Thursday, 27 February 2014

Mamalujo, 1924

Here’s Ford Madox Ford's transatlantic review, of April 1924, which gave the public a first glimpse at what would become Finnegans Wake.  Ford put Joyce's piece into his ‘From Work in Progress’ section. Joyce liked the phrase ‘Work in Progress’ so much he used it as his working title for the next fifteen years.

Joyce called the piece ‘the Mamalujo episode’, combining the names of the four evangelists1 . It's made up of the composite memories of four decrepit old men, Matt Gregory, Marcus Lyons, Luke Tarpey and Johnny MacDougall. Joyce told Harriet Shaw Weaver that Mamalujo was a ‘study of old age’, and he developed a rambling repetitive style to represent the processes of the senile mind.

As far as I know, Joyce was the first artist to set senility down at length. Listening to an educated man, dying of hardening of the arteries, I realized that he spoke in the manner and matter and very rhythm of the Four. Joyce does not prettify his senescent Four—they are boring, repulsive, sinister—but he does leaven them. A crazy beauty hangs about the honeymoon section... Adaline Glasheen, A Third Census of Finnegans Wake, p97

Mamalujo was written directly after Tristan and Isolde, and as a companion piece to that sketch. So Tristan ends, above the ship, with the birds of the sea singing a mocking song about King Mark.  Mamalujo begins with the four old men listening to the same birdsong:

And there they were too listening in as hard as they could to the solans and sycamores and the migratories and mistle thrushes and all the birds of the sea, all four of them, listening: They were the big four, the four master waves of Erin, all listening, four. There was old Matt Gregory and then besides old Matt there was old Marcus Lyons, the four waves, and oftentimes they used to be saying grace together right enough, here now we are the four of us: old Matt Gregory and old Marcus and old Luke Tarpey: the four of us and sure thank God there are no more of us: and sure now you wouldn't go and forget and leave out the other fellow and old Johnny MacDougall....

The old men are listening to Tristan kissing Isolde, and confusing this kiss with their own nostalgic 'remembored' kisses, mixed up with the plays of Dion Boucicault:

And so they were spraining their ears listening and listening to the oceans of kissening with their eyes glistening all the four when he was kiddling and cuddling his colleen bawn that was very wrong and most improper and cuddling her and kissing her with his poghue like Arrah-na-poghue the dear old annual, they all four remembored who made the world and how they used to be at that time cuddling and kiddling her from under her mistlethrush and kissing  and listening in the good old bygone days of Dion Boucicault....

Pogue is Irish for 'kiss'. Arrah-na-Pogue is Arrah of the kiss.

Later they are described as voyeurs 'peering in, so they say, through the steamy windows into the honeymoon cabins on board the big steamadories'

Like Tristan, this is in mostly clear English, but in several ways, it represents a new development. Joyce has started inventing new words, like 'remembored' and 'steamadories' (a 'dory' is a boat and a fish). He was discovering new techniques, which pointed the way forwards for Finnegans Wake


 'Time and the river and the mountain are the real heroes of my book....I am trying to build many planes of narrative with a single esthetic purpose' 

Joyce quoted by Eugene Jolas, My Friend James Joyce.

The earlier sketches, Roderick O'Conor and Tristan, had only a single plane of narrative. Although Tristan kissing Isolde is described as a football goal, this functions as a metaphor. Isolde's teeth are not really football players.

Mamalujo is the first sketch with many planes of narrative. Joyce's characters are not just old men, in a hospice for the dying, they are also waves of the sea!  Just as Anna Livia Plurabelle would be a woman and a river; HCE a man, a city and a mountain; Shem and Shaun would represent time and space; and Issy would be a rain cloud.

So it's very appropriate that the transatlantic review has a big wave and a ship on its cover! 

As the ‘waves of Erin’, the four are magical waves, drawn from Irish myth, which would roar a warning in times of danger:

‘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 
[tooha] outside the mouth of the Bann in Derry; and Tonn Rudraidhe [Rury]  
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. Sometimes when a king was sore 
pressed in battle and in deadly peril, the Three Waves roared in response to 
the moan of his shield. The Welsh people had a similar legend:  when the 
young Welsh hero Dylan was killed, " he was lamented by the Wave of Erin,
the Wave of Man, the Wave of the North, and the Wave of Britain of the comely 
hosts." Though the three Irish Waves named above were the most celebrated, 
there were several other noted Tonns round the coast. Scotland also had its 
voiceful waves, as our old books record.’

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

This Welsh myth explains why, later in the episode, Joyce calls the old men ‘the four of the Welsh waves’.

