GENETIC JOYCE STUDIES - Issue 14 (Spring 2014)


2 more weeks in the life of James Joyce

as gleaned from his 1923 Notebook VI.B.2 Nativities


Robbert-Jan Henkes


Notebook VI.B.2 Nativities

Finnegans Wake Notebook VI.B.2, christened Nativities, was filled in the Indian Summer of 1923, in Paris, Tours and Paris. It is an early notebook, from the time when Joyce was still groping his way into his Book of the Night and writing his initial ‘Finn’s Hotel’ sketches. Of the fifty-one extant Notebooks that document Finnegans Wake’s sixteen-year genesis, VI.B.2 chronologically comes fourth – or fifth, as one Notebook that was presumed lost, resurfaced recently at an auction. Unfortunately the American collector who bought it immediately resubmerged the Notebook, after having given Danis Rose the opportunity to study it for a week. This Notebook, known as VI.X.1, was probably stolen in 1949 from the Librairie La Hune exhibition, when the Lockwood Memorial Museum in Buffalo acquired the – incomplete and now even incompleter – set of Notebooks that Joyce’s unpaid secretary, Paul Léon, with a push cart had saved from the occupying Germans – unable later to save his own life.


Date of Compilation

Before returning to Paris from his holiday in the English coastal resort of Bognor (29 June - 3 August 1923), Joyce made a stopover in London, where he stayed another two weeks in the Belgrave Residential Hotel. On 7 August he was back in Paris, and took up his residence in the Victoria Palace Hotel. After a mere ten days, stifled by the Parisian heat and noise, he fled to Tours for a week – in the footsteps of Saint-Patrick who studied in Tours under Saint-Martin. Reminding himself that his new work was to be a history of the world, Joyce stayed at the Hôtel de l’Univers. On the 1st of September he visited the nearby town of Saint-Patrice on the Loire – named after Saint-Patrick, who was said to have rested under a barren thorn tree on his way to Tours, when, despite the mid-winter chill, the tree suddenly brought forth its mysterious ‘Fleurs de St. Patrice’, sheltering and warming him, as Joyce had just read in William Bullen Morris’ Life of Saint-Patrick (see part 1). On the 3d of September Joyce returned to the Victoria Palace Hotel, and would stay there – despite desperate flathunting – until September 1924.

            It is not impossible that Joyce, during his stay in Tours, from 27 August to 3 September, found and read Margaret Maitland’s brief biography of Saint-Martin (Nativities 32-37). Even more likely is a local (bookstore) provenance of a history and description of the Tours cathedral that left traces in Nativities 45-7.

            Peter Spielberg, in 1962, dated the Notebook ‘ca. 1923’. Roland McHugh, ten years later, taking his clues from the first-draft usage of the crossed-out items, ‘August-October 1923’. David Hayman, in 1978, broadened the period to ‘July-October/November 1923’. Danis Rose, in 1995, dated it as ‘late August-late September’, and that is so far the final word, as Luca Crispi, in his 2013 new description of the Notebooks for the University of Buffalo, follows Rose’s dating.

            August-September is also suggested by the notes Joyce took from newspapers, although with some misgivings. A note on Nativities 23 mentions Jerome, Godfrey and Marcus Goodbody: a Marcus Goodbody, born in the Irish town of Clara in 1856, had passed away on 10 August 1923, leaving six children, two of whom were called Jerome and Godfrey. Joyce, always on the lookout for names, names, names – because everything must have a different name for it to be able to be the same – must have read the obituary notice in a newspaper and taken the names down for future deployment. Joyce also read and took notes about shortfingeredness and the heredity of white locks of hair, from the 25 August 1923 issue of the periodical The Graphic, as will be discussed in more detail infra. For September, Vincent Deane found that Joyce read an issue of The Leader of the 22nd of that month, taking notes, on Nativities 141, from a sarcastic book review with an oblique reference to the opal hush poets (mentioned in the Aeolus episode of Ulysses), along with the newspaper’s nickname of AE, ‘The Hairy Fairy’ (see Deane in JJON).

            On Nativities 160, however, some notes are found that seem to derive from a newspaper account of a much later date, 27 December 1923, about the Prohibition in the United States, purportedly arriving by telegram.


CHICAGO’S BEER BOOM. A telegram from Chicago states: ‘The beer spigot in Chicago is “wide open.” While Federal Prohibition agents and city police are attempting to shut off all alcoholic liquor the beer industry daily grows to more important proportions, and Chicago brewers are making fortunes. Sales of beer in Chicago are now estimated at 30,000,000 dollars a year, and it is said that the city’s breweries are producing 18,000 bottles daily of the amber fluid of a quality which is destined to make the windy city more famous than Milwaukee ever was in the days before Mr. Volstead was heard of. [...]


Joyce notes ‘beer spigot’, ‘amber fluid’ and ‘windy city (Chicago)’. There is little doubt that this report is the source article, but the newspaper in which it is now provisionally located, The Western Mail in Perth, Australia, is somewhat suspect as a direct source. On the other hand, if his notes for the Revered Letter at the end of the notebook – e.g. on 178(a-d) and back cover recto(j-k) – are contemporaneous with his writing of the letter-sketch (December 1923, as wisdom has it), then Joyce may have used this Notebook for a more extended period than was thought up till now.


Nature of the Notes

Although Nativities is an early Notebook, with Work in Progress, let alone Finnegans Wake, hardly begun, Joyce is well underway with his initial sketches or ‘vignettes’. The overall structure of the book is still volatile, and we encounter some taletelling notes about what the book (provisionally designated as Finn’s Hotel, or F.H.) should be about. There should be a ‘great tree’ or a ‘parl[iament] in F.H.’ (42cd). ‘F.H. changeling’ notes Joyce in a cluster of demoniacal notetaking (123h). Even personnel is considered: ‘Swiss waiter in F.H.’ (128) and a place to anchor ships, ‘Boat stopped by weir (F.H.)’ (157a). But the most intriguing compositional note we find on Nativities 92ef, a formative flash of insight, a fundamental, groundlaying idea for the book to come: ‘old men, stammer, / their broken voices F.H. // W. talk from / various stages, / the centuries) / children play in / courtyard’. No doubt the voices we hear in the Wake are the ages coming through in a broken, muffled, distorted way.

            In this Notebook, possibly for the first time since his commencement, Joyce is especially reading books and articles that bear on his immediate writing concerns, instead of continuing his previous practice of taking in what comes along, as he did for instance during the summer, when a guidebook to Bognor had almost incidentally provided him with the name of his protagonist and his lobstertrapping profession (in VI.B.25).

            Still, to a large extent this Notebook is rife with seemingly random reading. We see Joyce taking notes from a collection of essays on literary and musical subjects (Graves), a clergyman’s biography (Fr. Burke), a stray novel (All on the Irish Shore), a stray play (Boots at the Swan), a guidebook of the cathedral in Tours and more. On the other hand he is reading a whole range of anti-clerical, freethinker’s literature, Bible criticism and Satanology (Foote, Ingersoll, Lloyd). He also enters notes specifically for his previous sketches about Patrick and the Archdruid and the one about Kevin,[i] as well as a fair number of notes intended for his next sketch, known as the Revered Letter, to be written in December, but obviously already on his mind as he is busy inventing and writing his sketch about the four old men, a.k.a. Mamalujo.

            The recently conceived hero Earwicker, protagonist of Joyce’s most recent, fifth sketch and soon to take over the leading role of the entire Work in Progress, is also gathering momentum and characteristics – picking up traits and peculiarities from texts that Joyce read. He hides in a cave (011i), gives names and is being chloroformed (013k), and when he wakes he finds Eve (031h), he is drunk (16a), he bargains (017g), he has stations (031g) and a hairy chest (140b), says he has added to the unhappiness of the world (114a), he waits on a servant (032d), sits at the fire rubbing hands and thinking of a beggar (46a), he mirrors himself in a closetpan and explains why trains diverge (043bc), wears a necklace (170f), practices calligraphy (118j). In short, he instigates all (109c) and is capable of any crime (003j). People pray for his conversion (147a). Also the conjugal positions of HCE with his lawfully weeded wife ALP, the subject of the fourth watch of Shaun in Finnegans Wake, are already considered in this early notebook (116h).

            Most interesting about this notebook is that we see Joyce, for the Mamalujo-sketch, purposefully delving into hard-boiled French medical literature about dementia praecox, in order to invest his four doddering old men with the appropriate signs and symptoms. Among other sources, he excerpted Dr. Constanza Pascal’s 300-page standard work La démence précoce, published in 1911, from which he took 65 notes, most of which went directly into the first draft of Mamalujo. A study by Adrien Pic, taken from a 1911 issue of the Lyon Médical magazine (someone must have located this for him in a library, if indeed it is the actual source), ‘Vieillesse et Sénilité’, also supplied him with many useful particulars, but these two identified sources account for by no means all of the medical notes.


