Genetic Joyce Studies - Issue 8 (Spring 2008)
Reading in the Rain New Sources in the Owldeed (VI.B.5) and Prairies (VI.B.14) Notebooks
Robbert-Jan Henkes

Summer 1924. In the Municipal Library of the lovely fortified town of Saint-Malo in Brittany, Joyce took out some magazines and studied them. It was raining outside. Mercilessly. They hadn’t seen such a rainy summer here since last year. What did the hotel manager say? ‘July at its worst.’ And halfway August not much better. Les Vacances de M. Joyce ... Randomly but always on the alert, he leafs through the bound volumes of diverse folkloristic magazines. To see what chance has in store. Last time he took some notes from articles in the Annales de la Société d’histoire et d’archéologie de l’arrondissement Saint-Malo. And from the Revue de Bretagne, de Vendée & d’Anjou. Interesting material, but as yet a bit uncertain for what. The tomy volumes of 1909 and 1907 of the Annales he had probed. ‘Mais non non non, monsieur Joyce, you cannot take them home, they are revues, magazines, periodicals, hein? It is forbidden! Ab-so-lu-ment! I’m desolated but it is hors question.’ Even if he had wanted to carry them home to the hotel, they would have broken his ashplantfrail back. Now the 1904 volume of the Revue des Traditions Populaires, number XIX, was laying in front of him in the reading room. Let’s see. The Norwegian Fish Slapping Dance. That is not what he was looking for. Folk Songs of the Spanish Inquisition. Hm. It should be something more local, more Breton lorelike. Let’s try this, by Yves Sébillot. I’ve seen his name before, or no, that was Paul Sébillot. Must be related. Father and son touched by the holy ghost of their motherland. Traditions and customs of Lower Brittany, part X, Marriage in the Trégorrois area. Sounds interesting. Maybe something for an outrageous incestuous marriage ceremony for Shaun and Issy. (I’m glad they stayed back at the hotel.) (It was nice though, to celebrate their birthdays in Saint-Malo.) Is that an idea for a follow-up for Shaun? Or should I look for Dawn? Or to incorporate the marriage customs into the goodbye lessons of Shaun to Issy. No, it was Yves, Paul-Yves. Here’s the same article, in a more recent series.[1]

With his less bad right eye close to the book, Joyce starts reading about marriage customs in the region around Tréguier, halfway between Saint-Malo and Brest, deep in the heart of Asterix country. Some strange rites may even be Celtic relics, and Celtic history and prehistory is what Joyce is looking for on his well-deserved holiday in Brittany. In the marriage customs essay he reads about how to find out what your lawfully wedded partner will be like: count the spikes on a holly leaf, and each spike stands for a different characteristic for your future wife or husband, and the last will be true, so you will know whether he or she will be nice, beautiful, roguish, cuckold or thievish, noting on page 92 of his notebook VI.B.14 (Prairies): ‘for future H count nettlespikes’. And about the custom of sticking pins in the nose of Saint Guirec, or in Breton Zant Gwirek, by girls who want to get married. And he makes notes about the wooing ceremony itself, the wedding and the nuptial feast, ‘which takes place in the open air, and the guests are seated on long laid out ladders’. When the bride leaves her parents, according to the closing words of the article, there is a lot of crying, which is called in Breton ‘Ar oueladen’, that is in French ‘la pleurade’, as Joyce notes on Prairies (VI.B.14) 094(e).[2]

The end. Joyce lays aside the volume with the Sébillot article and takes up another book. He holds his hands so that we just can’t make out the title. ‘That’s interesting,’ he murmurs, and he jots down some words,[3] ‘jeu de massacre ... toit en dos d’âne .... tréma, that’s a dieresis ... low Breton and high Breton ...’ Then he closes the book and picks up yet another volume on the table. This time we were so wise as to anticipate and to read the title before he opens it. It is another folkloristic revue about Brittany, the Revue de Bretagne, de Vendée et d’Anjou from 1904. He opens the volume seemingly at random, halfway. There he starts reading about the expression ‘Je suis un sot breton’, ‘I am a Brittanic fool’, which, the author claims, has nothing to do with foolishness, but is derived from ‘z’haut’ and has to do with high, ‘I am from Upper Brittany’. And about the best way to iron a typical Breton head-dress, that is to sit on it. Mighty interesting. After a few notes Monsieur Joyce calls it a day. His pencil is out of ink. The rain has stopped for a moment. The lights have gone out. It looks like thunder in the air. Nora comes by to get him to go for a walk. The proprietor of the Hotel Chateaubriand has sent a message that another pack of books has arrived for him to read from Shakespeare & Co. Joyce returns the volumes to the desk clerk, saying with a menacing inflection: ‘I’ll be back.’

