Tuesday, 4 August 2015

'Wather Parted from the Say'

Finnegans Wake includes lots of comic verse, often set out as verse, but sometimes hidden in the prose:

This is the beginning of a song mocking HCE at the close of the pub episode, on page 371. To set the scene, it's closing time in HCE's pub (based on the Mullingar House, Chapelizod). He is trying to throw the disorderly drinkers out, but they are 'clamatising for an extinsion on his hostillery'. Adding to his sense of urgency, he can hear the sound of an angry mob of 'Mullinguard minstrelsers' marching through Dublin to attack him.

The song is sung by Ostia, who is at the head of the mob. We last heard from him as 'Hosty (no slouch of a name) an illstarred beachbusker', who sings the 'Ballad of Persse O'Reilly' , another song attacking HCE, on pages 44-8.

The last line above is the cheering of the mob listening to Ostia's song, as on page 46:

Lift it, Hosty, lift it, ye devil ye! up with the rann, the rhyming rann!  

'Ostia' is Italian for host – the eucharist, raised by a celebrant, which gives an extra meaning to the mob's call, 'Ostia, lift it!' Orlando Mezzabotta has posted to the online Wake reading group that ''ostia!' is a very common imprecation in Venetian/Triestine dialect. Not really blasphemous: let's say -- a soft swearing. A variant is 'Pan da Ostia' (Host's bread), used to show surprise.'  There's also the Latin 'hostis', meaning enemy.

Ostia is also the port at the mouth of the River Tiber - a fitting name for the singer of a song about water. Its name comes from 'os', the Latin word for 'mouth'. Ostia is the mouthpiece of the mob the hostile host – pursuing HCE.

'Dour douchy' is a play on Tenducci - the Italian soprano castrati, Giusto Fernando Tenducci (1736-90). He was a star in Britain and Ireland, famous for singing the role of Arbaces in Thomas Arnes' 1762 opera Artaxerxes.  Tenducci's big aria was 'Water Parted from the Sea': 

'Water parted from the Sea
May increase the river's tide;
To the bubbling fount may flee
Or thro' fertile valleys glide.
Tho' in search of soft repose,
Thro' the land 'tis free to roam,
Still it murmurs as it flows,
Panting for its native home.'

Tenducci sang this aria in his concerts, in which he also performed traditional Scottish songs.

This led to 'Water Parted from the Sea' being mistakenly included as an old Scottish song in the 'Scots Musical Museum' (right), edited by Robert Burns and James Johnson.

Later in the Wake we have 'tendulcis tunes like tunes like water parted fluted up from the westinders' 541.32 

On the left is another reference to the song in the 1826 memoirs of the Dublin actor and dramatist John O'Keeffe, which I found online.

He quotes a song sung by the 'frolicsome Dublin boys', which Joyce is parodying in his own verse.

The Dublin boys were themselves parodying another song, written in the 17th century.

Tommy was a Piper's Son,
And fell in love when he was young;
But all the Tunes that he could play
Was 'O'er the hills, and far away'.

The verses of Ostia's song are interspersed with descriptions of the marching mob, the disorderly drinkers and HCE's state of mind. The pub is also beginning to be transformed into a ship, which will sail away at the end of the chapter.  It's a classic anxiety dream.

Here's the whole song put together:

Dour douchy was a sieguldson.
He cooed that loud nor he was young.
He cud bad caw nor he was gray
Like wather parted from the say.

For be all rules of sport, ‘tis right
That youth bedower’d to charm the night
Whilst age is dumped to mind the day
When wather parted from the say.

From Dancingtree till Suttonstone
There’s lads no lie would filch a crown
To mull their sack and brew their tay
With wather parted from the say.

His bludgeon’s bruk, his drum is tore.
For spuds we’ll keep the hat he wore
And roll in clover on his clay
By wather parted from the say.

The gangstairs strain and anger’s up
As Hoisty rares the can and cup
To speed the bogre’s barque away
O’er wather parted from the say.