2 Weeks in the Life of James Joyce

The following source books in VI.B.2 Nativities have been surveyed in the previous article, 2 Weeks in the Life of James Joyce (

•   Fitz-Patrick, William J., The Life of the Very Rev. Thomas N. Burke, London, Kegan Paul, Trench & Co, 2 vols, 1885

•   Foote, G.W., Bible Romances, 4th edition, Issued by the Secular Society, Limited, London, The Pioneer Press, 1922

•   Jespersen, Otto, Language, its Nature, Development and Origin, London, Allen and Unwin, 1922

•   Lloyd, J.T., God-Eating, A Study in Christianity and Cannibalism, London, The Pioneer Press, 1921

•   Maitland, Margaret, Life and Legends of St. Martin of Tours (316-397), London, Catholic Truth Society, 1908

•   Morris, William Bullen, The life of Saint Patrick, apostle of Ireland : with a preliminary account of the sources of the saint’s history, sixth edition, 1908


In the present article, the following source books will be reviewed:


Bible Criticism

On 2 November 1923 Joyce asked Harriet Shaw Weaver: ‘Does the British Moslem Society publish any propaganda paper? If so I should like to see a copy.’ Although no context is given, perhaps the question implies that Joyce already owned other religious propaganda papers, and wanted to broaden his scope.

            These propaganda papers may very well have been the freethought pamphlets and publications he was reading in Nativities, Foote and Lloyd and more. Did he read them for a special purpose? Did he want to flesh out any sketches he was busy with? If first usage is any indication, we should focus on the main protagonist himself: for instance, of the 120 notes Joyce took from G.W. Foote’s Bible Romances, he used twenty-nine, of which the most (but still only four) were incorporated into what is now I.2. But they do not particularly add to Earwicker’s status as an outsider, a heretic, a non-believer in a believing country, nor is Earwicker identified with a crucified God in any way. Joyce, for this episode, takes from Foote the words and phrases ‘the learned B—’, ‘it pleased him to’, ‘blains’, and, perhaps the only one with an overtone of the original source, ‘grand old gardener’, being Foote’s designation for the Big Bully Boss of Eden.

            From J.T. Lloyd’s pamphlet God-Eating, Joyce uses three of the twenty notes, and two of them end up in the Earwicker-sketch: ‘soul of the rice’ (applied to the three drunken soldiers) and ‘worst sin on calendar’ – in which we see Earwicker already beginning to be laden with guilt in every sinse of the world.

            But Joyce was reading an entire stack of freethought publications, and not all of them have been identified yet. There is a tantalizing run of notes on Nativities 123-4 about witches’ sabbaths and the worship of Satan, a cluster that seems to go back all the way to the infamous seventeenth-century French witch-hunter Pierre de Lancre, and Francesco Maria Guazzo’s 1608 Compendium Maleficarum, or Book of Witches. Joyce notes that the devil has three horns, one of which is lit (124c) and that the devil gives his worshipers ‘black pitch candles’ that burn with a ‘blue flame’ (124e). The notes ‘no depucelage for Sat’ (125c), and the reference to the ‘noonday devil’ in Psalm 90, ‘ab incursu et demonio meridiano’ (123g), are nothing if not tantalizing. In the middle of the demonological cluster we find the word ‘transaccidentation’, that soon would come to be applied to the pitchblack devilish twinbrother Shem, writing history over his own body, ‘transaccidentated through the slow fires of consciousness into a dividual chaos’. The ‘dividual chaos’, we saw, was an amalgamation of ‘dividual dust’, found in Morris’ Patrick, and ‘chaos’, found in Foote’s Bible Romances, but ‘transaccidentation’ is still the odd man out. Up till now none of the inspected 44 books on demonology, nor the 666 pamphlets on Satan yielded a clue to this dark cluster.

            The indefatigable Foote supplied one or two more pamphlets. At his death in 1915, he left one small unfinished pamphlet, which his bereaved fellow freethinkers thought was too good not to publish. The Mother of God (1918) irreverently subsumes what the Bible and other sources say about Mary, and keeping strictly to the Catholic doctrine, imagines what the Holy Ghost could have done to impregnate the Virgin Mother. Joyce makes three notes: ‘why even one parent JC’, ‘lifelong virgin’ and ‘brother = cousin’, the last note referring to Jesus’ brothers in the Bible being transformed into his cousins when the church gradually joined Joseph with Mary into a life of eternal virginity. A possible fourth note is the first, on Nativities 39(l), ‘Hugh Price Hughes’. Hughes (1847-1902) was the founder of the Methodist Times, who had claimed that a shoemaker, ‘wellknown in secular circles’, had reconverted to Christianity before he died at the age of twenty-eight. Foote challenged him to disclose the name of the religious renegade, and in the end the story was proven to be an entire fibfib fabrication. Foote wrote a 31-page pamphlet about the case, The atheist shoemaker and the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes: or a study in lying with a full and complete exposure (London, R. Forder, 28 Stonecutter Street, E.C., 1894). Possibly Joyce noted Hughes’ name in a list of Foote’s publications in the pamphlet. Nonetheless, the paucity of the notes is suspicious: perhaps The Mother of God isn’t the source after all.

            A sure source is the so-called Sepher Toldoth Jeshu, or Jewish Life of Christ in Nativities 161-3. It is the riveting story of a man named Jesus (which is not a clinching argument in the question if it was ‘our’ Jesus: any Tom, Dick or Harry was named Jesus in those days), who lived a 100 years BC and was the son of a certain Miriam who was raped by an ‘idle and worthless debauchee named Joseph Pandera’. This Jesus could not come to terms with his being a ‘bastard’ and grew up to be a magician and a healer and a pigheaded pest to anyone near him. He learned magic in Egypt and defied the Jewish authorities, was betrayed by Judas and stoned and hanged. The events are much more true to Jewish life than in the gospels and have every ring of authenticity about it. It came to light after the Middle Ages and was immediately denounced and prohibited. It was published surreptitiously on several occasions, and in 1885 G.W. Foote and J.M. Wheeler brought it out, translated from the Hebrew, with a historical preface and voluminous notes. Joyce notes the irony of the title and transplants it onto his native soil, by scribbling ‘Irish life of Cromwell’ (Nativities 161a) – and although the note was crossed out in the Raphael transcription, no location in Finnegans Wake has been found yet. Of the twenty-two notes, Joyce used five, but of these five, only two can be traced in Finnegans Wake. The most interesting one ends up in a Christlike moment , when Earwicker is cornered by Herr Betreffender within the confines of Earwicker’s own hostelry, and this Herr Betreffender orders him, ‘Son of Clod, to come out, you jewbeggar, to be Executed. Amen.’ (FW 70.34-35) This vivid scene originates in the ancient Jewish judicial custom of taking out a convicted criminal, lead by a crier who announced: ‘N., the son of N., comes out to be stoned, because he hath done so and so. The witnesses against him are N. and N.; whosoever can bring anything in his defence, let him come forth and produce it.’ (Jewish Life of Christ, appendix.) The same happened to Jeshu when was convicted on account of his dealing in sorceries, according to the Sepher Toldoth. Joyce duly notes, on Nativities 162b ‘‘N, son of N, comes out / to be stoned’ – and incorporates the cry in the verbally abusive mode as ‘for House, son of Clay, to come out to be Executed’, in the overlay of the second typescript of the episode, in March-April 1927 (JJA 45:242).

            Perhaps not so important is the fact that the word ‘teetootomtotalitarian’ in II.2 (FW 260.01-02) derives at least partly from the word ‘teetollar’ in the appendix of the Jewish Life of Christ mentioning that the ‘Nazarite was an ancient teetotaller’ (ibid.).