How did Joyce become a reader instead of a writer? The answer is simple. He had to. In April 1924 he was abruptly forced to stop writing, on doctor’s orders, when his ophthalmologist, Dr. Borsch, warned him that further work would be fatal for his eyesight, and that he had to give his eyes as much rest as possible, awaiting another operation. To cast from him all temptation to continue working on the first watch of Shaun, Joyce bought a big suitcase and on the 24th of May, he packed his books and papers and sent them to Sylvia Beach. He also bought a fountain pen to commemorate and commiserate the start of his enforced idleness. On the 11th of June the operation took place and on the 27th he was able to write to Harriet Weaver that his left eye was still bandaged but that he was allowed to read with the other. But working, writing was still forbidden. To escape the gloomy weather and dreary thoughts in Paris, Joyce and his family left Paris around the 7th of July for an extended holiday in Brittany. As soon as he arrived in Saint-Malo, he took from the hotel bookshelves the three-volume Illustrated Chateaubriand. It was there because the hotel was called ‘Hotel de France et Chateaubriand’, named after not only the proud and mighty country they lived in, but also after their most famous townsman, François René de Chateaubriand, born in the Rue des Juifs on the 4th of September 1768 as the son of a slave trader.[4]

But that was not the only book Joyce read and took notes from. Not to strain his eyes, Joyce read voraciously during his holidays. The editors of the Brepols edition found for Owldeed (VI.B.5) three books and eight periodicals and for Prairies (VI.B.14) a staggering twentytwo books and five periodicals. And that seems to be only the tip of the iceberg. There is still a lot of uncharted territory in these notebooks, a lot of unidentified source material, but with the help of a recently invented tool that wasn’t available to the editors when these notebooks were published, Google Book Search, and the good offices of especially the University of Michigan that put its library online in 2007, I managed to identify thirteen more sources, nine books (for certain) and four periodicals (in varying degrees of probability), totalling 537 entries for which the source now can be identified. In due course these findings will be incorporated in the electronic Notebook updates in these Genetic Joyce Studies. Here’s the list of newly, post-Brepols identified sources in Owldeed (VI.B.5) and Prairies (VI.B.14):



Notebook pages


total / used

Owldeed B.5.010, 011, 012, 014, 016, 034, 049, 069, 082, 112, 119, 122, 129

Prairies B.14.003, 008, 009, 012, 013

Jacques Boulenger & André Thérive, Les Soirées du Gram­maire-Club, Paris, Librairie Plon, 1924 (270 pp)

(co-identified with Mikio Fuse and Aida Yared in VI.B.5)

92 / 7

Owldeed B.5.142-144, 146-147, 151, 152

Prairies B.14.011, 015-020

Édouard Schuré, Les Grandes Légendes de France, Paris, Perrin et Cie, 1921 (1892), 298 pp

106 / 9

Prairies B.14.087-091

Edward FitzGerald, Miscellanies, London, Mac­Millan and Co, 1900, 207 pp

36 / 11

Prairies B.14.091-092

The Apocryphal New Testament, being the Apo­cryp­h­al Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses, with Other Narratives and Fragments Newly Trans­lated by Montague Rhodes James, 1924 (reprinted 1926, 1945, 1950, 1953), 594 pp

(identified on VI.B.5.105 by Mikio Fuse)

16 / 0

Prairies B.14.103-104, 175-179

Standish O’Grady, Selected Essays and Passages, Dublin, Talbot Press, 1918, 340 pp

61 / 26

Prairies B.14.121-124

Zacharie Le Rouzic, The Megalithic Monuments of Carnac and Locmariaquer: Their Purpose and Age, with Five Views and One Map, translated by W.M. Tapp, Editions de La Bretagne Touristique, Saint-Brieuc, 1908, 40 pp

24 / 9

Prairies B.14.125-127, 147-150

Matthieu-Maxime Gorce, Saint Vincent Ferrier (1350-1419), Plon, Paris, 1924, 303 pp

46 / 8

Prairies B.14.135-137

F.G. Crookshank, The Mongol in Our Midst, A Study of Man and His Three Faces, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co / New York, E.P. Dutton, 1924, 123 pp

26 / 1

Prairies B.14.202-208

Maurice Delafosse, L’âme nègre, Payot, Paris, 1922, 180 pp

62 / 12



Notebook pages

Source / Found in

total / used

Prairies B.14.053, 054, 057

Annales de la Société historique et archéologique de l’arron­dissement de Saint-Malo, for the years 1907, 1909, 1911, 1913, 1921-1924 (from Google Book Search snippets)

22 / 0

Prairies B.14.059, 068

Étienne Dupont, Une astrologue Bretonne au Mont Saint-Michel (1356-1370), about Tiphaine Raguenel on page 259-278, in: Revue de Bretagne, de Vendée & d'Anjou (Société des biblio­philes bretons et de l’histoire de Bretagne, Nantes), 1910, 670 pp

11 / 1

Prairies B.14.092-094

Yves Sébillot, Traditions et coutumes de Basse-Bretagne, X, Le mariage au pays Trégorrois, p.348-356, in: Revue des Traditions Populaires, Recueil mensuel de mythologie, littérature orale, ethno­gra­phie traditionelle et art populaire, Paris 1904, 576 pp (?)