Try singing that to the tune of 'Over the hills and far away'!

Going through verse by verse:

Dour douchy was a sieguldson.
He cooed that loud nor he was young.
He cud bad caw nor he was gray
Like wather parted from the say.

HCE was a seagull's son? A sigurdson? Elsewhere, he's a Viking foreign invader, founder of Dublin. That's followed by one of more than forty Wake pairings of the dove and the raven, released by Noah from his Ark (below).  When HCE was young he cooed loudly, like a dove. Now he's old and gray, he can only 'bad caw', like a raven. 

Noah in his Ark is like HCE in his ship/pub.
He's like 'wather parted from the say', which could be water parted from the self (se = self in Latin), or piss. 

That's just a paraphrase, and no paraphrase can do justice to this strange and beautiful verse.

For be all rules of sport, ‘tis right
That youth bedower’d to charm the night
Whilst age is dumped to mind the day
When wather parted from the say.

This one's much clearer. He's washed up, dumped to mind the day while the young are 'bedower'd to charm the night'. This is the same message as the seagulls' mocking 'Three quarks for Muster Mark!' song on p.383.  It's now 'when' wather parted, the moment of transition to old age.

From Dancingtree till Suttonstone
There’s lads no lie would filch a crown
To mull their sack and brew their tay
With wather parted from the say.

Here's another common Wake pairing - the tree/Shem and the stone/Shaun, the young who will supplant HCE. Shem is the dancing tree, Shaun the sitting stone. Maybe also Dunsink and Sutton in Dublin. They will filch HCE's crown and mull their sack and brew their tea with his water.

His bludgeon’s bruk, his drum is tore.
For spuds we’ll keep the hat he wore
And roll in clover on his clay
By wather parted from the say.

His stick and drum are broken, but we'll keep his hat for our spuds, and roll in clover on his grave, which is the city of Dublin by the River Liffey ('by wather parted').

The gangstairs strain and anger’s up
As Hoisty rares the can and cup
To speed the bogre’s barque away
O’er wather parted from the say.

The mob's anger is up. Ostia is now Hoisty, raising a cup to speed the old bugger/ogre's barque away over the water.

This refers to the pub's transformation into a ship, described on the previous page, where we see the four old men leaving the pub and falling into the sea  ('The for eolders were aspolootly at their westend in the mailing water' 372.34).

At the end of the chapter, the ship sails away, becoming the setting for the Tristan and Isolde episode which follows.

So sailed the stout ship Nansy Hans. From Liff away.  382.27

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


At the Bailey pub, where the first Bloomsday was celebrated
No writer ever gave a more generous gift to their hometown than James Joyce did with Ulysses, his great offering to Dublin.

Imagine if your homeplace was the setting for a big novel about a single summer's day - 16 June 1904. Suppose that that novel was written by a genius, the greatest prose stylist ever, and a writer with astonishing understanding of psychology. James Joyce was all of that and more.

Ulysses were written about your town, you'd be celebrating 16 June every year.  

Yet it took many years for Dublin to embrace Ulysses, which had the reputation of being a 'dirty book'. After Joyce gave a copy to his aunt, Josephine Murray, he learned that she'd said the book 'was not fit to read.' Joyce commented, 'If Ulysses isn't fit to read, life isn't fit to live.'

'There is a group of people who observe what they call Bloom's day – 16 June. They sent me hortensias, white and blue, dyed. I have to convince myself that I wrote that book. I used to be able to talk intelligently about it.' 

Joyce to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 27 June 1924, Letters p216

Dubliners didn't mark Bloomsday until 1954, when Patrick Kavanagh, Antony Cronin, Brian O'Nolan (Flann O'Brien), John Ryan, Tom Joyce (Joyce's cousin)  and Con Leventhal went on a drunken horse-drawn pub crawl through the city. Here's John Ryan's home movie of their 'jant', as Flann O'Brien called it.

