16th October

On 16th October, just one week after our previous seminar, we considered ten lines, 523.13 (‘by saints and sinners’) – 523.23 (‘her unripe ones’).

‘as a matter of fict’

We began the seminar with an etymological investigation into ‘fict’, noting that it comes from fingere – to fashion, and also to feign. At the very end of the seminar, on looking again at Joyce’s manuscript, we noted that this line had originally read ‘as a matter of fact’.

‘by my halfwife’

This lead us into an investigation of morganatic marriages, that is, a marriage in which a man of a higher social rank marries a woman of lower social rank, while this line also anticipates 545.27 (‘in morgenattics litt I hope’). We also found a likely intertext in the form of an 1825 sailor’s song, printed by the Scottish William Macnie.

‘public at large’

We thought this was quite a vague, overreaching, almost ‘Eumaeus’-like idiom, which seems to make a larger claim than the language can actually support: it seems to HCE that performance of innocence is enough, or as valid as actually being innocent. ‘I think how’ anticipates this sense, suggesting a (HCE’s) perception of a (the public’s) perception. The line also recalls the public trials for adultery that Joyce would have read about in newspapers.

‘my game was a fair average since I perpetually kept my oujia oujia wicket up’

Joyce’s relationship with cricket was the obvious thing to investigate here. We considered how Joyce used cricket as a class barometer and how it generally associated with a more privileged background (it is played in Portrait). We recalled that cricket was Parnell’s favourite sport and that Joyce himself also followed cricket. For more on Joyce and cricket, see David Pierce, ‘Beyond a Boundary: James Joyce and Cricket” in Light, Freedom and Song: A Cultural History of Modern Irish Writing (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005) or Clive Hart, ‘Owzat?.” James Joyce Broadsheet, no. 65 (June 2003).

However, the obvious problem with this line is that it is another Eumeaun malapropism. ‘A fair average’ doesn’t make sense (is there such a thing as an unfair average?) and would be an unimpressive boast even if it could.

‘Ouija oujia wicket up’ alludes to Beckett’s interest in cricket (of course, he appeared in Wisden) and to the practice of automatic writing, alluded to in an earlier seminar. Beckett lived with Hester Dowden for a brief while in London (for more on their relationship, see the James Nelson biography). We also noticed that ‘ouija’ is ‘yes yes’ in French and German.

‘on my verawife’

Considering the syllable ‘vera’ we noted that in this context it can stand for both ‘true’ and ‘all’ (in contrast to the ‘half’ above). The name recalled Vera Esposito, who once and famously found Joyce drunk outside the National Theatre Society, leading to Mulligan’s jibe in ‘Scylla’, ‘O, the night in the Camden hall when the daughters of Erin had to lift their skirts to step over you as you lay in your mulberrycoloured, multicoloured, multitudinous vomit!’. Her sister, Bianca, taught Beckett Italian, alluding to the previous line.

‘to be guilty of crim crig con’

Having considered different types of marriage at the start, we now thought about types of divorce, including that brought about by the wronged spouse (which is to say, the husband) (‘criminal conviction’). We noted one particular Dublin case that may have appealed to Joyce: in 1897, the Rev W S Vanceton brought a case against his wife’s lover. However at the same time, he was accused of cruelty to her, hence her taking a lover. The judge had to rule in his favour but awarded only one farthing of damages, so as to teach him a lesson (see Diane Urquhart). As well as teaching men to treat their wives better, this story also treats wives as property, continuing one of the less explicit themes of recent seminars.

‘the person of a youthful gigirl frifrif friend chirped Apples’

Originally slightly stumped by ‘chirped’, we noted that this was originally ‘named Apples’ in an earlier draft. The apples also add an Edenic sense to the passage, compounded perhaps by her ‘dot’ later on (possibly her bellybutton?). McHugh identifies ‘frifri’ as an early French term for G-string, the shame caused by this being the apparent cause of HCE’s very pronounced stutter. The two syllables of the two words perhaps match the two girls in the Park.

‘with Any of my cousines in Kissilov’s Slutsgartern or Gigglotte’s Hill’

Again we were confused as to why ‘any’ should be capitalised here, though the suggestion of Phoenix Park is clear enough. Kissilov’s alludes also to Kisilev Park, Bucharest, while Gigglotte’s Hill, Dublin, is now known as St Michael’s hill, while ‘gigolo’ is the male version of gigole, a tall thin woman, woman of the streets or public dance-halls, and perhaps recalls the ‘jigotty sleeves’ and ‘toulong touloosies’ of the previous page (531.17). ‘Slutsgartern’ recalls ‘Schlossgarten’, the garden of a royal palace, while also continuing the underwear theme (soon to become explicit). We noted that all these sites are associated with a dominant occupying power.

‘when I would touch to her dot’

Despite the brevity of this line, there is much in it. In line with the extract we considered in the previous seminar, the conditional and the confessional co-exist here. HCE essentially says ‘Look what I wouldn’t do!’ or ‘Look what I didn’t do’: in stating his innocence this way, he also declares his dirty thoughts through the ostensibly safe medium of the confession. At the end of the seminar we looked at the manuscript of this line, noting how the drafts had begun (relatively) syntactically clear before Joyce deliberately confused the syntax of this passage and obfuscated its meaning in the process.

When taking another look at the manuscript for this section, we noted the additions (‘crig’) and Joyce’s markings on the page to make clear his abbreviations (‘crim. cog.’). There were also deletions (the word ‘breach’ disappeared entirely) but what really struck us was how Joyce introduction so many contradictions and ambiguities into HCE’s speech here: Joyce’s process of bifurcation is clearer for seeing the differences between the original and final versions of this passage. We also speculated that given the prominence of legal terms in the passage, and in the light of the Wilde trials (‘posing somdomite’), Joyce was perhaps taking inflated, legalistic discourse to task.

We will meet again on 27th November.

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