24 / 1

Prairies B.14.094

Revue de Bretagne, de Vendée et d’Anjou, edited by Arthur La Broderie, Émile Grimaud, vol. 31-32, 1904 (from Google Book Search snippets)

4 / 0




Linguistic forages: Les Soirées du Grammaire-Club


The first book Joyce read after or even during his reading of Chateaubriand was a book of dialogues about the sorry state of the French language. He either found it in a Saint-Malo bookshop or he might have taken it with him from Paris. In their introduction the authors, Jacques Boulenger & André Thérive, quote a letter with a proposal for a kind of linguistic academy, of ‘not more than 12 to 19 people, Belgians from Brabant and Flanders excluded.’ They decide not to call their gatherings an academy, but a ‘club’, a ‘grammaire-club’ even, to show that they don’t take themselves too seriously and are not to be mistaken for rigid language purists.

The main claim to Wakean fame of Les Soirées du Grammaire-Club is that here the famous word ‘proxenete’(French: pimp; bawd) of the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter originates, entered on Owldeed B.5.119(j): ‘ proxenete’. The story behind it goes like this, in a discussion about grammatical and linguistic stupidities, pedantry and pretensions (and I translate off the cuff from page 73 of Les Soirées): ‘Recently, a newspaper published some fine follies that their ignorance and pretensions cause journalists to commit. Poor Charles Muller, who died for the fatherland, was a student with a grant in Rennes and at the same time editor of a Breton journal, l’Avenir. One day, an enemy newspaper of l’Avenir stated that it was a scandal that the city of Rennes had given one of their student grants to a ‘proxénète’ like Muller. It was at a time when duels were still fought: Muller sent two of his friends to demand the reason of this rude insult and the journalist did as asked: he explained that for him, proxénète (which he no doubt dimly confused with proxène) meant: stranger, and that with this word he wanted to say that Muller was from Le Havre and not from Rennes. The case was allowed to rest there, after the insulted party obligingly instructed his adversary, in l’Avenir, that proxénète had no more the meaning of stranger than pédicure had that of pédéraste.’

The interesting thing is, that Joyce in Finnegans Wake not only incorporates the word alone, but also the context of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the word that is the subject of the anecdote, though the proxenete in question is no longer Shem, but Anna Livia herself: ‘Letting on she didn’t care ^+, the proxenete! Proxenete and what is that? Were you never at school? It’s just the same as if I was to go for example now and proxenete you! For God’s sake and is that was she is?+^’ (MS 47474-125, JJA 48:75, FW 198.17, 22)

In toto Joyce made 92 notes from Les Soirées in his two holiday notebooks. It may appear at first sight that he entered the items linearly, as the first two positive Soirées-notes,[5] Owldeed B.5.010(c) draisienne / bicycle, and 011(c) Karosse / Karredge, derive from the opening pages of Les Soirées (11 and 14). But in this case appearances are deceptive. As the editors make plausible, Joyce started his Chateaubriand notes on arrival in Saint-Malo on Owldeed B.5.119, and then worked forward as well as backwards, filling in the spaces he left empty as he entered loose thoughts while recuperating in the dark from his eye operation.[6] Considering there are fourteen different Owldeed B.5 notebook pages with mostly scant Soirées notes, the first on page 10 and the last on page 129, it is probable that Joyce entered these items in the same way as the Chateaubriand notes: starting somewhere and then turning back to the beginning of the notebook to fill in the unused spaces. In that case, he may have started on the same page as the Chateaubriand notes, p.119, stumbling on the famous ‘proxenete’, and reading Les Soirées from there.[7]

A nice instance of Joyce’s reading strategies we find on Prairies B.14.013(k) and (l). Boulenger & Thérive warn against a language with too many allusive metaphors and with too much evocative slang, passing into normal usage, like saying ‘il est midi’ [it is noon] for ‘it is too late’ or even for ‘it is impossible’: mediocre writers already express themselves through nothing but incomprehens­ible images. After which Joyce invents an incomprehensible image himself and comes up with the utterly strange ‘sweet greenriding bosom’.

As always Joyce is an active, participating reader, not reactive in the sense that he agrees or disagrees with the author, but active in the sense that while reading he develops ideas and immediately tries to fit the ideas and words into his own framework, which can be the Wake episode he is thinking about, or his own life and circumstances. For instance, when on page 156 of Les Soirées Racine and Montaigne are called ‘des auteurs néo-latins’, Joyce at once takes it personally and makes the extension, on Prairies B.14.012(b): ‘J.J. neo-saxon’.

Of these 92 items, Joyce used only seven in Work in Progress. From Owldeed B.5 just one, the famous ‘proxenete’, and from Prairies B.14 the fairly non-committal and unrevealing ‘supercillious’ (003k), ‘pudding stone’ (003n), ‘all the same’, ‘realise himself ’ (008g), ‘casque of telephonist’ (009i), ‘Babel ’ (009l) and ‘semantic’ (012a). An interesting deleted item appears on Prairies B.14.008(i), ‘Déja (Chilperic hears of assassination of Louis XVI)’. In Les Soirées, the discussants imagine Socrates coming back and warning the French writers that because of their neglect the language of their masterworks of literature is dying. The president of the Grammaire-Club then says: ‘Already!... As Chilperic answered, in an operette of Hervé, when a frankish warrior told him about the death of Louis XVI or the crowning of Charlemagne. I love to hear Socrates fearing microbes and praising our French masterworks.’ The item still hasn’t been not localized in FW or the manuscripts, but if it is a compositional or conceptual mental note to self by Joyce, a reminder that his present work would be a refutation of chronological time as we know it, then the thought pervades the entire Wake.