Last month, Lisa and I were back in Dublin for our first Bloomsday since the centenary in 2004.  The festival has got even bigger and more celebratory since then, and there's no escaping from Joyce.

On Grafton Street I bumped into (or rather pursued with my camera) John Shevlin, the official James Joyce lookalike for the James Joyce Centre.  He's also a milliner and he specializes in making straw hats, including excellent panamas, as worn by Buck Mulligan. Bloomsday is great for his hat business.
Joyce even pops up in topiary form down in Sandycove. Here I am, flying the flag for Finnegans Wake by wearing a 100 Letter Thunderword t-shirt. I posted a picture of this on twitter (@peterchrisp), where Judd Staley pointed out that it's only got 99 letters. It's missing an 'a' in the second line!

Ulysses is the nearest thing to a time machine, allowing the reader to visit the pubs and shops and streets of Dublin, as they were more than a century ago. Visiting the real city on Bloomsday is like stepping into the pages of the book itself.

Joyce's book is written on the very streets of Dublin, in the form of Robin Buick's 14 bronze plaques recording Leopold Bloom's walk from the newspaper office to Davy Byrne's pub, where he has his lunch.

You can follow Bloom to Davy Byrne's, and eat the same lunch that he has - a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy.

'Mr Bloom ate his strips of sandwich, fresh clean bread, with relish of disgust, pungent mustard, the feety savour of green cheese. Sips of his wine soothed his palate. Not logwood that. Tastes fuller this weather with the chill off. Nice quiet bar. Nice piece of wood in that counter. Nicely planed. Like the way it curves there.'

They have a cutout of Joyce outside the pub.

Davy Byrne's also sells a beautiful creamy pint of Guinness.

You don't need to have read Ulysses to join in the Bloomsday celebration. In Books Upstairs on D'Olier Steet, I picked up a copy of 'Romping through Ulysses', which is described as 'the perfect guide to help you plan your Bloomsday adventure and bluff your way through Ulysses. Use it to unravel the mysteries of Joyce’s big book or explore Dublin through his spectacles. Find out what’s happening in the story, what to wear and places to visit to bring the novel and its Irish writer to life.'

It's packed with funny suggestions for re-enacting the various chapters ('Give everyone a royal wave', 'Break out into song in a bar on Ormond Quay', 'Have improper thoughts in a public place').  

We went to The New Theatre by the Liffey, where we watched Declan Gorman's excellent one-man play, The Dubliners Dilemma.  He acts out Joyce's short stories 'An Encounter', 'Two Gallants', 'Counterparts' and ' A Mother', and frames them with the exchange of letters between Joyce and his anxious publisher, Grant Richards.  Here he is on the flyer, being the boy in 'An Encounter', playing at Cowboys and Indians.

After the play, we walked south to Marsh's Library, where, in 1902, the student Joyce was reading arcane books. In Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus remembers his visits to the 'stagnant bay of Marsh's Library where you read the fading prophecies of Joachim Abbas'.   
Marsh's Library is also in Stephen Hero

'During his wanderings Stephen came on an old library in the midst of those sluttish streets which are called old Dublin. The library had been founded by Archbishop Marsh and though it was open to the publlc few people seemed aware of its existence. The librarian, delighted at the prospect of a reader, showed Stephen niches and nooks inhabited by dusty brown volumes...' 

They've brought out those dusty brown volumes for a fascinating exhibition, 'James Joyce: Apocalypse and Exile'.  We learned that, in 1902, Joyce was mainly reading Franciscan literature, much of it written by Irish friars in exile on the continent. The exhibition argues that Joyce identified with these Irish scholars, forced to flee to mainland Europe, where they created a body of literature which shaped Irish culture and history.

After the exhibition, we dropped in at my favourite Joycean shrine, Sweny the Chemist on Lincoln Place, where Bloom buys his bar of lemon soap. The volunteers were busy wrapping hundreds of bars of the soap to sell on Bloomsday.

