Tuesday, 21 August 2018

James Joyce in Nice

Here's a picture of a plaque unveiled on the wall of the Hotel Suisse in Nice in July 2013.  I found it on the Riviera Buzz website, which reported:

'Joyce had stayed at the hotel in October 1922, where he started working on the novel that was to become Finnegans Wake, a work that was to take up 17 years of his life.
   The unveiling was attended by the Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, the Irish Ambassador to France, Paul Kavanagh, Bono, Pierre Joannon, the Irish Consul General on the Côte d’Azur....
    Messrs. Estrosi and Kavanagh officially unveiled the plaque. This has also been a busy couple of days in France for Bono, as he headed to Paris yesterday to be made commandeur de l’ordre des arts et des lettres in Paris.'

Here's a picture of the dedication ceremony from the Irish Times. 

At the ceremony, Bono made a speech in which he said, 'What U2 tries to do in music and words, (Joyce) could do with just words.'  Yes Bono really did say that!  Watch him say it here on youtube, and then watch John Cooper Clark asking, 'Who stole Bongo's trousers?'

The Hotel Suisse was one of those grand seaside resort hotels that Joyce spent so much of the 1920s and 1930s staying in.  He was there from mid October to 12 November 1922. Oh to be able to go on a Joyce trail around the seaside hotels of Europe!  (You can do it if you have the money - Danis Rose has listed all the hotel addresses in Appendix A to The Textual Diaries of James Joyce)

The story that Joyce began Finnegans Wake here was news to me. Ellmann covers the holiday briefly, and makes no mention of him starting a new book:

'The weather suddenly turned inclement, and the rain and windstorms had a deleterious effect upon his eye. He had to consult Dr Louis Colin, who applied five leeches to drain the blood from the eye....The holiday...was a failure.'  

Ellmann 1982, p537

I'd always believed that the Wake began in Paris the following year. Joyce wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver on 11 March 1923:
'Yesterday I wrote two pages – the first I have written since the final Yes of Ulysses'

Letters I p 202
In fact, Joyce had done a lot of preparation before writing those two pages....



'I am quite content to go down to posterity as a scissors and paste man'

Joyce to George Antheil, 3 January 1931, Letters 1, 297

The connection between the Wake and Nice was discovered by Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon, in their article 'A Nice Beginning: On The Ulysses/Finnegans Wake Interface', published in European Joyce Studies 2, (1990).  This begins with a 1929 questionnaire sent to Joyce by Frank Crowninshield, editor of Vanity Fair:

'How long has Joyce been at this new book?'
'7 years. Since October 1922. Begun at Nice.'

In a brilliant piece of detective work, they were able to date one of Joyce's notebooks to his stay in Nice.  It's an unruled children's exercise book, now in the University of Buffalo, known as VI.B.10.  A facsimile has been published by Brepols, but it costs 85 euros.

The earliest entries in the notebook are lists of Ulysses corrections, which Joyce had been collecting for months. Vincent Deane, editor of the notebook, told The Irish Times what happened next:

'He started doing some corrections in a child’s copy book. After a page or two, he complains of boredom, and begins taking notes from newspapers, harvesting material for later. This is where he drops Ulysses. He found writing a new book a more interesting use of his time. It’s like a photograph: you see James Joyce sitting in the hotel, facing the Baie des Anges, taking notes from the Daily Mail and The Irish Times, and he’s launched.' 

From the All Things Riviera website
Deane identified the sources of many of the notes as articles in The Irish Times, The Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Sketch, Evening Standard, Illustrated Sunday Herald, Sunday Express and Sunday Times. Joyce received these every day from Ireland and England.


The key dating evidence comes from this note:

'King Beaver redwhiskered 
policeman on a
green bicycle'

The source of this is a letter in the Irish Times about the game of Beaver,  a new craze which began in England in early 1922. Points were scored by spotting a passer-by with a beard or moustache and shouting 'Beaver!' or 'Walrus!'. Read about the game in the Saturday Gallery blog, where I found these cartoons.

Charles Grave's cartoon from Punch 1922
The Irish Times letter was from a Beaver player (Douglas from Dundalk) defending the game against an earlier letter attacking it:
'One need neither howl nor shout nor in any way offend the feelings of those who flaunt face-fungus in the form of either a 'Walrus' or a 'Beaver'....a 'Royal Beaver' is a man afflicted with a full outfit of face-fittings – to wit, beard and moustache – while a 'King Beaver' is a red-whiskered policeman riding a green bicycle.'