All in all, Les Soirées de Grammaire-Club is a much less important source than for instance Jespersen,[8] but nonetheless it shows Joyce’s lasting interest in all forms and aberrations of language and once more it highlights his kleptomaniac approach to strange and out of the way words.[9]




The Route Touristique: Schuré’s Les Grandes Légendes and a Visit to Carnac


Although he wasn’t allowed to write, on account of his eyes, Joyce was allowed to think, and think is what he did. (A writer really has no holidays.) The first watch of Shaun was finished (and not yet cut in two) and now he was racking his brain how to continue. In fact, his breakthrough only came in October or November, when he read reviews of Mary Travers’s preternatural book Psychic Messages from Oscar Wilde (Prairies B.14.186) which gave him the crucial idea for III.3. But on his holiday in Brittany he was still plodding along with his old plan, to devote a central part of the Wake to Saint Patrick, who by then still had his own siglum, P. Most of the Patrick-related sources in Prairies B.14 have been identified, but Joyce also wanted to delve deeper into Celtic mythology, Breton history and prehistory, and from his hotel he sent a continuous stream of requests for books to Sylvia Beach in Paris.

Edouard Schuré’s Les Grandes Légendes de France was either sent by her or found by Joyce in a Saint-Malo bookshop. Joyce was acquainted with Schuré, because Schuré was the writer of an interesting study about women inspirers, Femmes inspiratrices et Poètes annonciateurs, that Joyce had read, around May 1923, along with its English translation, taking down Wagner & Mathilde Wesendonck material in Trist B.3.66-77 (source identified by Geert Lernout). Of the four parts of Les Grandes Légendes Joyce studies only the last two parts (after finishing Chateaubriand), about the Mont Saint-Michel and its history and about Breton legends and the ‘Celtic genius’.[10] He starts with prehistoric legends and heathen legends from Brittany in Owldeed B.5 and returns to the stories about the Mont Saint-Michel in Prairies B.14, maybe in preparation for a visit to the famous rock in the beginning of August, in the company of Mr. Lloyd Morris and his mother on a tour of the area.

From the thirty-two pages of Celtic legends, Joyce makes twentyfour notes, from Owldeed 142(g) to 144(l), of which two are on-the-fly transformations of the original words: 143(g) the Brenn(an) shielded / elected, telescopes one of Ireland’s most frequent surnames, Brennan, with the ‘brenn’ or village chief who, once elected, was elevated on a shield, in the best Heroix/Abraracourcix-tradition.[11] The second pun is ‘Tristan usque ad mortem’, where Schuré merely has: ‘Tristis usque ad mortem, that is the first and last impression of Cape Raz.’ Neither was used by Joyce. The only item he employed was 144(c) ‘here flux unite T & I / reflux suicides’, which derived from a local legend about the Baie de Trépassés, where once a year – so the legend goes – the souls meet of those who killed themselves for love. The flux (high tide) unites them, the reflux (low tide) separates them, and wailing and groaning they try to hold on to each other.[12]

In Prairies B.14 Joyce concentrates on the Mont Saint-Michel, making seventy entries from 67 pages of Légendes in a straightforward fashion, maybe even in one reading session during an average bad weather day, with only some scattered non-source remarks in between.[13] The entries are from Prairies B.14.015(i) to 020(p). Interesting is the Shaun figure that Joyce distills from a shellfish merchant on the Mont (Prairies B.14.016h&i). He has a characteristic face, and in his spare time sits as a model for the countless visiting painters. He proudly tells Schuré that his portrait is sold all over the world: ‘On me vend dans le monde entier.’ Joyce typically improves on the wording: ‘On me vend partout’. The intriguing note in the middle of the Schuré index, on Prairies B.14.017(o) ‘ triangle’, is not in the source, and hence may well be a first inkling of the later chapter II.2. Very few items end up in Finnegans Wake, and mostly without any contextual memory that would link it to the source.





On the 1st of September, the Joyces visited the menhir fields of Carnac, in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Morel.[14] In the Musée Miln-le Rouzic Joyce bought a small, forty-page guidebook, in English, by the foremost authority on the subject (and maybe co-founder of the museum?) Zacharie Le Rouzic. The guidebook, The Megalithic Monuments of Carnac and Locmariaquer; Their Purpose and Age, with Five Views and One Map, was translated, faithfully, though with one mistake,[15] by W.M. Tapp, LL. D., F.S.A. We can be sure that Joyce read the translation (and not the French original) because the various technical terms coincide with the English version and not always with the French. Already the first two items, Prairies B.14.121(n) ‘dressed stone’ and 121(o) ‘flaked’, can only have been taken from the English, as the corresponding terms in French are one and the same, ‘taillée(s)’, and not two different words: French: “Ces pierres taillées sont divisées en types différents, dont le plus ancien est le type chelléen, de Chelles (Seine-et-Marne), ayant plus ou moins bien la forme d’une amande taillée sur ses deux faces, mais variant beaucoup de forme, de taille et de fini dans le travail.” English: “These flaked stones are divided into different types, of which the most ancient is the Chellean type, of Chelles (Seine-et-Marne), having more or less the shape of an almond, dressed on its two faces, but differing very much in form, shape, and finish.” [emphasis added] The word ‘fabrique’ on Prairies 122(e) would seem to point to a French source, were it not that this is a nonce back-translation of Joyce’s own making of the English word ‘manufacturies’: in fact Le Rouzic doesn’t employ the word ‘fabrique’, he uses the word ‘ateliers’. All in all, Joyce must have read the English version.[16]