            A final identified source is the seminal speech of one of the greatest orators ever to take up the cudgels in defence of atheism and bible bashing, ‘The Great Agnostic’, ‘Ingersoll the Magnificent’ as he was called by Joseph Lewis, the author of The Bible Unmasked. The formidable American Colonel Robert J. Ingersoll (1833-1899), was a Civil War veteran, a lawyer, but most of all a gifted antireligious orator, who could keep his audiences spellbound for up to three hours with relentless onslaughts of rhetorical questions. After his death, his speeches were collected in the twelve volume Dresden edition (after his birthplace, Dresden, New York), and many of them have found their way online. His first great success was the oration Mistakes of Moses (1872), in which he took the alleged author of the Pentateuch to task for perpetrating gross indecencies as well as glaring illogicalities. Later Ingersoll reworked and greatly expanded his full frontal, full contact attack on the Old Testament into a very popular book, curiously called by a lesser name, Some Mistakes of Moses, as if to imply that even a considerably expanded edition only managed to scratch the surface of Moses’ mistakes. It was translated into many languages and published in socialist libraries for the education and enlightenment of the people. The pamphlet was reissued by G.W. Foote’s Pioneer Press in 1921 – though I only have an undated American edition from ca. 1900, priced at five cents and at one time discarded from the public library of Cincinnati. Joyce made twenty notes (Nativities 44c-45a; 45f-k; 46a), using only two. One is ‘How’s that for dampness?’ which is Ingersoll’s bewildered exclamation after his off-the-cuff calculations how much it must have rained during the Flood:


And yet the waters rose and rose over every mountain in the world—twenty-nine feet above the highest peaks, covered with snow and ice. How deep were these waters? About five and a half miles. How long did it rain? Forty days. How much did it have to rain a day? About eight hundred feet. How is that for dampness? No wonder they said the windows of the heavens were open. If I had been there I would have said the whole side of the house was out.


The phrase was crossed out in red, and ended up in the 1927 overlay of the first typescript of I.3, as ‘It was the Lord’s own day for damp’ (FW 51.23). In March 1928, Joyce apparently made a second use of the phrase, when he makes Shaun in his first watch caustically remarking ‘How’s that for Shemese?’[ii]

            The second word that can be traced to Mistakes of Moses is the curious ‘awlpierced’ (FW 88:16-17). Ingersoll, in a passage listing the beastliness of Old Testament punishments, describes the lot of the slaves in the land of Israel and writes ‘if the slave did not wish to desert his family, he had his ears pierced with an awl, and became his master’s property forever.’ Joyce notes ‘awlpierced ear’ and substitutes the words for the previous ‘projecting ear’ in the cross examination of I.4 (JJA 46:101), adding a jehovan wrathful touch to the description of the cad in the park.

            Apart from the ‘devil-cluster’, some more clusters of an anti-religious nature remain unidentified. The source of the notes on Nativities 22 and 24, about the Anglican thirtynine articles and Jesus’ afterlife and aftersmell for instance, still needs to be identified, as well as the source of the ‘prefall paradise Queen’ and environs on Nativities 42.


The Graphic

In the first pages of the Wake proper, chapter I.2, the king, meeting our hero on the highroad, is introduced with the curious characteristics of ‘shortfingeredness’ and the ‘hereditary whitelock’. Shortfingeredness, brachydactyly or the absence of a finger-bone, is indeed a hereditary condition, but where did Joyce get these terms from? Was he referring to Gladstone, who lost part of a finger in an accident? As it turns out, they derive from an article about the Statististical Bureau in the unlikely magazine The Graphic – which was a large-format (39 x 27.5 cm), fully illustrated journal which in 1923 was well into its 44th year of publication. In the first years, the illustrations were all engravings, but by the time Joyce picked up the journal, the bulk was photographs along with some pen drawings and artistry of different denominations. The magazine was not outspoken – hardly could be: the space was taken up by pictures – and the volume I finally[iii] found in the library in Maastricht once belonged to the Youth Seminary of the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception in Oud-Vroenhoven, which goes to show how innocuous it was.

            The cover of the 25 August 1923 issue hails the beginning of the holiday of King George V, and inside we find the section ‘The Way of the World’ discussing spy-hunts, the London weather and traffic and Tennyson, all in a light tone. The next pages feature photo reports of army manoeuvres in Sussex, the funeral of president Harding of the US, the Prince of Wales’s visiting Alberta (with gripping pictures of ‘a pedigree ram’, ‘a prize steer on the ranch’  and ‘another prize steer’), pages about Nature and Wildlife, a visit to Anatole France in Touraine, a graphic report of a ‘Tower of Silence’ in India, where the bodies of the deceased are given over to the vultures, a double page with pictures of cricketers, &cet. One page is taken up with a photo shoot of ‘the exciting general election in Ireland’, with snapshots of Michael Collins’s sister, a republican mass meeting, election posters, and of two sons of famous fathers reading declarations from the election platform. One was the son of the arrested Eamon de Valera, the other the son of the executed Robert Erskine Childers, Erskine Hamilton, then eleven years old and on his way to become the fourth president of the Irish Republic in 1973. Joyce’s protagonist in statu nascendi, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, would later find an avatar in the British politician H.C.E. Childers, who was nicknamed, because of his girth, ‘Here Comes Everbody’. This Childers was a cousin of the executed revolutionary. Perhaps Joyce saw here a possibility of including the Childers into his new work – with the additional incentive of the family name ringing of history repeating itself as children in their fathers.



On Nativities 53-4, Joyce took nine notes from three articles, maybe more, but unfortunately, the Maastricht copy lacks the last four pages – the dear knows what the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception did with them. The ‘shortfingeredness’ and ‘hereditary white locks’, along with the unused ‘callipers’, ‘plotted curves’, ‘redrawn to scale’ and ‘nightblindness’ derive from the article The Laboratory of the S-Ray’, subtitled “Where statistics are made fascinating”, a report of a visit by E.S. Grew to the laboratory of Karl Pearson, professor of eugenics at the University of London. The laboratory dealt with all kinds of human data and attempted to find the underlying structures. (The S in S-Ray stands for statistical.) The laboratory had ‘scarcely an instrument beyond the measuring callipers’ and the walls were covered ‘with charts, plotted curves and photographs,’ ‘showing how night-blindness, or colour-blindness, or cataract goes down through families, or how dwarfed stature or short-fingeredness passes from one generation to another. Even a white lock of hair may be a heritage; certainly albinos run in families.’ One of the activities of the laboratory was to make silhouettes of sitters, measuring all there was to measure and then to devise, by adding and dividing, the ideal silhouette: ‘The result, when re-drawn to scale, smooths away irregularities of feature and produces an almost Grecian profile,’ beauty as the greatest common divisor, or the lowest common multiple.

            Another fine find in The Graphic is the origin of the ‘silver doctors’ in the fishing equipment of our hero. Salmon, writes ‘Corrigeen’ in a short article, are easily lured in the Hebrides: ‘Jock Scots, silver doctors, clarets and golden olive rough bodies are flies likely to interest them.’ Joyce notes all four fishing terms, but uses only the silver doctors, replacing the word ‘whitebait’ in the Earwicker sketch (JJA 45:4,9).


The Study of Old Age: Marcus Tullius Cicero, Constanza Pascal and Adrien Pic

In 1924 the Mamalujo-sketch was the first new piece of writing that the author of Ulysses-fame sprang on the yearning and unsuspecting public. It was by then, in Joyce’s words, ‘the only sidepiece I could detach’ (L I, 8 Feb 1924). Although it was a self-contained whole, not least by virtue of the amount of research Joyce had put into it, the ‘sidepiece’ was from the beginning intended to be merged with the Tristan-and-Isolde sketch. We have an aborted early fusion in the National Library of Ireland, but even the first seminal ideas for the Mamalujo-sketch take off with the foursome gloating with their ‘bottlegreen eyes’ on the Tristan and Isolde loverpair.

            As soon as Joyce had invented his Old Men (‘O.M.’) – and had dubbed them ‘Mamalujo’ for the first time, on Nativities 142(c) – he quickly decided he needed to make them as demented as possible, and he started studying old age and its effects in some depth by delving into to serious medical literature. This literature, in turn, supplied him with ideas of what the Old Men should actually be doing in their state of dementia. In quick succession we find groundlaying compositional notes such as ‘O.M. onanist – lust’, providing the link with Tristan and Isolde; ‘O.M. remembers at last prima’, providing the remembrance motif in their musings; ‘HCE’s conjugal positions’, providing the germ for the Old Men watching the married couple in III.4 (Nativities 76, 76, 116).

            Three works can now be identified, and beneath the surface of google and gallica and the like there is sure to lurk more interesting material, if not now, then in the future. The three works are Cicero’s dialogue on old age, Cato Maior De Senectute, which was identified by Joe Schork in his Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce (1997); La démence précoce, subtitled Étude psychologique, médicale et médico-légale, a fullblown medical treatise on dementia praecox, the standard work in the field, by Dr. Constanza Pascal from 1911; and an article by Dr. Adrien Pic, Vieillesse et Sénilité’, from an 1911 issue of the magazine Lyon Médical.

