|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!
'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.
A BRANCH TAPPING ON A WINDOW
'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.'
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
'A MYTH OF SLEEPING LIFE'
'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
Ole Vinding, 'James Joyce in Copenhagen', in Portraits of the Artist in Exile, pp 149
FINN MACCOOL AS THE DREAMER
Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, OUP 1982, p544
'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
Eugene Jolas, 'My Friend James Joyce', 1941 in Sean Givens (ed) James Joyce: Two Decades of Criticism, Vanguard Press, 1948, p17
'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
'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?'