An interesting entry is Prairies B.14.124(c) ‘bury ass with him’, because the original text is about horses: ‘We have seen that in several tumuli bones of horses and oxen have been discovered’. It is not the first time that Joyce attributes to the ass what is told of the horse, see for instance Prairies B.14.023(f), where Joyce writes: ‘ce n’est pas la peine de siffler quand l’âne ne veut pas pisser’, whereas the original proverb goes ‘it’s no use to whistle when the horse doesn’t want to piss’. This may already be an intimation of the fifth evangelist, John’s donkey in the Wake.[17]

What is also beginning to emerge is a pattern in Joyce’s use of his notes. He seems to be attracted first and foremost to using notes that he thought of himself, even if they were occasioned by the source and were extensions of what he read. In this 24 item Le Rouzic cluster, Joyce uses three notes, and one of them, Prairies B.14.122(d) ‘terracotta’, is not verbatim in the source, but was inspired by the context and the word ‘earthenware’. This pattern has everything to do with Joyce’s pro-active way of reading, his purposeful thinking along with the text, that was also striking in his notes for Les Soirées (see the Prairies 012(b) ‘J.J. neo-saxon’-note, above). It is as if he wants the text he is reading to tell him something, and the text also wants to tell him something, but it has to be helped along, the right words have to be dragged out as it were. And the helpful words Joyce jots down, are usually the first he is able to use in his drafts, because they have already gone through his milling mind once.





Edward FitzGerald, Miscellanies


A book Joyce found in a Saint-Malo second-hand bookshop? Asked Sylvia Beach to send? It doesn’t appear to be even remotely connected with Joyce’s concerns at the time. The editors were very close to identifying this book as the source for this cluster of notes, but apparently weren’t able to check the first edition, the one that Joyce used. The various subsequent editions of the Miscellanies after 1900 often have totally different contents, pieces added as well as pieces left out, and in a new arrangement. It seems probable that Joyce read the first edition, although he didn’t read it linearly from start to finish.[18]

Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883) is now mostly known as the translator of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, but he was a poet and a writer himself. The Miscellanies is what the title says: a hodgepodge of longer essays, memoirs, introductions to collections of sayings, and even a preliminary compilation of data for a biography he wanted to write about Charles Lamb. The main dish is the Platonic dialogue Euphranor, an impressionistic account about education against the background of FitzGerald’s good old Cambridge University days. The notes Joyce makes focus on the marked student language FitzGerald employs, somewhat affected and immature at the same time. For instance:

Prairies B.14.087(d) kept (lived)

Miscellanies 60: So, without more ado, we turn’d into Trinity Great gate, and round by the right up a staircase to the attic where Lexilogus kept.


Prairies B.14.087(e) should (for this time only) not

Miscellanies 63: At last, after a little hesitation as to whether he should wear cap and gown, (which I decided he should, for this time only, not,) Lexilogus was ready: and calling out on the staircase to some invisible Bed-maker, that his books should not be meddled with, we ran downstairs

These particular two notes ended up via the C-notebook on FW p.362.36-363.01: ‘And you, when you kept at Dulby, were you always (for that time only) what we knew how when we (from that point solely) were you know where?’

Of the 36 notes from FitzGerald’s book, eleven ended up in FW, nine of which through this B notebook and two through notebook VI.C.12 (see above). All used notes ended up completely scattered in at least six different chapters of the Wake, but nonetheless they are placed on interesting spots. On FW 6.05-06 we find the proverbial ‘thurum and thurum in fancymud murumd’, which turns out to derive from the final paragraphs of the Preface to Polonius in the Miscellanies (p.172), being an introduction to a collection of ‘Aphorisms and Apophthegms’, originally published in 1852: ‘Some extracts are from note books, where the author’s name was forgot; some from the conversation of friends that must alike remain anonymous; and some that glance but lightly at the truth are not without purpose inserted to relieve a book of dogmatic morals. “Durum et durum non faciunt murum.” § And now Mountain opens and discovers— § Polonius.’ (The Shakespearean name Polonius should take the curse of the possibly dull contents.)

An instance of Joyce’s pro-active, purposeful, utalitarian  and teleological way of reading (and note-taking) occurs on Prairies B.14.088(p), where he notes: ‘laughter (witness joined)’. In the source passage in the Euphranor dialogue there is no witness, only laughing,[19] but apparently Joyce wanted to remind himself of his sometime previous note in Owldeed B.5.023(i) ‘laughter in which the / witness joined’ (taken from the Connacht Tribune), and he immediately linked the notes by adding the ‘witness’ to the Miscellanies one. Then, when he harvested his material and used the image for FW 092.02-05, he crossed out both entries in the same run-through.


