublin. My favourites are the Stag's Head, the Palace, the Brazen Head, Ryans in Parkgate Street, the Long Hall, Mulligans in Poolbeg Street, McDaids, Neary's, Davy Byrne's, O'Neills on Suffolk Street, and Grogans Castle Lounge.

    Get hold of Colm Quilligan's Dublin Literary Pub Crawl book to find the Joycean connections

    and go on one of his pub crawls!

    Marsh's Library, where the young Joyce read occult books, has an exhibition on until Bloomsday

    1. ah. you are too generous. thank you so much for taking the time to write this all out. this is amazing.

      you might enjoy my new site, (acid invader is an anagram of my real name, david carnie, which i feel obliged to give here, but you can still call me bozo.) i make collages out of a dachshund calendar with stories/captions that you'll note a heavy joycean influence, perhaps to his detriment. at least a couple images in the photography area are directly from fw: "the mime of mick, nick, and the maggies," and there's a "tristan and isolde" piece as well.

      anyway, i digress. i feel like i can't leave soon enough for ireland. feel free to contact me directly at any time. and again, thank you. -dave

  4. See since that you have covered relationship between Jack Joyce and Mullingar Inn!You've prompted me to revisit that part of town..possibly tomorrow-instead of going to the Horseshow!..ah,sure it will be on the TV in the Mullingar Arms anyway!:)

  5. Another great, informative post with a personal touch - thanks. I hope to go there next time I get to Dublin whenever this Corona chaos dies down...