            Cicero wrote his comforting dialogue in the year 710 A.U.C. (44 B.C.), in order to dispel the bad reputation of old age. The statesman Cato Maior, hale and healthy at eighty, answered questions from two young’uns and explained how he has come to feel so cheerful, whereas he should have felt down and dejected. Thereupon Cato, in an almost Thomistic fashion, removes one by one all the reasons for thinking old age is wretched. On Nativities 148-9, Joyce took around fourteen to sixteen consecutive notes from the entire 21 paragraph long dialogue – plus an afterthought, the name of Themistocles which he entered nineteen pages later in a bungled fashion (Themistletocles). Half of the notes were put to use. The ruminatings of the Old Men over ‘all the good they did in their time’ (FW 397.35-36) can be traced back to Cato assuring his young interlocutors in § 9 that ‘conscientia bene actae vitae multorumque bene factorum recordatio iucundissima est’ – ‘the consciousness of a well-spent life and the recollection of many virtuous actions are exceedingly delightful’. Cato remembers that, at the age of sixty-six, he supported in the Senate a law ‘magna voce et bonis lateribus suasissem’ – ‘in a voice that was still strong and with lungs still sound’ (§ 14): Joyce notes ‘with top of voice / bonis lateribus’ and makes the Old Men sing ‘at the top of their voices’, which was later finetuned into ‘the toploft of their voicebox’ (FW 397.11). De Senectute must have been the first book he picked up for his in-depth study of old age, because here we discover the distinctive word ‘old’ as a reminder for the constant designation of the four men. Cato, in § 16, recalls how, ‘[t]oward his old age Appius Claudius had the additional disadvantage of being blind’: [a]d Appi Claudi senectutem accedebat etiam, ut caecus esset’. Joyce notes ‘Old Marcus Appius’ and applies the epithet immediately in his first draft of October 1923: ‘there was old Tom ^+Matt+^ Gregory and then besides old Tom ^+Matt+^ there was old Phelius ^+Marcus+^ O’Hogan ^+Lyons+^’ (FW 384.07-08) – and will not desist doing so.


Of a different nature entirely is the use Joyce made of the standard work La démence précoce by Dr. Constanza Pascal. La démence précoce is a sturdily published little volume, apparently meant to be put on the shelves of general practitioners and hospital doctors as a work of reference. Dr. Pascal leaves no sign or symptom of the disease unmentioned, either physical or psychological – and her numerous examples make it a worthwhile and absorbing read. (She was a doctor in a clinic, not a professor in a college.). Among the psychological problems, the table of contents distinguished between ‘troubles of the sentiments and the emotions’ and ‘troubles of the intellectual activity’, while the latter is subdivided into ‘troubles of adaptation’, ‘troubles of systematisation (associations of ideas’), and ‘incoordination of ideas’. Deliriums can be ‘incoherent’, ‘stereotyped’, ‘systematised’ etc. The problems of the psycho-motoric activity range from ‘aboulie’ to ‘dyspraxie’, to ‘automatic acts’ and ‘troubles of language.’

            The book bears the distinction of having been read by the surrealist André Breton, who raved over it – especially over the chapters about the disorders of language, such as echolalie (answering, repeating words or syllables), the Ganser syndrome (giving completely unconnected answers) and neologisms – that all get their paragraph in La démence précoce, with telling examples.

            From the 65 notes we can trace back to La démence précoce, 39 were used. Among them we find only a comparatively small share of ordinary plunderings for Joyce’s pirate’s hoard of words and phrases. For instance Mamalujo’s one bed they ‘used to slumper under’ (FW 397.04) derives from Dr. Pascal describing the ‘negativistic’ attitude her patients suffer from, revolting against any pressure from outside and sometimes not even able to support clothes or blankets: ‘Ils n’entrent plus dans leur lit, se couchent sur la couverture, sous leur lit ou sous celui des autres.’ (104) ‘They don’t get into their beds anymore, sleep on the blanket, under their bed, or under other people’s bed.’ On Nativities 132(i), Joyce notes ‘sleep under bed’ and enters the phrase on the first fair copy of his sketch.

            The note at Nativities 75(a), ‘drown at 7.30’, is Joyce’s on the fly transformation of a case, described by Pascal, in which one of her patients ‘décrit le suicide de son frère avec une très grande précision, mais aucun détail n’éveille en elle la moindre émotion’ – describes the suicide of her brother with a great deal of precision, but no detail awakens in her the least emotion (La démence précoce 86). In Mamalujo, it becomes ‘the Flemish armada all scattered and all drowned ^+on a lovely mourning ^morning^ at eleven thirtytwo+^. (FW 388.11-12, JJA 56:41).

            Even the mysterious note ‘ivyclad boots hailstones’ on Nativities 76(j) can be traced back to Pascal, explaining how sufferers of dementia lose the coordination over their mental representations: ‘Une intelligence normale comporte [...] un pouvoir d’évocation sans défaillance, des associations des idées rapides et une continuité parfaite dans la coordination de tous ces processus psychiques.’ Whereas a feeble mind has ‘troubles de la mémoire, des associations des idées et incoordination générale ou partielle des éléments psychiques.’ Joyce apparently associates three disparate ideas to mimic the demented mind – and immediately incorporates the non-sequitur phrase in Mamalujo: ‘^+in the middle of ^+amid the rattling ^rattle^ of+^ hailstones with his ^her^ ivyclad hat of Mnepoc+^’ (FW 392.27-29, JJA 56:45) Such is, and was, and would be, Joyce’s standard practice, incorporating disparate lexical items, whether or not already pro-actively transformed, into a pre-existing text.

            Another example of the same method is occasioned by a passage on page 26 of Dr. Pascal’s magnum opus, in which she comments on her colleague Grasset (‘l’éminent professeur de Montpellier’), the author of an outline of mental diseases that she finds too rigid. In her opinion, his distinction between ‘psychological’ (psychique) and ‘mental’ (mental) has no counterpart in real life:


Le schéma de Grasset ne tient pas compte de ce grand groupe d’états psychiques intermédiaires; il suppose un homme idéal avec une maladie idéale; la clinique nous fournit des hommes réels avec des maladies réelles. Les maladies psychiques (hystérie, etc.) sont toujours et non accidentellement mentales.

Grasset’s scheme does not take into consideration the large group of intermediary psychological states; he presupposes an ideal human being with an ideal disease; the hospital provides us with real people with real diseases. Psychological diseases (hysteria etc.) are always and not accidentally mental.


On Nativities 78(m) Joyce enters ‘ideal man suffering from an ideal disease’, an early version of his famous vision of the only possible public of Finnegans Wake, ‘that ideal reader suffering from an ideal insomnia,’ (FW 120.13-14) – a motto that can be engraved on the tombstone of many a genetic Wakean, dead or alive.[iv] The phrase would be culled from the notebook and entered into the main text in March 1925 (JJA 46:344)

            But this straightforward type of use of the Pascal notes is an exception. La démence précoce is in fact one of the few books at the Wake from which Joyce not just culled words, but took ideas from, that he reworked into his episode. The signs of dementia that Dr. Pascal describes were picked up by Joyce and assigned to the four Old Men, not by transplanting the entries, but by applying them. This can be best shown by taking a page of the fair copy of Mamalujo and carefully examining the changes Joyce makes. We will see that his alterations are keyed to the signs of dementia praecox of Dr. Pascal.

            The formative ideas that Joyce copied from La démence précoce are for a large part to be found in Nativities 75 & 76. Joyce notes, for instance, on Nativities 75(b-c): ‘misuse of prep & conj / disappearance’ and ‘substantives disappear’, taken from La démence précoce 92-3:


Lorsqu’on suit de près un malade chez lequel l’incohérence fait des progrès rapides, on est frappé de la disparition initiale de la signification des éléments grammaticaux qui établissent les rapports ou les nuances de rapports entre les idées. Le malade passe d’une idée à l’autre avec une très grande facilité. Les liens de la syntaxe («mais», «par», «si», etc.) sont placés au hasard et unissent des phrases disparates. [...] Les substantifs, les adjectifs, les verbes font souvent tous les frais du langage de ces malades; les conjonctions, lés prépositions sont de moins en moins nombreuses. [...] Enfin les substantifs, les adjectifs, etc., finissent par s’effacer et disparaître. Les néologismes démentiels, qui représentent le dernier degré de l’effacement des images, sont construits avec les débris de tous ces éléments.

Monitoring a patient whose incoherence is rapidly progressing inconsistency made rapid progress, one is struck by the initial disappearance of the meaning of grammatical elements that establish the relationship or the nuances of relationships between ideas. The patient moves from one idea to another with great ease. Syntactical links (‘but’, ‘by’, ‘if’, etc.) are randomly placed and unite disparate sentences. [...] Nouns, adjectives, verbs are often the casualties of the language of these patients; conjunctions, prepositions grow less numerous. [...] Finally, nouns, adjectives, etc., eventually fade and disappear. Neologisms of dementia, which represent the last stage of erasing images, are constructed with the remains of all these elements.