I've posted before about Sweny's here and here.  While I was there, I bought yet another bar of soap to add to my collection.

We also called in at the James Joyce Centre, north of the Liffey,  to 'rub Joyce's relic'.  That's the door knocker of No 7 Eccles Street, home of Leopold Bloom.

On that Friday evening, we ended up in Kavanagh's, the Gravediggers Pub, by the gates of Glasnevin cemetery - scene of Paddy Dignam's funeral. We were meeting our Dublin friends Kevin and Olga, whose cousin, Ciaran, helps run this great pub. It's been in his family for six generations.

Here's Ciaran and his wife Alfreda, who were fresh from the Bloomsday messenger bike rally, which is held every year to raise money for disadvantaged children.  They made the news two years ago, when they got married during the ride!  I found this picture of them on the RTE news webpage.

Alfreda told the Irish Times, 'We had the best dressed guests ever at a wedding that day.' 

This also means that Ciaran and Alfreda now have every wedding anniversary sorted - they just have to dress in Edwardian costume and cycle around Dublin, with many of their original wedding guests cycling along.



For Bloomsday itself, we'd bought tickets to ride the Ulysses Express, a special train ride hosted by Happenings ('We Animate Public Space with Spontaneous, Meaningful Cultural Events'), supported by Failte Ireland. This cost just 12 euros a ticket, and has to be the best value event I've ever spent money on.

Getting to the station early, we called in at All Hallows Church, and were astonished to find a Bloomsday concert underway. Carole O'Connor was playing the organ, and Simon Heaps, a tenor and Connie Murray, a soprano, sang 'Love's Old Sweet Song', 'The Holy City' and 'I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls'.

Bloom visits this very church in the Lotus Eaters, and is disappointed that no music is being played:

'Mr Bloom looked back towards the choir. Not going to be any music. Pity. Who has the organ here I wonder? Old Glynn he knew how to make that instrument talk, the vibrato: fifty pounds a year they say he had in Gardiner street.'

On the way out, I took this photo of the Holy Water stoup, which Joyce describes as black.  

'He stood a moment unseeing by the cold black marble bowl while before him and behind two worshippers dipped furtive hands in the low tide of holy water.'

Did he make a rare mistake, or is this a newer stoup?

At Pearse Station, they were getting ready for us, lining up the straw hats and Bloomsday paraphernalia.

Everybody got a straw hat, a bow tie, a flower and a lucky potato (Bloom has one in his pocket given to him by his mother as a lucky charm. It's called a 'Potato Preservative against Plague and Pestilence')

We than went on a guided walking tour of the Joycean sites, including the Antient Concert Rooms, Trinity College, Finn's Hotel, Sweny the chemist's,  and the corner of Merrion Square, where Joyce was stood up on his first date with Nora Barnacle. In the alley where Bloom reads his clandestine letter from Martha, Lisa was asked to read the letter out, and she did it beautifully - the first of several Bloomsday Ulysses readings.

Ronan, our entertaining guide, wore a dressing gown in honour of Buck Mulligan.

Back at the station, we were given generous 'refreshments', in the form of glasses of Burgundy and crackers with gorgonzola cheese.

There was a mass sing-song of 'Love's Old Sweet Song', which Molly Bloom sings in the book.  I filmed it and put here on youtube.

The train ride down to Sandycove was a party in full swing, with more music and dancing. We had 'My Girl's a Yorkshire Girl', 'Those Lovely Seaside Girls' and other songs from Ulysses

There were several top-ups of Burgundy.

The wine alone was worth the ticket price! 

Here's Lisa (left) next to the best-dressed woman on the train. If I'd been wearing that outfit, I would certainly have spilled red wine down it!