Irish Times 20 October 1922 

Joyce read this soon after it was published, for he refers to it in a letter to Harriet Shaw Waver from Nice, on 8 November.  She had told him that she believed that her house was being watched by a plain clothes policeman. Joyce replied: 'That solitary detective is an interesting figure. Is he what the English call a King Beaver, that is an Irish constabularyman with red whiskers, riding a red bicycle?' (Letters III, 193)

H.M.Bateman cartoon in Punch 1922

These newspapers were full of news of the Irish Civil War, raging in late 1922, but Joyce chose to ignore all the political stories (See Gert Lernout's lecture, 'Joyce as a Reader'). He preferred bizarre quirky items, like a 'redwhiskered poilceman on a green bicycle'.

Robbert-Jan Henkes describes the sort of stories that caught Joyce's bloodshot eye:

'Joyce took notes from the cooking sections for making apple pies and syllabubs, he made a list of London churches, took down quite a few golf terms scattered throughout the notebook, he noted words and phrases from ‘Our Ladies Letter’ section, facts about bats, expressions like ‘search me’, ‘pon my Sam’, ‘I bet you,’ and ‘holybones’, he took words from advertisements for per­sonnel (‘Youth wanted’), advertisements for Bird’s Egg Substitute cake-meal (‘a tin with a purpose’), for Hustler soap, for the Colgate Shaving Stick, for the Schoolgirl’s Weekly Magazine; one of his favourite pastimes is finding out of the way surnames from the births, marriages and deaths sections, possibly for his future characters.'

'Before King Roderick Became Publican in Chapelizod', Genetic Joyce Studies, Spring 2012

When Joyce was taking these notes, he can have had little idea of the sort of book he was going to write. Perhaps he saw his notes as 'the bread of everyday life', the raw material for his art.

'I am trying … to give people some kind of intellectual pleasure or spiritual enjoyment by converting the bread of everyday life into something that has a permanent artistic life of its own'  

quoted by Stanislaus Joyce, My Brother's Keeper

From March 1923, when he finally started writing the new book, he quarried the notebook for phrases, images and names. In fweet you can find hundreds of uses of this one notebook.
Joyce remembered beaver beards when he wanted to describe an unattractive older man from the point-of-view of a young woman. So, in the Tristan episode, Isolde views old King Mark with distaste as 'the tiresome old hairyg orangogran beaver' 396.16

And there's this footnote, written by Issy, which also refers to King Mark of Cornwall ('Cormwell')

'If old Herod with the Cormwell’s eczema was to go for me like he does Snuffler whatever about his blue canaries I’d do nine months for his beaver beard.' 260.F2

Another VI.B.10 note, 'walrus', from the same story, gave Joyce the walrus moustache of the king who gives HCE his name:

'Our sailor king, who was draining a gugglet of obvious adamale, gift both and gorban, upon this, ceasing to swallow, smiled most heartily beneath his walrus moustaches.' 31.11

Here's a typical page from the notebook, reproduced in the Brepols' Reader's Guide to their edition.


At the top here, Joyce has made notes about theatre superstitions:

'stage superstition 
no title with 'golden' 
not say tag 
Macbeth bad 
not whistle 
not quote Hamlet 
no peacock's feathers' 

The source of these notes is 'Actors less Superstitious' an article in The Daily Mail of 18 November 1922 (identified in McHugh's latest edition of Annotations).

Three of these later found their way into Finnegans Wake

'I will ask you not to whisple, cry golden or quoth mecback'  412.21

Underneath there is this set of notes

'dear delightful firelit hours
shortest of culottes
woolback satin

These come from the 17 November 1922  'Woman and the Home' column in the Irish Times:

'Since our sense of order is satisfied by having 'things to match', there is a nightdress, a petticoat, and the shortest of 'culottes', embroidered with white heather ... The dear delightful firelit hours can be doubly appreciated if one is the possessor of a becoming negligée. In wool-back satin or velveteen this garment need not be inordinately expensive, ... Short negligées, for those who are sick-a-bed and inclined to be luxurious, can be fashioned of scraps of georgette and lace'
(quoted by Gert Lernout, 'Joyce as a Reader')

From this, Joyce took the word 'sickabed', which he used in the 'Mamalujo' episode, his treatment of senility:

'he was dead seasickabed (it was really too bad!) her poor old divorced male, in the housepays for the daying at the Martyr Mrs MacCawley’s'  392.06.