Joyce would later name his four waves: ‘The soundwaves are his buffeteers; …the wave of roary and the wave of hooshed and the wave of hawhawhawrd and the wave of neverheedthemhorseluggarsandlistletomine.’ 23.26


I have discovered the importance of numbers in life and history. Dante was obsessed with the number three. He divided his poem into three parts, each with thirty-three cantos, written in terza rima. And why always the arrangement of four – four legs of a table, four legs of a horse, four seasons of the year, four provinces of Ireland? Why are there twelve tables of the law, twelve Apostles, twelve months, and twelve Napoleon's marshals?

Joyce to Adolf Hoffmeister, 'Portrait of Joyce' in Portraits of the Artist in Exile

The men have multiple roles, based on the number four. Apart from being four waves and evangelists, they are the Four Masters – Franciscan friars who, in the 1630s, compiled a history of Ireland from the Biblical flood to the death of Hugh O’Neill in 1616. They are also the four barons who spy on Tristan and Isolde in Joseph Bédier's version of the story.

Joyce associated the old men with many different four groupings. In the Wake, they function as a musical quartet, elements, dimensions, beasts from Revelation, four Irish ecclesiastical sees, compass points, provinces of Ireland, parts of the day, senators, cardinals, margins of the page, judges, seasons, bedposts, ingredients in a salad, corners in a ring, and four magical objects from Irish myth: Nuad's irresistible Sword of Light, Dagda's Cauldron of Plenty, the invincible Spear of Lug (of Victory), and the Stone of Fal (of Destiny). Fweet has this list of their appearances, using Joyce's symbol for the four, a cross.

Joyce associates Mamalujo in his notebooks with the four waves of Erin, compass points, (VI.14.76), with 'cold, warm, moist and dry' (VI.B.17.91), and Blake's Zoas (VI.B.13.228)

Robert-Jan Henkes and Eric Bindervoet, Genetic Studies in Joyce, Issue 4

There are four cardinal points . . . the East and the West, the North and the South. Now, each of these has had its man. There were four men appointed to record all the wonderful events that had taken place in the world. Two of them were born before the Deluge and escaped from the waters, namely Fintan [q.v.] whose duty was to preserve the histories of Spain and Ireland, or the Western World...; and Fors [q.v.]. . . his lot to record the events that happened in the East.. . the others are a grandson of Japheth [q.v.], and a greatgrandson of Shem [q.v.}. The first, whose mission was to do the Northern world ... the other was entrusted with the South. This audacious legend was transcribed into the Leabhar na hUidhre about the year 1100. 

Jubainville, The Irish Mythological Cycle, 46  quoted by Adaline Glasheen, Third Census of Finnegans Wake, p.97


'here now we are the four of us: old Matt Gregory and old Marcus and old Luke Tarpey: the four of us and sure thank God there are no more of us'

Joyce is quoting an old US drinking song here:

Singing Glorious! Glorious!
One keg of beer for the four of us!
Singing glory be to God there are no more of us;
For one of us could drink it all alone! 
This makes repeated appearances in the book, serving as a motif to indicate the presence of the old men. It is one of more than a thousand motifs in Joyce's book, catalogued by Clive Hart in Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake.

Other Mamalujo motifs are Auld Lang Syne'repeating themselves' (itself, himself etc) 'grace before/after fish', 'half a tall hat', and 'pass the fish for Christ sake'. When we read any of these phrases, we know the old men have taken over the narrative.


The old men have four exclamations or sighs: 'Ay, ay!' 'Ah ho!' 'Ah dearo dear!' and 'And so. And all.' Hart identifies each sigh with one of the four, but in the Mamalujo episode, they are used collectively, expressing changes of mood. When the old men assert a platitude, they say 'ay ay': 'The good go and the wicked is left over. Ay, ay.' When they are overcome with nostalgia, they exclaim 'Ah ho!': 'Ah ho! It brought the dear scenes all back again as fresh as of yore'.  Their self pity is evoked by 'Ah dearo, dear!' : 'Ah, dearo dearo dear! It was so sorry for all the whole twice two four of us'. When their narrative runs out of steam,  they say 'And so. And all.': 'and so now pass the loaf for Christ sake, Amen. And so. And all.'


The old men have lived through all of human history, though the events they 'remembore' are confused, and even sexual identity breaks down. Since they are waves, it's not surprising that many of their memories are of floods, naval landings and drownings.


