In our May session we read just seven lines, again, 534.11-18:
‘Keemun Lapsang of first pickings’
Obviously about tea, we though briefly of the global trade in tea at this time and its appearances in Joyce’s works (Tom Kernan, for instance).
‘And I contango can take off my dudud dirtynine articles of quoting here in Pynix Park’
Contango is a financial practice, used as a way of delaying payment, for example for goods that aren’t yet ready to purchase or are seasonal (such as tea). In this sense, the term contains both promise and deferral. We also paused here to reflect on our previous conversation about Horatio Bottomley’s Victory Bonds, and of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s painting Tangotee, a bright, vibrant piece showing people dancing (though probably not in Joyce’s mind when writing this line, admittedly).
A look at the drafts of this section showed us that the ‘articles of clothing’ were originally only coats, but it’s easy to see the transition from coats to quotes. This got us thinking about the legalese of ‘articles of quoting’, anticipating the law firm later in this section. We also noted Yeats’ poem ‘The Coat’ and the pun of ‘duds’, meaning clothes, and here also indicative of HCE’s stammer.
The Pynix was a site of popular assembly in Athens – recall that HCE is currently in a court room – so this invocation of democracy seemed significant to us. Alas Phoenix Park is also suggested here too.
‘before those in heaven to provost myself, by gramercy of justice’
The mention of a provost made us think of TCD, a role, incidentally, that requires wearing lots of ceremonial clothing (perhaps even 39 articles?). The allusion to Provost’s Prison, Dublin – where many of the 1798 rebels including Wolf Tone where kept – struck us, as did the fact that a New York mayor of the time also shared this name. Prisons obviously suggest ideas of mercy and justice, the former being forgiving, the latter condemnatory.
‘I mean veryman and moremon, stiff and staunch for ever’
In the collective suggestion of ‘very man and woman’, we thought back to Mrs Talboys’ line in ‘Circe’, ‘all Ireland against the rest of Ireland’. The obvious allusion to Mormons continues a theme that’s been bubbling away for the last few seminars, but with this particular word we also noticed a touch of ‘ubermensch’ about it too (literally, ‘more man’). The intensifiers – very and more – continue the ongoing sense of speech being exaggerated, but ‘very’ suggests ‘vrai’, something we don’t usually associate with HCE.
‘Stiff and staunch’ sounds like ‘Ireland stiff is Ireland sober’, and there’s a hint of further clichés too – why is it that Catholics are always stout and Protestants always staunch? Some frustration with the word ‘staunch’ as a descriptor is evident in this letter of 1898.
‘Under the advicies from Misrs Norris, Southby, Yates and Weston, Inc’
‘Advicies’ troubled us for a while: it contains both advice and vice, and perhaps suggests some specific terminology (affidavit) too?
In the lawyers’ names we identified North, South, East, and West, commenting that all appear in some form in Austen novels, except for Southby (unless you want to read, somewhat tenuously, into the excursion to ‘South End’ in Emma). Perhaps there is a specific Irish meaning to these words too, in the sense of Irish assets going off to London, as in the case of Yeats, or Sotheby’s selling off a number of Irish paintings.
‘into my preprotestant caveat’
What exactly is a preprotestant? Is this someone like Wycliffe, or Luther, or does the word simply refer to anyone prior to Protestantism? We noted Newman as an example of someone with Protestant sympathies, prior to converting to Catholicism. In addition, there’s a touch of the preposterous about this word.
This clause led us to a conversation about the uses of ambiguity in Finnegans Wake, noting that Empson was able to write Seven Types of Ambiguity without having read Work in Progress, but instead positing his theory of ambiguity via Freud. Rather than ambiguity being anything new, we noted the uses of ambiguity in older texts and writers including, for example, Hamlet and John Donne or Andrew Marvell.
Adding a touch of contemporaneity to the session we noted finally that a caveat, as something that can interrupt a trial such as a caveat against the publication of marriage bans, is somewhat like a celebrity superinjunction.
‘against the pup pup publication’
At this point we paused to think about HCE’s stuttering. What purpose does it serve? While Parnell and Lewis Carroll both had stammers, and so HCE becomes destined to be another hero who will fall, the sense that HCE is trying to say the inadmissible is also unavoidable. Outside of the stressful situation of being in court, how might HCE perform using other modes of communication, singing or shouting being obvious examples.
Joyce’s awareness of the difficulties surrounding publication – including the US piracy case involving Roth – are of course well known. We though of the distinction between slander and libel, thinking of Mr Breen’s U.P. postcard in Ulysses, suggested faintly by the ‘up up’ in ‘pupup’. Ironically, ‘libel’ is the one clear word here that designates the limit of writing.
‘by an tixtim tipsyloon or tobtomtowley of Keisserse Lean’
We eventually decided that there probably isn’t too much to be said for these names, being used here more for their sound than any particular meaning beyond a quasi-Irish ‘Tom, Dick, and Harry’. That said, of course there’s the allusion to Tim Finnegan, and perhaps, in ‘tipsyloon’, the drunken editor in ‘Aeolus’, Myles Crawford. Maybe the ‘tix’ are ‘ticks’, so suggesting the Wake’s grasshopper.
This allusion to Dublin’s Keyser’s Lane, known as ‘Kissarse Lane’, is described in an 1818 work documenting Dublin’s history, noting that the lane is long and especially steep. Thus, the lane is lean! Ominously (for HCE), the guide notes that ‘for being exceedingly steep and slippery, such who pass unwarily down it are often subject to falls’.
Please note, this is our last seminar until the 2016/7 academic year. Date tbc.