On the first fair copy of the final passages of Mamalujo, JJA 56:46-47, Joyce is actively busy imitating the loss of letters and words and tweaking conjunctives and prepositions that Dr. Pascal mentions, among which:


peributtons -> peributts             remembore -> emembore

beautiful -> beauful                   night -> nigh

everywhere -> everwhere          fathoms -> fathom

familiarities -> familarities         beautiful -> beaufu

register -> regiser          whooping -> hoopig

Johnny -> Jonny                        maternity -> maternty

maiden -> maid &cet.


Also the prepositions and conjunctives are beginning to get mislaid. ‘And’ becomes ‘With’ becomes ‘But’; ‘And’ becomes ‘from’; ‘and’ becomes ‘on’; ‘by’ becomes ‘to’, &cet. At the same time, Joyce is adding time-related phrases, ‘after that’, ‘at that time’, following the progressive disease pattern laid out by Dr. Pascal.


MS 47481-10v, JJA 56:47, first fair copy, October 1923, fragment (see Letters I, 17 & 23 October 1923)


A final curiosity is the case study Dr. Pascal recounts about a man who thought he was pregnant (La démence précoce 191-2), which could have given Joyce the idea of the gender uncertainty that pervades the Mamalujo sketch. From La démence précoce 191-2 he takes down the words ‘curlpapers’, ‘walk round’ and ‘courses’, and applies the curlpapers, in the form of ‘an old pair of curling tongs’, at the same time changing ‘his ivyclad hat’ into ‘her ivyclad hat’.


Compared to this wealth of groundlaying material from La démence précoce, the second identified medical treatise may look meagre. The article ‘Vieillesse et sénilité’ that Adrien Pic published in Lyon Médical No.31 of 30 June 1911, on page 210-225. It was a shorter version of a book he was about to publish, and that indeed was published in 1912, Précis des maladies des vieillards. But the run of notes from Nativities 105(f) to 106(k) point ineluctably to this 15 page article. The disorders of old age that Pic reviews in his short article account for eighteen Notebook entries, of which five came to be used, although only two in Mamalujo. Joyce unfortunately couldn’t use such signatures of old age as ‘furrowed nails’, ‘demi-dioptrie’, ‘skin old ivory’, the ‘veinosity’ and the ‘pli cachectique’ that he found in Pic, nor the fact that old age produces less sweat and urine, even though the ‘rectal temperature’ stays the same. One item that did make it was – perhaps unsurprisingly – a Joycean extension of the proverb, also noted by Joyce, that ‘milk is the old man’s wine’ (‘le lait est le vin du vieillard’). As next entry Joyce wrote ‘bread & milk’ and this becomes, directly in the overlay of the first draft, an item on the menu of Mamalujo: ^+with ^+their feet asleep in+^ their blankets and shawls+^ ^+and bowls of stale brew ^bread^ & milk ^milky^ waiting for poor Tarp ^Mucus^+^ (JJA 56:35).

            Joyce didn’t stop there with his medical researches. Many a mysterious cluster remains circling without unveiling its written source. For instance the notes surrounding ‘onirique’ and ‘bouffée’ on Nativities 107(b-c), the ‘dérobement des jambes’ and environs (111), the ‘declin d’ambition’ on 126(l) and its surrounding notes, all point to medical treatises in French that remain unidentified.


The Return of Benedict Fitzpatrick

On page 102 of Nativities, we meet a familiar face, that of Benedict Fitzpatrick and his blatantly ‘proud to be Irish’ study about the way the complete and utter English civilization was shaped by Irish aboriginals. Joyce had read most of it in the Spring of that year, making many many notes, of which a precious few made it into the Wake. Notebook VI.B.3 is the depository and repository of his first batch of Fitzpatrick notes, for most of them their first and final resting-place, and here, history repeats itself, for the Fitzpatrick notes in Nativities follow the same pattern as the ones in VI.B.3: much cry and little wool. Of the sixty-four notes Joyce excerpts from Chapters XVIII-XXII and the Appendices, only six were used. Of these six, five ended up in five different chapters, and one note remains unlocated in Joyce’s drafts (at Nativities 118j, ‘HCE calligraphy’).

            The long list of abusive names thrown at HCE by Herr Betreffender, at the end of I.3, was supposed to be even longer, but Joyce added on the fly in the first draft the proviso that the list was ‘now feared lost’ — while all the same unleashing a torrent of invectives. Joyce later changed ‘now feared lost’ into the more realistic ‘now feared in part lost’. The antiquarian touch derives from Ireland and the Making of Britain 271: ‘Simeon of Durham’s chronicles appear to be based on a Northumbrian history now lost.’ Perhaps we should consider the Finnegans Wake Notebooks as remnants, snippets of Dead Sea scrolls, salvaged chapters, long feared lost, of the Coming Forth of the Book of Night.

            The very first note Joyce took from Fitzpatrick in Nativities found a place in Finnegans Wake. Fitzpatrick opposes the idea that Saint Wilfrid was the broadminded man of learning, the English Cardinal Richelieu, that the English make him out to be. Of course, he had his education, on the Continent, with its Irish centres of learning, ‘it is also true that Wilfrid was but one remove from the unwashed savage, while the Irish monks who civilized him, the leaders of them nearly all of high birth, and the greatest travelers of their age, were representatives of the Celtic civilization that was old and mellow even before it was transformed by Christianity.’ (231-2) Joyce notes ‘one remove from the unwashed savage’, adding ‘(swilfrid)’ in the margin, and next employs the unflattering description to add, through Shaun, an extra smudgy layer of obloquy to Shem: ‘There grew up beside you, oaf, outofwork, one remove from an unwashed savage ...’[v]

            For this alone, we have to be thankful that Joyce finished Ireland and the Making of England.


Giambattista Vico, Principj di una Scienza Nuova, 1725

Much has been said about La Scienza Nuova as a trellis for Finnegans Wake – to begin with by the author of all thisorder, who recommended Vico to just about everyone whom he deemed should be interested in Work in Progress, to be read either in the French adaptation of Jules Michelet or in the original. But: which original? There are three very distinct Scienza Nuovas – all published during Vico’s lifetime, in 1725, 1730 and 1744. Especially the first and third editions differ greatly. The 1744 one is twice as voluminous, has a completely different structure and adds as many new arguments as it discards old ones. It should be worthwhile, one would think, to determine at least which edition Joyce read – as his libraries in Trieste and Paris left no Scienza Nuova, no Opere Scelte, nothing.

            Seventy-five years have passed since the publication of Finnegans Wake, but still the question is an open question, or rather an unput question. Commentators automatically and almost unanimously take it for granted that Joyce got his inspiration from Vico’s last edition zu Lebzeiten, the 1744 one. Mistakenly, as becomes clear from this notebook, as well as from the different runs of entries in the spring 1925 notebooks VI.B.7 (as Viviana Braslasu discovered) and VI.D.2. The exact details of the book he had in his hands (publisher and date of publication) have to be decided yet, but Joyce definitely read a copy of the first Scienza Nuova, the 1725 edition.

            How do we know? To take just one tiny instance: ‘preda di guerra’ (booty of war), entered by Joyce at Nativities 131(f), is not in the 1744 edition of the Scienza Nuova, only in the 1725 one, and countless examples can be adduced to show that only the 1725 edition yields all Notebook desiderata.[vi]

            The differences between the 1725 and 1744 Scienza and their repercussions on Joyce’s idea of Vico’s theory are issues that lie beyond the scope of this introductory article. What is interesting, is that here we see Joyce for the first time in the genesis of Finnegans Wake take up ‘his’ groundlaying Vico. He opens the Scienza Nuova in Book III, in which Vico wants to prove that truth and myth were originally one and the same word, and hence still should have the same meaning. Vico maintains that the first humans spoke in grunts, shouts and murmurs, because they had ‘a scarcity of known things’. So when they heard the thunder, they thought that someone wanted to communicate with them. He then draws a comparison with ‘gli Americani’, native Americans, who believe that everything new or big that they see is a God, ‘ogni cosa o nuova o grande che vedono, credono esser Dei’. Joyce immediately appropriates the thought and makes it his own, imagining the deification of guns and matches in these primitive societies: ‘gungod / matchgod’ (131bc). When Joyce reads about the spring of Hippocrene, ‘from which the Muses drink’ (III.xiv ), he is quick to find the Irish equivalent, ‘Hippocrene = Poulaphouca’ (131k). Joyce also notes Vico’s three ages, ‘birth, marriage, burial’ (131i) but leaves the note unused. Language, in Vico’s theory, was originally pure poetry and derived from an original mute language:


In cotal guisa della Lingua muta de’ bestioni di Obbes, semplicioni di Grozio, solitarj di Pufendorfio incominciati a venire all’Umanità, cominciossi tratto tratto a formare la Lingua di ciascheduna antica nazione, prima delle volgari presenti, Poetica(Book III, Ch. XXV)

In this mode, from the mute languages of Hobbes’s great beasts, Grotius’s simpletons and Pufendorf’s solitary beings, after they had emerged into humanity, the poetic languages of the ancient nations gradually came to be formed before our present vulgar languages. (tr. Leon Pompa)


here Joyce sees a possibility to give Tristan and Isolde a speechless language and he notes, at 132(d), ‘lingua muta (bestioni) / (T&I)’ – but the note was left on the cutting room floor. A Latin quote did find its way into Finnegans Wake, (FW 137.33-34), Adversus hostem aeterna auctoritas esto, ‘Against a stranger the right of possession is eternal’, but apparently originated elsewhere, because it wasn’t crossed out here. In fact, none of the fifteen Vico notes were either crossed out or used, although the word ‘auspices’ is auspiciously present in the Mamalujo sketch, added in the second set of proofs for publication in the Transatlantic Review, March 1924.