You can see that the word 'sickabed' has been crossed out in the notebook Joyce did this to stop him using entries more than once.

This is a very strange way to write a book! 


'Fr Bern. Vaughan granted privilege of portable altar'  VI.B.10.013.e

This notebook entry comes from an obituary of the famous Jesuit priest, Father Bernard Vaughan, in the Irish Times.
'As a mark of special favour in 1916 Father Vaughan received a letter from Pope Benedict XV, congratulating him upon his jubilee in the priesthood and granting him the privilege of a portable altar.' 

Irish Times 1 November 1922

I found Pope Benedict's letter about the altar in C.C. Martindale's biography of Vaughan.

Beginning the Wake, Joyce gave Father Bernard Vaughan's portable altar to his own priest figure, St Kevin, making it a combination altar and bathtub!:

Procreated on the ultimate ysland of Yreland in the encyclical yrish archipelago, come their feast of precreated holy whiteclad angels, whomamong the christener of his, voluntarily poor Kevin, having been graunted the praviloge of a priest’s postcreated portable altare cum balneo...  605.04 

A portable altar from Father Carota's Traditional Catholic Priest blog

Unlike many of the other stories Joyce took notes from, it's easy to see why he was interested in Vaughan's obituary.  The priest had fascinated Joyce for decades. Here's a 1906 letter to Stanislaus:

'Father B.V. is the most diverting public figure in England at present. I never see his name but I expect some enormity.'

Joyce to Stanislaus, 10 October 1906, Letters II, 182

Vaughan was the model for the grotesque worldly priest in 'Grace':

'In 'Grace', in which the preacher...chooses a difficult text and deals with it like a self-confident charlatan, he used as his model for the preacher of the sermon, Father Purdon, the figure of Father Bernard Vaughan, a very popular evangelist in those days, whose name was frequently in the newspapers and who had appeared to crowded congregations also in Dublin. He was a Jesuit, a member of an old English family, and a vulgarian priest in search of publicity. Besides preaching from his legitimate stage, the pulpit, he used to deliver short breezy talks from inappropriate places, such as the boxing ring before a champion match. My brother's contempt for him is evident in the choice of name with which he adorned him, Father Purdon. The old name for the street of the brothels in Dublin was Purdon Street.'

Stanislaus Joyce, My Brother's Keeper, p 225

Vaughan meets an Iroquois chief in Canada

'He came to speak to business men and he would speak to them in a businesslike way. If he might use the metaphor, he said, he was their spiritual accountant.'


‘He willingly used trade expressions – he liked to say that he belonged 'to the firm that defied all competition,' and was for ever talking about 'delivering the goods'.

C.C.Martindale, Bernard Vaughan S.J., Longmans 1923 p.57

Father Vaughan in China. Did he get his portable altar out?

Vaughan also appears in Ulysses, where the genteel Father John Conmee thinks about his habit of using cockney dialect in his sermons:

'Yes, it was very probable that Father Bernard Vaughan would come again to preach. O, yes: a very great success. A wonderful man really.....Father Conmee walked and, walking, smiled for he thought on Father Bernard Vaughan's droll eyes and cockney voice. 
—Pilate! Wy don't you old back that owlin mob? 
A zealous man, however. Really he was. And really did great good in his way. Beyond a doubt. He loved Ireland, he said, and he loved the Irish. Of good family too would one think it? Welsh, were they not?'

'Wandering Rocks'

Bloom thinks about the same sermon:

'Father Bernard Vaughan's sermon first. Christ or Pilate? Christ, but don't keep us all night over it.'

"Lotus Eaters'

So with Vincent Deane's identification of the 'portable altar', we can now say that Father Bernard Vaughan SJ makes an appearance in Dubliners, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake!

From the Linenhall Library Postcard Collection

Well done Nice for putting a plaque on the Hotel Suisse! Isn't it time Paris started placing a few plaques on the addresses where Joyce actually wrote the Wake?


1 comment:

  1. Thank you this is just brilliant! Very concise, beautifully written and illustrated. I love the beaver/beards!