Suspicious Sourcery: Folkloristic journals in the Saint-Malo library

It is difficult to unequivocally identify magazine articles as Wakean sources. First of all the original magazines are very hard to find in the paper flesh, and secondly you never know whether Joyce didn’t come across the article in another context, in some other collection of papers. The snippets revealed by Google Book Search often don’t show the words themselves you were looking for, and never give you the author of the article in question. To be sure of the source you need to have the paper edition in front of you. True, in the Saint-Malo library Joyce may very well have read diverse articles in the yearly volumes of the Annales de la Société d’histoire et d’archéologie de l’arrondis­sement Saint-Malo, and the Revue de Bretagne, de Vendée & d'Anjou and the Revue des Traditions Populaires, as Google Book Search indicates, and the image of Joyce reading these journals is what the romanticized introduction of this article was inspired by. These three magazines were digitized in 2007 by the University of Michigan and magnanimously put on the world wibe web, but as long as we can’t check them live, we can never be completely sure. So if you happen to be in the neighbourhood of Ann Arbor, and the weather is really bad, you might give it a try and spend a few days reading, to check if the magazine articles really are the immediate source for these notes. Otherwise, the search is still on.

Of the two articles Joyce certainly read – though maybe in other collections – one is the Sébillot essay about the Breton marriage customs of the introduction. This one I have been able to check in its paper form in the Revue des Traditions Populaires. The second paper version of an article that Google Book Search marked as a Joycean reading suspect, is page 259-278 of the 1910 volume of the Revue de Bretagne et de Vendée. The author is Étienne Dupont, and the title of his essay is Une astrologue Bretonne au Mont Saint-Michel (1356-1370). It is a small and specialized study on the astrological activities of Tiphaine Raguenel and her possible place and time of residence on the Mont Saint-Michel.

If the Revue is really the source, Joyce must have picked the volume more or less haphazardly from the library shelves. The name Tiphaine Raguenel might have caused him to start reading, having already made a note about Tiphaine (her full first name was Epiphanie) and her husband Bertrand Duguesclin on B.14.020(c) and (l), from a reference in Schuré. If it seems strange that Joyce would pick such a specialist study, remember that Joyce read these kind of articles also to find suggestions for further reading,[20] and in this case it may also have served as a preparation for his imminent visit to Saint-Malo.

Joyce jots down a few words from the Dupont article on Prairies B.14.059(c)-(k), among them the unmistakable ‘approaching the hexameter’, from an aside by Dupont who is not certain why in an ancient manuscript every month starts with a line of Latin verse with a measure that seems to resemble a hexameter’ (‘dont la mesure paraît se rapprocher de l’hexamètre’). But what really gave away this essay on Google Book Search are the two sentences Joyce copies in their entirety on Prairies B.14.68(h), starting ‘Quand il eut quitté ses habits sacerdotaux’.[21] With these lines Dupont closes his essay. Judging from Joyce’s crossed-out first try to copy this sentence in an on-the-fly translation, it seems that he was especially struck by the ‘eloquent and persuasive words’ – being characteristic of the object of his composing thoughts, the honeytongued Shaun. The abbot in question, Geoffroy de Servon, gave Tiphaine Raguenel extreme unction on her deathbed and absolved her of her sins (she was only forty years old). And after she died, he went to her husband, Bertrand Duguesclin, the ‘unfortunate king’s officer’, and the good abbot comforted him so eloquently and persuasively, that already a couple of months later he was about to remarry. Well done, Shaun!


Something to Read: The Apocryphal New Testament

As Mikio Fuse showed, The Apocryphal New Testament (translated by M.R. James, 1924) is the source for Owldeed B.05.105(a-k) (items g and h being under investigation). Apparently Joyce had just acquired the book, and he started reading from the start, in the introduction, and then began on p.116, halfway through the Acts of Pilate, laying the book aside to take notes from the Irish Times and other newspapers. First, learning a poem of Valéry by heart absorbed his attention for a little while, and then reading the Oeuvres Choisies Illustrées of Chateaubriand for a long time. But Joyce couldn’t part with his recent acquisition and he had taken it with him to Saint-Malo, and during a lull in his reading regime, perhaps waiting for another parcel of books from Paris, sent on request by Sylvia Beach, he took up the Apocrypha once again on Prairies B.14.091.

The editors of the Prairies B.14 notebook, in their explanations to 091(e) and 092(f), in fact do refer to the Apocryphal New Testament, but they fail to identify it as unmistakably the source for the entries on these pages. It is a fairly consecutive cluster of notes Joyce took from the book, from 091(c) up to 092(h), from reading in a straightforward fashion 25 pages of Apocrypha, starting on page 199, this time not the Acts of Pilate, but smack in the middle of the assumption of the Virgin, according to the Discourse of Theodosius, and laying the book aside once more just before finishing the Syriac Narratives of the said Assumption of the Virgin.

Joyce’s last note on 092(h) is an interesting Ireland-related trivium. Jesus, in this apocryphal account, takes the apostles on a visit to hell: ‘and the earth sprang upward and they saw the pit.’ M.R. James footnotes: ‘I have pointed out, and the Rev. St. J. Seymour has elaborated the thesis, that this visit of the apostles to Hell was known in Ireland at an early date, and that the Irish form must be derived somehow from this Syriac text.’