            Joyce notes further, from book III of La Scienza Nuova, that the sons of Jove were not considered bastards, that the name Ophelia derives from Ophis or serpent and that it was the name of the Greeks for the ‘booty of war’, that Latium, according to Varro, had 32000 languages – but the notes remain disconnected and appear to be more or less random jottings in a first, carefully probing reconnaissance mission of the Scienza Nuova.


Miscellanies: La Cathédrale de Tours

M. Canon Boissonnet shows us round in the cathedral in time present and time past, but our guide, pious as he may be, lacks the gifts of equanimity or forgiveness or writing. In every nook and cranny he is fulminating and inveighing against the destructions perpetrated against the Catholic sanctum during the French revolution by those damned barebreeches (sansculottes). The very first sentence of the guidebook is already a screamer, immediately noted by an undoubtedly broadly smiling Joyce. Boissonnot writes:


Le touriste intelligent, qui voudra goûter la joie de comprendre la cathédrale de Tours, devra descendre d’abord jusqu’à l’extrémité de la petite place qui portait naguère son nom et que l’on appelle aujourd’hui, pour une raison qui échappe, la place du 14-Juillet.

The intelligent tourist, who wants to taste the joy of understanding the cathedral of Tours, has first to go down to the end of the little square that once bore its name and that is called today, for some elusive reason, the 14th of July Square.


Maybe the canon should be filled in that the 14th of July was the day of the storming of the Bastille and is thus his national feastday? Joyce notes, at Nativities 45(n) place 14/vii pour une raison qui echappe’ – but along with the 22 other notes from the booklet, they were left unused, until in the mid-1930s three were salvaged through the transcription of Mme Raphael in the C-notebooks. The three notes are glued together in a pilgrim setting in the Night Lessons chapter, when the twins abide the day of tomorrow when they will have to show their results to their taskmaster-father, with ‘staff, scarf and blessed wallet and our aureoles round our neckandcropfs’ (FW 306:01-02). These items come, lock, stock and barrel, from two passages in La Cathédrale de Tours. The first from the notes ‘pelerin’, ‘pilgrim gets blessed’ and ‘wallet and scarf’, that originate in Boissonnot’s mentioning a pilgrim, receiving, before taking off, ‘les insignes de pèlerin, un bourdon et une écharpe bénits avec des prières spéciales’ (the pilgrim signs, a staff and a scarf, blessed with special prayers, 9n). The aureoles round the necks refer to Saint Denis, the 3d century martyr whose head was chopped off, but who managed to pick it up and walk ten kilometres with it, praying all the time. He is depicted in hagiography (and in the cathedral of Tours) bearing his head in his hands in front of his chest, and an aureole round his neck: ‘saint Denis, sa tête en main et le cou auréolé’ (35). Although the other saint mentioned by Boissonot, Saint-Lawrence with his gridiron, also makes a gruesome picture, Joyce decided only to note ‘aureole round neck (S. Denis)’ (47e).

            Again, Joyce can be said to read digestively, or pro-actively. Often he writes down his thoughts while reading, and not the words he reads. When Boissonnot writes ‘le feu dévora l’église’ (‘fire devoured the church’), Joyce notes: ‘fire = dragon’. When Boissonnot reminds the reader that in the cathedral ‘Jeanne d’Arc y demande la bénédiction du ciel, avant ses immortelles chevauchées’ (Joan of Arc requested the blessing of heaven before her immortal horse charges), Joyce notes ‘Valkyrie = Joan’, telescoping Wagner’s Nordic goddess with a fiery Joan of Arc.

            Joyce stopped reading the book halfway through, when Boissonnot decided to describe in glorious and exhausting detail the stained-glass windows of the cathedral. Admittedly, it is not a very rich Fundgrube, but at least some blank spots have been filled in.


Miscellanies: Boots at the Swan

In 1927, on a heavily revised typescript of chapter I.3, in the blood-curdling, but none too clear account of the Battering at the Gate, Joyce changed the description of the man on the inside, here called Maurice Behan, a thickly disguised HCE, from ‘the boots in the place’, into ‘the boots about the swan’ (JJA 45:193) – thereby linking the crime scene investigation to the once staggeringly popular play, Boots at the Swan, an Original Farce in One Act by the actor-playwright Charles Selby (ca. 1802-1863).[vii]

            Boots at the Swan has many Joycean reminiscences: it features a deaf boots, called Jacob Earwig, who, ‘disguised as a policeman, with a black wig and very large red whiskers’ is supposed to be instrumental in bringing the protagonists together. The hero, ‘a gentleman with an unfortunate name’, Henry Higgins (the same as the professor of eloquentia in Shaw’s Pygmalion) is in love with the beautiful but romantic Miss Moonshine, ‘a victim to sentiment and light reading’, but her sister won’t have it, not wanting ‘to disgrace her family by assuming so vulgar an appellation’. Miss Moonshine is constantly supplied with books, among which Tristram Shandy, Joseph Andrews, Sir Charles Grandison, but also Humphrey Clinker, Tobias Smollett’s 1771 novel with a hero that shares with HCE two initials and an entire Christian name. Higgins’s friend is called Frank Friskly, but any resemblance with the Wakean tramp Frisky Shorty is based on coincidence: Frisky Shorty pre-existed and was taken from an account in the Irish Times of 18 November 1922 about Literary Vagabonds (VI.B.10.043a).

            But did Joyce read Boots at the Swan? Yes, he did, as Vincent Deane  has discovered. Joyce picked up the play in Nativities 26(a) and made a series of twenty-four notes, for the most part words conveying mannerisms of speech, like ‘distraction’ (an exclamation), ‘(adver)tiser’, ‘peter (salt)’, ‘ha ha ha’, ‘crimini’, ‘dunnyhead’ and ‘tickerly’. One note, ‘convict ship (hulks)’, was taken from words spoken by Friskly, and was applied to Frisky Shorty, who, with his partner in vagabondage Treacle Tom, just came ‘off the hulks’ (FW 39.20, JJA 45:28). A note which wasn’t used, but makes two appearances in Finnegans Wake, is ‘I’m fly’ – for instance on FW 146.33, ‘Buybuy! I’m fly!’ and FW 248.17-18, ‘But when he beetles backwards, ain’t I fly?’ From the context of the play, the expression means something like ‘I know, I know enough’, as when Jacob says: ‘When I wants to find out whether a chap’s a rale gen’lemn, I looks at his boots, and I’m generally fly; but if so be I has my doubts, I looks at his gloves, and then I’m wide awake.’ (Boots at the Swan 5).

            At a certain moment, Jacob Earwig, blind drunk, threatens to spoil the machinations by giving away his disguise to Sally the housemaid: ‘How de do, my darling? You don’t recollect me, I suppose! I’m Jacob Earwig, the Boots at the Swan. No, no—I’m number Eleventeen of the X. Y. Z. division of the plural police.’ (Boots at the Swan 19) Joyce, inspired by the wordplay and not to be outdone, notes an extension in which he makes his protagonist Earwicker something of an impossible earl, ‘the 3d 4th of Humphrey’ – a noble title that unfortunately wasn’t exploited any further.