'the drowning of Pharoah and all his pedestrians'
F.A.Bridgman, Pharaoh's Army Engulfed in the Red Sea


all they could remembore long long ago in the olden times and Lally when my heart knew no care and after that then there was the landing of Lady James Casement in the year of the flood 1132 and the christening of Queen Battersby the Fourth according to her grace the bishop, alderwoman J.P. Bishop, Senior, and then there was the drowning of Pharoah and all his pedestrians and they were all completely drowned into the sea, the 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 and a lovely mourning paper and thank God there were no more of him.

the landing of Lady James Casement - The old men are thinking of Roger Casement, who landed from a German submarine in Banna Strand, Tralee, in April 1916.

the year of the flood 1132. This date appears more than thirty times in Finnegans Wake.  It may relate to 'thirtytwo feet per second per second' (Bloom in Ulysses on the Law of Falling Bodies). There are lots of theories about this number. 1+1+3+2= 7, a magic number in the Wake

Queen Battersby the Fourth - Battersby Brothers,  Dublin auctioneers on Westmoreland Street near Trinity College. This is one of the central Dublin locations that run through the piece:

near Clery's beside that ancient Dame street where the statue of Mrs Dana O'Connell behind the Trinity college that arranges all the auctions of valuable colleges. Battersby Sisters, like the auctioneer Battersby Sisters that sells all the fine statues and powerscourts James H Tickell, the jaypee, off Hoggin Green

That includes Dame Street, the statue of Daniel O'Connell, Clery's Department Store and Trinity College.  There was a James H. North J.P., auctioneer and estate agent, at 110 Grafton Street (south of my map).

The old men, stuck in the past, use old place names. They use Hoggin Green, the tenth century name for College Green - the site of the Viking Thing, or assembly. They do not know that Dunleary was renamed Kingstown in 1821, in honour of George IV's visit (The Irish Free State then changed its name back to Dún Laoghaire, with the Irish spelling).


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

Martin Cunningham is a character in Dubliners (Grace) and Ulysses. He was based on a friend of Joyce's father, Matthew F Kane, who was Chief Clerk of the Crown Solicitor's Office in Dublin Castle. Kane really did drown off Dunleary on 10 July 1904. Joyce attended his funeral, and used it as the basis for Paddy Dignam's funeral in Ulysses. This means that Martin Cunningham, a main character in the Hades chapter, is actually attending his own funeral!  Kane's grave in Glasnevin records his role as a model for characters in Ulysses.  It's a shame it doesn't mention Finnegans Wake!

I visited his grave in April 2019, during finnegans wake at 80
He's called 'poor Martin Cunningham' in Dubliners too:

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. He was a thoroughly sensible man, influential and intelligent. His blade of human knowledge, natural astuteness particularised by long association with cases in the police courts, had been tempered by brief immersions in the waters of general philosophy. He was well informed. His friends bowed to his opinions and considered that his face was like Shakespeare's. 

In 1903, Joyce wrote a review of Lady Gregory's folk story collection, Poets and Dreamers:

In her new book...she has explored in a land almost fabulous in its sorrow and senility.  Half of her book is an account of old men and old women in the West of Ireland. These old people are full of stories about giants and witches, and dogs and black-handled knives, and they tell their stories one after another at great length and with many repetitions....The story-tellers are old and their imagination is not the imagination of childhood. The storyteller preserves the strange machinery of fairyland, but his mind is feeble and sleepy. He begins one story and wanders from it into another story, and none of the stories has any satisfying imaginative wholeness. 

This is a good description of the Mamalujo episode, and it makes me wonder if this is the reason that the first old man is called Matt Gregory. 

Joyce would also have been thinking of Swifts immortal decrepit struldbrugs - he calls his own four 'strulldeburghers' (623.23)

They were not only opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative, but incapable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection, which never descended below their grandchildren. Envy and impotent desires are their prevailing passions....They have no remembrance of anything but what they learned and observed in their youth and middle-age, and even that is very imperfect....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
Thomas Morten's struldbrugs, scanned by Simon Cook
the world, should not have their misery doubled by the load of a wife.

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, Chapter 10

Joyce's four old men have also been divorced:

they were all summarily divorced four years before, so they say, by their dear poor shehusbands in dear bygone days and never brought to mind....

The Mamalujo episode provided Joyce with one of many examples of what he believed to be his book's magic power to predict the future:

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


'As soon as Joyce had invented his Old Men...he quickly decided he needed to make them as demented as possible, and he started studying old age and its effects in some depth by delving into serious medical literature. This literature, in turn, supplied him with ideas of what the Old Men should actually be doing in their state of dementia.' Robert-Jan Henkes

That's a quotation from Genetic Joyce Studies, Issue 14. Robert-Jan Henkes identified Dr Costanza Pascal's La Démence Précoce (left) as a major source for Mamalujo. She was a doctor in a clinic who recorded many of the symptoms of patients suffering from dementia. For example, she writes:

'They don’t get into their beds anymore, sleep on the blanket, under their bed, or under those of other people.’

This inspired the anarchically demented behaviour, and the shared bed, of the four old men in Joyce's episode:

'when they were in dreams of yore, standing behind the door, or leaning out of the chair, or kneeling under the sofacover and setting on the souptureen, getting into their way something barbarous, changing the one wet underdown convibrational bed or they used to slumper under...'393.36-394.04. 