At Sandycove, we were met by Joe Fitzgerald, who does walking tours of Dun Laoghaire. He handed us over to one of his guides, who told us all about the Martello Tower.  Then, at the foot of the Tower, Joe introduced the singer, Andrew Basquille, who sang the whole plot of Ulysses to us in two and a half minutes! It began:

'On the 16th of June nineteen hundred and four
The tower was the place to be
With stately plump Buck Mulligan 
And the scrotumtightening sea...'
Joe Fitzgerald and Andrew Basquille
Here he is singing it on youtube.

This was followed straight after by another unexpected delight - a performance by Caitriona Ni Threasaigh and Mary Pat Moloney of the two washerwomen from Finnegans Wake

I loved the way they transformed into a stone (left) and a tree at the end.

Ho, talk save us! My foos won’t moos. I feel as old as yonder elm. A tale told of Shaun or Shem? All Livia’s daughtersons. Dark hawks hear us. Night! Night! My ho head halls. I feel as heavy as yonder stone. Tell me of John or Shaun? Who were Shem and Shaun the living sons or daughters of? Night now! Tell me, tell me, tell me, elm! Night night! Telmetale of stem or stone. Beside the rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters of. Night!
We went into the Tower,  squeezed our way to the top, and found the celebrated Dublin actor, Bryan Murray, reading from Ulysses. He read the very passage in which Bloom eats his gorgonzola sandwich!  I filmed a bit of this too. That's Lisa in the hat on the right with the dark glasses.

The Joyce Tower has the best collection of Joyceania anywhere, including his guitar, walking stick, a hunting waistcoat embroidered by his grandmother, a tie he gave Samuel Beckett, letters and rare editions, and his death mask. The astonishing thing is that it's open all year round, run by volunteers, and it's free! Here's the website.

Leaving Sandycove, we got off the train at Sydney Parade, and walked north, on the trail of Stephen Dedalus, along Sandymount Strand. 

We saw a dog run past, which reminded me of the dog Stephen sees here in the Proteus episode:

'A point live dog, grew into sight, running across the sweep of sand....Suddenly he made off like a bounding hare, ears flung back, chasing the shadow of a lowskimming gull. The man's shrieked whistle struck his limp ears. He turned, bounded back, came nearer, trotted on twinkling shanks.'

That was how our Bloomsday ended, though we spent the evening drinking in two other great pubs, Neary's and Lanigans.

The window of the Old Stand pub

In 1924, while in hospital, recovering from his fifth eye operation, a despondent James Joyce wrote in his notebook:

'Today 16 June 1924 twenty years after. Will anybody remember this date?’ 

The answer today is a resounding 'Yes they will YES!' 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Great Kiswahili Controversy of 1962-3

Let me take you back to the the Great Kiswahili Controversy, which set the pages of the Wake Newslitter ablaze in 1962-3.

I first came across this historic dispute in Roland McHugh's gripping 1981 book, The Finnegans Wake Experience, which is out of print but can be found on google books. For this blog, I've also gone back to the Newslitter, which you can download for free from the wonderful Joycetools webpage.

The back cover of McHugh's book

The beginning of the 1960s was a momentous time in the Wake world. 'In the 1950s,' writes McHugh, 'it had been really difficult to publish articles about FW: editors balked at the ravings of late Joyce....Then in 1962, Clive Hart and Fritz Senn founded A Wake Newslitter, and a new age began.'

The new age marked the end of what the Wake-loving Connecticut housewife, Adaline Glasheen, called 'the amateur's age of unriddling': 

'It was a time when Finnegans Wake was yet outside literature, criticism, scholarship, when it had no price on the literary exchange, when it seemed capable of solution or dissolution at any moment....Work was imaginative, unstructured, freely shared, and great delight was taken in our unexampled chance to explore a charming and enigmatic landscape....It is commonly said...that because Finnegans Wake was so hard to read and so uncertain of permanent literary value that only the amateur could afford to unriddle it....The amateur age was over when Mr Hart and Mr Senn published A Wake Newslitter.'