Miscellanies: All on the Irish Shore

Another popular work of writing was All on the Irish Shore, Irish Sketches, by E. Œ. Somerville and Martin Ross. It was published in 1903 and reprinted at least five times by 1925, in the wake of their even greater success, Some Experiences of an Irish RM and its two sequels. Edith Somerville was born in 1858 on Corfu but she grew up in Cork. She was a devoted sportswoman, master of the West Carbery Foxhounds, and she lived to the age of 91. When she was 28, she started a literary partnership with her cousin Violet Martin and together they wrote fourteen books, under the name of Somerville and (Martin) Ross, up to the death of Violet in 1915. Afterwards Edith Somerville continued publishing under their joint name, claiming that she remained in contact with Violet through spiritualist seances.

            All on the Irish Shore has eleven stories, but these stories are cleverly put together to circle round one protagonist, trotting in and out of these stories, in casu a pony called Matchbox. There is much Irish countryside interest around, from hunting to horse fairs, and with a good amount of regiolect – G’wout! Such a mee-aw! By gannies!

            It is mainly the glimpses into the language of country life that Joyce takes down in his notebook. The number of notes (55) is above average, and the number of notes (18) he weaves into the fabric of Finnegans Wake is not inconsiderable either. The notes add to a certain plain peasant outspokenness that is essential to the couleur, and sometimes odeur locale of the finished text. Here are some examples:


Finnegans Wake

(a) ... and be hanged to them as ten to one they will too (119.07)

(b) ... and give you one splitpuck in the crupper ... (445.15)

(c) ... not an everynight king, nenni, by gannies, ... (452.26-27)

(d) ... Devil a curly hair I care! (457.10-11)

(e) ... I’d let him have my best pair of galloper’s heels in his creamsourer (457.13-14)

(f) ... were explaining it avicendas all round each others ere yesterweek (488.04-05)


All on the Irish Shore

(a) ‘Be hanged to these dogs! I declare I don’t know am I more plagued with dogs or daughters! Lucy!’ (161)

(b) ‘I wish himself and his mother was behind her when I went putting the crupper on her! B’leeve me, they’d drop their chat!’ (41)

(c) ‘Sour! I niver see the like of her! Be gannies, the divil’s always busy with her!’

(d) ‘... Well; he sees the mare then, cut into garters below in Nassau Street. Devil a hair he cares! Nor never came down to the stable to put an eye on her! ...’

(e) ‘... ’Twas one Connolly back from Craffroe side was taking her from the station; him that thrained her for Miss Fitzroy. She gave him the two heels in the face.’

(f) ‘Darcy says, yer worship, that his mother would lose her life if she was to be brought into coort,’ explained William, after an interlude in Irish, to which both magistrates listened with evident interest; ‘that ere last night a frog jumped into the bed to her in the night, and she got out of the bed to light the Blessed Candle, and when she got back to the bed again she was in it always between herself and the wall, an’ she got a wakeness out of it, and great cold—’


Miscellanies: Getting to know The Meaning of Meaning

Joyce read The Meaning of Meaning by C.K. Ogden and I.A. Richards, published in 1923, only in June-August 1926, when he made, in VI.B.12, a substantial foray into this epoch-making work about the wobbly concept of ‘meaning’ and language as a means to hide and conceal, but relics of his first rendez-vous we find here, three years earlier, in Nativities VI.B.2.152(j)-153(i). The ultimate source of this mysterious cluster is certainly The Meaning of Meaning, but the direct source is more likely to be a very early review, or even a partial prepublication by C.K. Ogden of his chapter of ‘diverting matter’, that is examples of what he calls ‘The Power of Words’ and which take up Chapter II of the published work.

            The order of the notes, traced back in the source book, is also too zigzag to warrant direct attribution. The reading itinerary would be 69–347–37–36–58–60–64–38–42.

            In the Nativities cluster, three of the twelve notes overlap with notes Joyce makes three years later – showing the continuity of his interest: he wasn’t just copying random words in a random fashion. ‘Godbox = P.P.’ [parish priest] he repeats verbatim in VI.B.12, albeit with a closing question mark, as if he faintly remembers noting the same words before. The entry derives (ultimately) from The Meaning of Meaning 38:


Not only chiefs but gods, and moreover the priests in whom gods were supposed to dwell (a belief which induced the Cantonese to apply the term ‘god-boxes’ to such favoured personages)—are among the victims of this logophobia.


Another repetition in B.12 is the word ‘beginningless’ – occasioned by a reference to the sacred word in Indian philosophy, AUM, which ‘comes down to us by a beginningless tradition’ (64), but in Nativities Joyce extends it into an ‘Inc. Beginningless’. An interesting compositional note is Nativities 153, deriving from the remark in The Meaning of Meaningthat the power of speech exists outside man as a tattvic mûrti of the Universe’ (58). Joyce picks up on the suggestion, and is contemplating – if only for a fleeting moment – to ‘write [race] in lingua equorum’, that is the language of horses. Perhaps Vico’s ‘mute language’ and language of beasts (vide supra) was still on his mind, and could be a seminal notion, requiring further investigation: Finnegans Wake will become (in a way) a book in the language of insects, Earwicker’s language.

            Also of interest is Joyce’s idea, on 152(m), of giving Tristan an elder (dead) brother and a new name, ‘Fumier’ (‘fumier’ is French for dunghill): ‘Trist’s elder bro dies / He is .˙. named Fumier.’ The idea originates in The Meaning of Meaning 37-8:


We know how Herodotus (II. 132, 171) refuses to mention the name of Osiris. The true and great name of Allah is a secret name, and similarly with the gods of Brahmanism and the real name of Confucius. Orthodox Jews apparently avoid the name Jahweh altogether. We may compare ‘Thank Goodness’ ‘Morbleu’—and the majority of euphemisms. Among the Hindus if one child has been lost, it is [37] customary to call the next by some opprobrious name. A male child is called Kuriya, or Dunghill—the spirit of course knows folk as their names and will overlook the worthless.


Source Bibliography for Nativities VI.B.2

1.       Boissonnot, Henri, La Cathédrale de Tours: Histoire et description, 1909 [23 notes: 045m-n, 046b-047h]

2.       Cicero, Cato Maior De Senectute, Cato the Elder On Old Age, also known as O Tite, O Titus [14 notes] (148f-149h, 167g)

3.       William J. Fitz-Patrick, The Life of the Very Rev. Thomas N. Burke, London, Kegan Paul, Trench & Co, 1885, 2 vols [25 notes: 037g-039h]

4.       Fitzpatrick, Benedict, Ireland and the Making of Britain, Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York & London, (3d or 4th ed., 1921) [64 notes: 102i-103i, 109f-i, 116l-117e, 118a-c, 118g-119h, 119k-n, 120g-121d, 121g-122a]

5.       G.W. Foote, Bible Romances, 4th edition, Issued by the Secular Society, Limited, London, The Pioneer Press, 1922, 222 pages [120 notes: 010e-011q, 013e, 013g-016a, 016c-018g, 018i-021e]

6.       Foote, G.W. & J.M. Wheeler, The Jewish Life of Christ, Being the Sepher Toldoth Jeshu, ספר תולךזת ישז, or Book of the Generation of Jesus, Translated from the Hebrew, edited (with an Historical Preface and Voluminous Notes) by G.W. Foote & J.M. Wheeler, London, Progressive Publishing Company, 1885  [22 notes: 161h-163e]

7.       Foote, G.W., The Mother of God, Pioneer Press, 1931 (1918) [3 notes: 39m-o]

8.       The Graphic: An Illustrated Weekly Magazine, August 25, 1923 [3 articles, 9 notes: 053e-054d]

9.       Alfred Perceval Graves, Irish literary and musical studies, London: Elkin Mathews, 1913 [126 notes: cover verso-a, c-f, h-j, 027h-i, 077h, 155m-156k, 157a-l]

10.     Ingersoll, Colonel Robert G., Mistakes of Moses [n.d] (1879) (1921) [20 notes: 044c-045a, 045f-045l, 045n]

11.     Otto Jespersen, Language, its Nature, Development and Origin, London, Allen and Unwin, 1922 [133 notes: 056e-h, 057c-067a, 069a-073d, 073i-m, 095d-097i]

12.     J.T. Lloyd, God-Eating, A Study in Christianity and Cannibalism, London, The Pioneer Press, 1921 [20 notes: 028a-029j]

13.     Margaret Maitland, Life and Legends of St. Martin of Tours (316-397), London, Catholic Truth Society, 1908 [64 notes: 032a-037f]

14.     William Bullen Morris, The Life of Saint Patrick, apostle of Ireland : with a preliminary account of the sources of the saint’s history (sixth edition, 1908) [71 notes: 001a-003f, 004f-009j, 012a-h]

15.     Ogden, C.K. & I.A. Richards, The Meaning of Meaning, A Study of The influence of Language upon Thought and of The Science of Symbolism, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co, New York, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1923 [or a very early review or preview, see also VI.B.12, 1926] [13 notes: 152i-153i]