Another symptom of dementia described is the breakdown of language, as 'syntactical links (‘but’, ‘by’, ‘if’, etc.) are randomly placed and unite disparate sentences. [...] Nouns, adjectives, verbs are often the casualties of the language of these patients; conjunctions, prepositions grow less numerous. [...] Finally, nouns, adjectives, etc., eventually fade and disappear. Neologisms of dementia, which represent the last stage of erasing images, are constructed with the remains of all these elements.'

Henkes shows how Joyce used these ideas in creating the senile style of Mamalujo, deliberately mislaying prepositions and conjunctions. To create 'neologisms of dementia', he went through the text erasing letters, so that, for example, 'beautiful' at top left, became 'beaufu'.


 You can download the whole article here 



Before Joyce developed a prose style to express senility, he wrote a more conventional version of the piece. This was written in Bognor Regis, in July 1923. It's worth reading for its wonderful surreal humour:

The Four Waves of Erin also heard, leaning upon the staves of memory. Four eminently respectable old gentlemen heladies they looked got up in sleek holiday toggery for the occasion, grey half tall toque, a tailormade frock coat to match fathomglasses and soforth, you know, for all the world apart from the salt water like the fourth viscount Powerscourt or North the auctioneer at the royal Dublin socities annual horseshow. 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 Dunlearey 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 professors to the four chief seats of learning in Erin, the Universities of killorcure, kill them all 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 shehusbands (with whom they had parted on the best of terms) by a decrees absolute issued by Mrs Justice Smashman Squelchman in the married male offenders court at bohernabreena, one for inefficiency in backscratching, too for having broken rere-wind without having first made a request in writing on stamped foolscap paper, three for having attempted hunish familiarities after a meal (of) decomposed crab, four on account of the his general cast of countenance. Though that was ever so long ago they could still with an effort of memory and by counting carefully 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 America.

Yet were they fettlesome anon, lured by the immortal rose of Wombman's| beauty Often would they cling |ato the sides of tentacularly about the ships' waist s of the Northwall and Hollyhead boats and the Isle of Man tourist steamers, peering with glaucomatose unread eyes through the cataractic portholes of honeymoon cabins or saloon ladies toilet apartements. But, when those jossers aforesaid the four waves Four Waves of Erin, heard the detonation of the osculation cataglotism which with ostentation (osculum cum basio necnon suavioque) Tristan to Isolde gave then lifted they up round Irelands 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


One of the readers of the transatlantic review was Joyce's brother Stanislaus, who wondered if it was James Joyce who was going senile!


I have received one instalment of your yet unnamed novel in the Transatlantic Review. I don't know whether the drivelling rigmarole about half a tall hat and ladies' modern toilet chambers (practically the only things I understand in this nightmare production) is written with the deliberate intention of pulling the reader's leg or not....Or perhaps– a sadder supposition – it is the beginning of softening of the brain. The first instalment faintly suggests the Book of the Four Masters and a kind of Biddy in Blunderland and a satire on the supposed matriarchal system. It has certain characteristics of a beginning of something, is nebulous, chaotic but contains certain elements. But! It is unspeakably wearisome. Gorman's book on you practically proclaims your work as the last word in modern literature. It may be the last in another sense, the witless wandering of literature before its final extinction.

Stanislaus Joyce, Letter to James Joyce, 11 July 1924, Letters Vol III p 102-3

1 Joyce might also have been thinking of the Sicilian ‘mammalucco’, or the Spanish ‘mamelujo’, both meaning simpleton (though he hadn’t started punning in other languages yet).


  1. 'The earlier sketches, Roderick O'Conor and Tristan, had only a single plane of narrative' All the early vignettes collapse multiple historic archetypes into one, and use puns to blend contradictory alternate subpaths. Mmlj (which began as an integral part of T&I) is less tethered to a central narrative, but I'll deny Joyce adopted senility for his dominant dreamstyle...

    'he hadn’t started punning in other languages yet' We need to document the evidence here. Even ROC has the unsolved "Roob Coccola", while the full T&I has "andrée dans ma fie", Kevin has "Ishgagrana and Ishgacarrara", Berkeley has its pidgin, and HCE has "Mr. W.W. Semperkelly's immergreen tourers"...

    1. Fair points Tim Finnegan. As far as planes of reality go, it's probably a question of degree - making senile old men waves of the sea is more radical than making a High King a Dublin publican.

      I agree that senility isn't the dominant dreamstyle, but in writing about it he discovered a new linguistic freedom.

      Around the same time, he revised the earlier St Patrick and the Druid, collapsing words together, to make 'huepanepi' and 'panepiwor' from 'hueful panepiphanal'