Adaline Glasheen, Introduction to A Tour of the Darkling Pain: The Finnegans Wake Letters of Thornton Wilder and Adaline Glasheen, University College Dublin Press, 2001
Here's Newslitter co-founder, Clive Hart, described by Roland McHugh as 'an Australian of a jovial and genial disposition...like myself trained in the sciences – physics in fact – and...also a major international authority on medieval kites and windsocks.'

Hart in 1967, from flickr
He's one of the two main figures in our Kiswahili Controversy.

The second figure is Jack P. Dalton, a New York textual scholar, notorious for his vituperative attacks on fellow Joyceans. There are some astounding stories about Dalton's behaviour in Fritz Senn's Joycean Murmoirs, where I found this photograph of him.   

The cantankerous Jack P. Dalton lays down the law

Here's a typical blast of Dalton, from his 1963 Newslitter review of David Hayman's First Draft Version of Finnegans Wake: 

'Damn it, Hayman, you make me ill with rage. The creation of such monstrous vile filth as this, and all the rest of it, should be a criminal offense, necessarily capital. That it is not is a grave defect of our society.'

Dalton and Hart were co-editors of Twelve and a Tilly, a 1966 book of essays marking the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Wake. Dalton submitted a preface for it in which he maligned every single one of his contributors! 



The controversy began when an amateur Wakean, Philipp Wolff, a Swiss who had lived in Africa, recognized a number of Kiswahili words in the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter. His list was published in the Newslitter in December 1962. Here's an example, from the washerwomen's discussion of the contents of Anna Livia's bag of gifts:


'But what was the game in her mixed baggyrhatty? Just the tembo in her tumbo or pilipili from her pepperpot? Saas and tass and specis bizaas.' 209.11 

Wolff writes:  '(here they come thick and fast): tembo = native beer, also elephant; tumbo =belly; pilipili = pepper; saa = hour, watch, clock; taa = light, lantern; bidhaa = trade goods, merchandise. ' 

Dalton responded to Wolff's post with a revised Kiswahili list, published in the April 1963 Newslitter, with a typically snooty introduction:

'It is unfortunate that this note is so lengthy and detailed; especially so, since the original list, had it been done correctly, would have occupied less space than it actually did, and the necessity for this paper would have been obviated....I am not so much interested in Kisuahili, or in Herr Wolff’s performance, or the Litter’s performance, as I am concerned with the foundation of logical principles and practices on which FW scholarship must come to rest, if it is ever to amount to anything more than a stumbling block to the serious student, and a butt of derision for scoffers.'

Using Kiswahili dictionaries, Dalton then confirmed 80% of Wolff's findings. Yet he scornfully rejected others, such as the 'elephant' reading of 'tembo in her tumbo':
'I see no reason for calling ‘tembo’ ‘native beer,’ when it is universally, and correctly, called ‘palm wine'....Also, though fun is fun, I’m afraid I’ll have to draw the line on there being an ‘elephant’ in ALP’s belly. Is Herr Wolff serious?

For '
And what was the wyerye rima she made!' (200.33), Wolff had suggested 'rima: pit for catching large animals.'

Here's Dalton's withering response

'I suggest, for instance, that an extended explanation of just why ALP should be digging a ‘pit for catching large animals’ would (or should, at any rate) bring such a plethora of hearty guffaws as to render further discussion unnecessary.'

This is extraordinarily mean-spirited. Dalton wouldn't even have been looking through Kiswahili dictionaries if Wolff hadn't spotted these words in the first place!

Dalton called for a new 'professional' approach to Wake interpretation, based on the evidence of Joyce's manuscripts.

'Now the list I have presented...stands quite perfectly on its own two feet...However, there is a most interesting aspect of it not yet noted – all the words in the list were added to FW at the same time.'

Dalton knew about the composition process because he was a professional academic, who spent much of his time studying Joyce's manuscripts in the University of Buffalo (according to Fritz Senn, Dalton 'considered its Joyce holdings his own territory and guarded them fiercely').  