16.     Pascal, Dr Constanza, La démence précoce: étude psychologique, médicale et médico-légale, Paris, F. Alcan, 1911 [65 notes: 075a-i, 076a-077e, 078n-m, 132h-134l, 167d-e, 167d-e, 168a-169j]

17.     Pic, Adrien, ‘Vieillesse et sénilité’, in: Lyon Médical, 43ème année, No.31, 30 July 1911, 210-225 [18 notes: 105f-106k]

18.     Selby, Charles, The Boots at the Swan, An Original Farce un One Act by Charles Selby, Comedian, n.d. (ca. 1875), French’s Acting Edition Nr. 503 [24 notes: 026a-027m]

19.     Somerville, E.Œ. and Martin Ross, All on the Irish Shore, Irish Sketches, Longmans, Green, and Co. 1903 (reprinted in 1910, 1911, 1917, 1922, 1925), Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., London etc, n.d. (1917) [55 notes: 150a-n, 151j-152f, 153k-154f, 154k-155d, 155f-l, 156l-o]

20.     Vico, Giambattista, La Scienza Nuova (1725) [15 notes: 131b-132e]


General Bibliography

•        Henri Béhar (ed.) Mélusine, Cahiers du Centre de Recherche sur le Surréalisme, No. XXVII, Le Surréalisme et la Science, Lausanne, L’Age d’Homme, 2007, 67-70

•        Viviana Braslasu, preliminary transcriptions and editing of notebooks VI.B.7, VI.B.8 and VI.B.9, unpublished

•        Thomas E. Connolly, The Personal Library of James Joyce, A Descriptive Bibliography, University of Buffalo, 1955

•        Luca Crispi, bibliographic description of Notebook VI.B.2,

•        Vincent Deane, ‘Joyce, Moranism, and the Opal Hush Poets’, in Dublin James Joyce Journal, ed. by Luca Crispi and Anne Fogarty, No. 5, 2012, 66-81

•        —, ‘From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay Area: the Afterlife of Opal Hush’, in James Joyce Online Notes, ed. by Harald Beck and John Simpson,

•        David Hayman, introduction to Notebook VI.B.2, James Joyce Archive 29, Garland, 1978

•        Roland McHugh, ‘Chronology of the Buffalo Notebooks’ in A Wake Newslitter, ed. by Fritz Senn and Clive Hart, New Series IX:2 and 3, April and June 1972, 19-31 and 36-38; and IX:5, October 1972, 100.

•        James Joyce, The Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo, VI.B.3; VI.B.10, edited by Vincent Deane, Daniel Ferrer and Geert Lernout, Turnhout, Brepols, 2001

•        Danis Rose, The Textual Diaries of James Joyce, Dublin, The Lilliput Press, 1995

•        R.J. Schork. Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1997

•        Peter Spielberg, James Joyce’s Manuscripts and Letters at the University of Buffalo, a Catalogue, University of Buffalo, 1962

•        Giambattista Vico, The First New Science, edited and translated by Leon Pompa, Cambridge University Press, 2002


Source Identification

Identifying sources is and remains a collective effort. For their invaluable help in deciphering Joyce’s handwriting, supplying documents and information as well as their general assistence I want to thank Vincent Deane, Mikio Fuse, Geert Lernout, Daniel Ferrer, Roland McHugh, Aida Yared, Dirk Van Hulle, Ronan Crowley, Wim Van Mierlo, Viviana Braslasu and Fiona Green.

Cicero found by Joe Schork; Fitz-Patrick (Burke) found by Geert Lernout; The Graphic found by Robbert-Jan Henkes with the help of Fiona Green; Jespersen found by Roland McHugh; Maitland found by Wim Van Mierlo; Morris found by Vincent Deane and Robbert-Jan Henkes (independently), De Selby found by Vincent Deane; all other sources found by Robbert-Jan Henkes.


May 2014

[i] The four Patrick and the Archdruid notes are: ‘Italyman’, ‘goddam’, ‘damfool’ on Nativities 45, and ‘O of E.W. (obs of —)’ on Nativities 140. Kevin makes surprise appearances praying in water (9f), as a polynesian (15j), carrying Christ’s cross (79a), sleeping on sowskin (79f), washing himself (80g), as a marvel (‘Kevin quia monstrum’, 81c), born in nasty weather (128d), as a young glutton (128g), entering a protestant chapel (129a), exemplifying the oral tradition (142d), related to others (‘relations (via) of Kevin’, 142j) and with a blackbird laying eggs on his hands that he put through a window in prayer (156d).

[ii] MS [point of entry missing, fourth proofs for transition 12]: How’s that for Shemese? | March 1928 (see Letters III, 28 March 1928) | [JJA 57:311] | I.3§1D.11 | FW 425.02-3 [MS 47487-153 | JJA 62:275 | III.1§1D.13 [first galley proofs] | April-May 1937]

[iii] Of course I was looking everywhere for the shortfingeredness and the hereditary white lock, to no and nil avail. It was only when I googled the neighbouring words that something came up. With the magic words ‘night-blindness’ and ‘redrawn to scale’, the allknowing and neverforgetting search engine led me to a scholarly work about Marianne Moore, and in one of the essays, one about her poem “Octopus”, Dr. Fiona Green writes about the origins of this haunting poem. Marianne Moore – it is known from published notes, and Fiona Green recounts – came across an article in the London magazine The Graphic, ‘The Octopus in the Channel Islands’, this article being the source for the ‘picking periwinkles from the cracks’ phrase in the poem. Fiona Green however found out that the end of the poem owes certain images and thoughts to another article in the same issue of The Graphic, called ‘The Laboratory of the S-Ray’, being an account of a visit to a eugenic laboratory. From that article Dr. Green quotes passages that contained my desiderata ‘night-blindness’ and ‘redrawn to scale’. And when I saw the date of the issue of The Graphic, my watch stopped but my heart beat on, and I got an inkling that This might be It. August 25, 1923 falls precisely within the time frame, the window of opportunity of B.2 notetaking. So, what did I do. First I tried to find the issue in libraries (with worldcat) and bookshops (abebooks, addall, bookfinder), but nothing turned up, at least in my vicinity.  But Dr. Fiona Green seemed to exist, teaching in Cambridge, and had a university email address. So I put on my bold shoes and climbed in the pen, as we say in DoubleDutch, explaining my plight to her and asking did she have digital or paper copies of the magazine that she wouldn’t mind sharing. And by return mail I received a digital copy of the S-Ray article. And yes, it turns out to be the one and only source for an incredible run of no less than six consecutive notes, including the illusive and curious ‘shortfingeredness’ and the ‘hereditary white lock’, that illume the features of our hero Humphrey’s liege and king. — On a side note, also very interesting is the difference in reading habits of Joyce and Moore: Joyce was obviously just on the hunt out for words, and he didn’t particularly mind if he was reading an unctuous tract or an anticlerical invective, as long as he was provided with his lexical teasers and tesseras. Marianne Moore wasn’t so utalitarian: she took what she read much more seriously. She picked up on the intention, the world view of the writer, and could be shocked or delighted, and these emotions set her off, whereas Joyce’s mind was sparked by the words, the quirkiness of phrases, the illogicalities in what he read, and never allowed himself to take what he read very seriously.

[iv] ‘I believe one of the author’s designs was to set curious men a hunting through indexes, and enquiring for books out of the common road.’ Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub, Sect. X.

[v] MS 47471b-70v-71 LPA: There grew up beside you oaf, outofwork, ^+1 remove from an unwashed savage+^ | JJA 47:386-7 | I.7§2.*1 [second draft, pencil] | Jan-Feb 1924 | FW 191.11-12

[vi] For checking Scienza Nuovas in the paper flesh, ‘Groellanda,’ Book II, Ch. LVIII, is a good starting point for checking if the version is the 1725 one: the word won’t crop up in the 1744 one. For knowing whether it is actually the edition Joyce read: check the page number items. Joyce, in certain instances, appended a page number to his Vico notes in D2: ‘bonitario’ p.105, ‘comitia curiata’ p.108, ‘bromides’ & ‘Capo 28’ p.112(?), ‘antichità deplorata’ p.141, ‘uscirsi’ p.191. If these words occur on these pages: chances are that it is the actual edition Joyce read.

[vii] Plays were truly the movies of the nineteenth century, and were written and brought out in rapid succession. A French’s Acting Edition of around 1875 of Boots at the Swan is numbered 503 in the series, whereas the back cover lists only the most recent plays, from No. 1441 to 1615, with intriguing titles such as Painless Dentistry, Who Stole the Clock?, Plots for Petticoats, Popocatepetl, One too Many and an unabashedly ambitious Battle of Waterloo.