Unfortunately none of these Apocrypha made it into Finnegans Wake,[22] but soon Joyce would start collecting more Irish trivia.


Irish History and Mythology: Standish O’Grady’s Selected Essays and Passages

Somewhere in the last weeks of July, Sylvia Beach sent Joyce the only book she could find by the 78-year old Irish writer Standish O’Grady, his Selected Essays and Passages, published in Dublin by the Talbot Press in 1918. In the 1870s and 1880s O’Grady had been one of the first to write about the mythical and historical past of Ireland, and he had been instrumental in creating a collective conscience of his race, albeit that this conscience and the literary movement resulting from it, was of the dreamy, ‘Celtic twilight’ kind that Joyce ridiculed in The Holy Office (1904) and even more deadly in Finnegans Wake, where he coined the phrase ‘cultic twalette’ (FW 344.12).

O’Grady wrote very romantically, very rhetorically and very very beautifully, in a highflighty style no more of this day, about the Irish past, about Finn, Cuchulain, the Irish bardic tradition and the great legendary past of Ireland and he had (the literary histories say) a profound influence on writers like Yeats and AE. Why would Joyce want to read the old books of Standish O’Grady and not one of the myriads of recent works on Irish mythology, for instance the classic Celtic Myths and Legends by T.W. Rolleston of 1911? Maybe precisely because it was the first influential book on Irish mythology, and because it was written in such an oldfashioned style. In this way he could catch two flies in one blow (as the Dutch saying goes): the Irish background he was investigating for further expeditions into Book III, and at the same time the stylistic flowers he would be able to pluck in the grassy O’Grady meadows would be Shaunish of their own accord. In his first session, Joyce read only the first of the Selected Essays, called Introduction of the Bardic History of Ireland, and he made fourteen entries on Prairies B.14.103(b)-104(a).

To give an impression of the style, I will quote the passage from which Joyce took down the words ‘dislimn’, ‘grouting’ and ‘shot rubbish’:

“Romances and poems supplied the great blocks with which the fabric was reared. These the chroniclers fitted into their places, into the interstices pouring shot-rubbish, and grouting. The bardic intellect, revolving round certain material facts, namely, the mighty barrows of their ancestors, produced gradually a vast body of definite historic lore, life-like kings and heroes, real-seeming queens. The mechanical intellect followed with perspicuous arrangement. With a thirst for accuracy, minuteness, and verisimilitude. With such quarrymen and such builders the work went on apace, and anon a fabric huge rose like an exhalation, and like an exhalation its towers and pinnacles of empurpled mist are blown asunder and dislimn.” (Selected Essays, p.24)

One of the two items Joyce uses from this small index is in fact probably inspired by this aeolian prose itself. On page 39 O’Grady remarks that the mounds, the barrows, the caiseals all over the country can be found in the ancient literature, ‘with the names and traditional histories of those over whom they were raised.’ Joyce at once sees the comic potential of the word and jots down: ‘selfraising’, linking this selfraising prose with selfraising dough.

You would think that Joyce would have given back this book to the four waves of Brittany. A man, even a writer of Joyce’s omnivorous stature, can only take so much. But no, another O’Grady index starts on Prairies B.14.175, much longer now, up to 179(c). Joyce was back in Paris by this time (or maybe still in London, where he stayed from 15 September to 12 October 1924), and he found the courage to go on. O’Grady’s style remains the same, but the stories become more interesting, because they contain more details. Joyce reads, from the selection Irish Bardic History, the passages about Ceasair and the Ceasairian Deities, about the Natural Mythology of the Irish, about Irish Unity, he reads the legends concerning Cuculain but he skips the last passage about Niall Mor of the Nine Hostages.

The section dealing with Irish Politics and Political History is of less interest to Joyce, but he does read the essay about the 17th-century treatise Pacata Hibernia (‘Ireland Pacified’), by Thomas Stafford, being an eyewitness account of the Elizabethan Wars in 1603 in the province of Munster. In 1896, O’Grady had been the editor of a republication of this important historical document with its wonderfully evocative title (the word ‘pacification’ being no more than a euphemism for cruel suppression.)

The 47 consecutive entries Joyce makes in this second index are only interrupted by two conceptual notes for Book II, ‘curfew ’ and ‘ light out’ on Prairies B.14.177(ab).[23] Curiously, Joyce used very many of these items , 25 of them, but only seven of them ended up in their original destination, Book III.

The real harvest took place in 1932 when Joyce started drafting the Night Lessons episode of II.2. He employed twelve O’Grady notes in close proximity, but when he decided to abandon the episode and to butcher the already drafted part, many of the notes were left abandoned on the cutting room floor, for instance ‘cleverism’ (176g), ‘live in future more than past’ from (177f), ‘wet his weapon’ (177l), ‘eject’ (178c)[24] and ‘private gallows’ (178j). High time for a comprehensive variorum Work in Progress edition to see these words in full action again.