But most 1960s Wake readers did not have access to Joyce's manuscripts. McHugh writes that when Dalton's paper appeared, 'it must have seemed that the right of the layman to present his guesswork in the genial Forum of the Litter was threatened.'

An elephant I photographed in the Phoenix Park Zoo


Dalton's paper drew an eloquent response from Clive Hart in an article titled 'An Elephant in the Belly' published in the next Newslitter, and later reprinted in A Wake Digest:
'Mr Dalton says, first: ‘I’m afraid I’ll have to draw the line on there being an “elephant” in ALP’s belly’, and then hopes for a plethora of guffaws at the idea that Anna should be seen digging a Very Dip Pit for Heffalumps. These rejections show, I think, three things: first, rather too much insistence on a rational reading of the text; second, a certain lack of artistic sensibility; third, the unwarranted ignoring...of Joyce’s use and abuse of the surrealist mode which was so popular during the heyday of the book’s composition, and which he so richly parodies and cunningly pillages....We must not dismiss too lightly Joyce’s delight in the chance meanings of words, the peculiar interaction often caused by their juxtaposition, and the power of verbal circumstance. That the accidents of language could stuff an elephant into Anna’s world-bearing womb was the kind of thing that delighted Joyce....Whether Joyce himself ever knew about the stuffing, in this particular instance, is quite beside the point. To dismiss such a reading as ridiculously incorrect is to ignore the better half of the book.'

Hart here makes the striking claim that it is irrelevant whether Joyce knew about the 'elephant in the belly' meaning when he wrote the sentence - the reading can still stand. Dalton had wanted to minimise the range of meanings, based on Joyce's conscious intentions, revealed by the composition process. To Hart, this is an example of what the New Criticism called the 'intentional fallacy':

'It is certainly possible, by means of a reversal of Joyce’s process of composition, rationally to extract and isolate the deposits of discrete pieces of denotation from which the book was originally compounded.... What I am suggesting, however, is that it constitutes a most restrictive form of fallacious intentionalism.'

(The 'Intentional Fallacy' is a 1946 essay by W.K.Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, who wrote, 'The design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art.')

McHugh quotes a letter that Hart sent him in 1968:

'Most modern critics will say, rightly or wrongly, that it doesn't matter a damn what any author intended, except in so far as that intention is borne out by the work itself. ''For all we know, JJ may have intended FW to be a cookery book. Who cares what he thought? What are the book's intentions?'''

Back to Hart's Newslitter article, where he cites Joyce himself in support of anti-intentionalism:

'An anti-intentionalist reading of the text seems, paradoxically, to have Joyce’s sanction—to have been, as it were, part of his intention....He seems to have wanted meanings to accrete in his text by hindsight as well as by means of his own constant redistortions of the vocabulary....How else are we to interpret his delight in the Finns and the Russian Generals?....Joyce wanted to be a prophet.'

Here Hart could also have cited Joyce's use of chance as a collaborator, and his statement, 'Really it is not I who am writing this crazy book. It is you, and you, and you, and that man over there, and that girl at the next table.'
Joyce also wanted his readers to be creative. He told Adolf Hoffmeister that his work could 'satisfy more readers than any other book because it gives them the opportunity to use their own ideas in the reading.' 

Here's Hart's conclusion:

 'Joyce’s comments in his letters and in conversation make it quite clear that he had the common reader in mind as much as the literary sophisticate. He intended the book to contain something for everybody, hoped that readers from any part of the world would find rivers they could recognize, dialects with which they were familiar. He said that he was writing in a ‘Big Language’....There seems every reason to approve of Mr Wolff’s approach as well as of Mr Dalton’s. Part of Joyce’s aim, with his Big Language, was evidently to provide a level of significance to readers familiar with Swahili as living speech....The scholarly approach, which attempts to clarify and define with precision... is a highly artificial way of reading FW. We are bringing literary experience to bear on it, rather than personal experience, and I have no doubt which of the two Joyce would prefer to see used.'


Dalton's intentionalism and Hart's creative approach are two very different ways of reading Finnegans Wake. It's always struck me that most books about the Wake, and even Wake readers, tend to fall either on one side or the other. McHugh comes down on the side of Dalton's intentionalism, welcoming its restrictiveness:

'For most readers, a satisfied conviction that a particular interpretation is apt will rarely occur without at least a suspicion of authorial intent. And Anti-intentionalism is a fearful stimulus to what is known as the 'lunatic fringe' of FW studies. As Hart himself observes of the Wake, 'Too often its convolutions have been treated as a kind of endless verbal equivalent of the Rorschach Ink-blot Test.' Against this backdrop, the restrictive quality of the manuscript approach seems a welcome curb.'

In his account of a 1971 Wake reading session, McHugh describes himself as a 'minimizer':

'At an early stage Matthew Hodgart underlined a distinction: the maximizers, such as himself, were delighted at every additional level that could be envisaged....On the other hand minimizers such as myself tried to cut the allusions to the smallest number which would account for all the letters in the word.' 

So in his Annotations to Finnegans Wake, McHugh only accepted readings which could be shown to be intended by Joyce - using the evidence of his notebooks, letters and authorized glosses. The same approach is now taken by Raphael Slepon on his fweet website (to the occasional frustration of creative readers, when they have their findings rejected). 

The 1978 publication of facsimiles of Joyce's manuscripts and notebooks as The Joyce Archive (right) gave a big boost to the intentionalist approach. 

The same year, Danis Rose brought out The Index Manuscript, an accurate transcription of the notebook with Joyce's original Kiswahili wordlist.  In his introduction, Rose defines Finnegans Wake as 'an ordered aggregate of elements each of which can be identified with a unit entered in one of the notebooks....The notebooks are primarily compilations of units, each of which can be identified with a fragment appearing in some external source.' 

Rose makes the extraordinary claim that, without the notebooks, it's impossible to read Finnegans Wake. 

'By relating textual elements (comprising drafts) to units (comprising notebooks) and units to referents (external sources)...the primary meaning...can be established....Without a knowledge of the referents these structures are ultimately vacuous and induce in the reader mental exhaustion (through the strain of supplying forced referents).'

Rose's is an extreme version of Dalton's intentionalist, anti-creative, position. A creative interpretation of the Wake involves 'forced referents' inducing 'mental exhaustion'!
By the time I subscribed to the Newslitter, in 1979, it had been largely taken over by notebook scholars like Rose and McHugh, tracking down those external sources.

I caught the last years of the Newslitter, subscribing from 1979 to 1984

Here's how the Genetic Wakean, Geert Lernout, justifies the notebook approach:

'This type of discovery differs fundamentally from that of the literary critic who finds a thought or a formula to describe a poem or a novel, or who manages to apply a fashionable theory to a text. The results of such interpretations are more or less interesting. Findings that derive from a radical philological approach belong to a different category: they are true in a different sense for the simple reason that they can be proven wrong. That is why a small number of Wake critics are turning to the notebooks: we are doing a type of research that is falsifiable and therefore scientific in Karl Popper's sense of the word.'

'The Finnegans Wake Notebooks and Radical Philology', Genetic Studies in Joyce, ed Hayman and Slote, p.48


To finish, let's look again at that phrase, 'tembo in her tumbo'.

'But what was the game in her mixed baggyrhatty? Just the tembo in her tumbo or pilipili from her pepperpot? Saas and tass and specis bizaas.' 209.11 

If you read this aloud, you can see that Joyce probably chose these particular words because of their sound as much as their Kiswahili meanings.

Here's Joyce's original Kiswahili (spelled yet another way!) wordlist transcribed in Rose's Index Manuscript:

This shows that Joyce thought 'tembo' meant 'palm-wine'  – Wolff's 'native beer' – rather than 'elephant'.


But  below 'tumbo' Joyce has 'utumbu', meaning 'bowels', a reading which might have startled Dalton even more than 'belly'!