Stand-in Patrick: Saint Vincent Ferrier (by M.M. Gorce)

The Joyce family holiday was drawing to an end. From Saint-Malo they had travelled to Quimper and from there to Vannes. Carnac valait le détour, and now Joyce was back in Vannes, last stop before returning to Paris. In one of the few quality bookshops of the small town, he acquired a recent biography of the famous Saint who died in Vannes, 505 years ago, Saint Vincent Ferrier, written by Matthieu-Maxime Gorce, the trade edition of his 1923 doctoral thesis. Thank God not a hagiography, so much the better, Joyce ponders. Plain, pure, cold, menhir-hard facts, that’s what he needs. It is the third of September and the weather is good reading weather.

It is not really clear why Joyce was so interested in Vincent Ferrier, or Vincent Ferrer, as his real name was, unless J.J. really had second sight (see Prairies B.14.017(n), taken from Schuré) and wanted to check out the family tree of a far descendant of the good saint, one who would eventually be instrumental in editing this very notebook VI.B.14 (Daniel Ferrer), in cooperation with another Vincent, surnamed Deane. It is also possible Joyce hoped to find useful Breton details in the biography. The Saint preached and self-chastised himself on many occasions in Brittany, and eventually died in Vannes. (It is not known if it was from his self-inflicted wounds.) This religious masochism itself may have piqued Joyce’s curiosity: one of his favourite books was Venus in Furs (Venus im Pelz) by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, so much so that he even named his Ulyssean hero after its author, and gave him (Leopold Bloom) some decidely masochistic traits.

It is also possible that Joyce read this Life just to telescope it eventually with his notes on Saint Patrick and to make some kind of a supersaint life, enriched by diverse ingredients and additions. Some entries in the Vincent Ferrier-clusters make it probable that Joyce was in fact thinking about Saint Patrick and picked up the Gorce biography only when he had no Patrick material left to read. That would also help to explain why Joyce skips whole chapters of this book: he didn’t really care where he left off, as long as he could harvest some fitting saintly particulars.[25]

There are three sequences, 125(k)-127(i); 147(f)-148(c) and149(f)-150(g), totaling 46 entries, of which 5 made it into the manuscripts. The editors have traced most of the biographical details back to the main source book on Saint Vincent’s life, the standard biography by R.P. Fages, and indeed, Joyce might just as well have read his 1894 Histoire de Saint-Vincent Ferrier. (Writing is for a large part copying, Joyce is a prime example of that.) But as it happens, he didn’t. Google Book Search yielded the Gorce biography as an indubitable source, the last Vincent Ferrier-note on 150(g) ‘fructitude’ being the unique telltale word, the spot-on hapax legomenon that gave it away.[26]

One of the reasons that Joyce used so few notes (5 out of 46), may be that he read the book with Saint Patrick on his mind, who was soon to be dropped from the big plan of Finnegans Wake, as Patrick was slowly allowed to merge with Shaun, and wouldn’t need to be so overtly saintly anymore.[27]

An interesting entry that did make it into the final text appears on B.14.148(a) ‘wife offers stocking & / veil to hang H’. Saint Vincent, who has seen the light and has left the service of the Pope, travels the country while preaching and lacerating himself, and tells an interesting parable: ‘Listen, I’m going to tell you a story: There once was a woman and her husband had killed someone, and after the verdict they dragged the criminal to the scaffold, the wife following and crying about her misery. And when they arrived at the scaffold, they noticed that they had forgotten the rope to hang the man. So the wife said: Why do you need a rope, here’s the veil of my headdress, take it. And so it was done. The husband was hanged with his wife’s headdress and I don’t know if you have comparable headdresses for this purpose.’ Take that! Sounds like a koan. Note that Joyce changes the headdress (‘coiffure’ in the original) into even more revealing stockings. It ended up on FW 495.09: ‘Here’s to the leglift of my snuff and trout stockangt henkerchoff ...’ It’s nice to know that the original connotation of the sentence is ‘go hang yourself with it’.

Saint Vincent did not mince words. He was a violent preacher if ever there was one. One time he got angry in an utterly depraved town and shouted (Gorce, p.150, Prairies 147i): “There is not, among you, a child of fifteen who is a virgin. People pretend an impossible chastity.” In a foonote citing his source (Fages), Gorce adds sanctimoniously: ‘Not a very flattering picture of the morals of the time,’ and he confesses to have suppressed a ‘grande crudité d’expressions’, in other words some very unpublishable bad language of the Saint, which we can only guess at. That is the funny thing about suppressing things: you immediately try to find the best worst words in your own vocabulary to fill the gap — completely contrary to the intention of the censor!

Probably Joyce finished the book back in Paris: his next reading notes derive from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which he couldn’t have taken with him to Brittany, unless he was travelling in a trailer van.


The Mongol in Our Midst (Francis Graham Crookshank)

This is the book the editors refer to in their footnote on page 12 of the Introduction of Prairies VI.B.14 as ‘an un­identified book of racial (and obviously racist) anthropology’. Joyce’s reading about anthro­pology and the Celts is all in the interest of his studying, for Shaun, the Dawn, of Man and Civilization. The Crookshank notes on these pages, 135(g)-137(i), are immediately followed by entries from a book by Williams James Perry, The Origin of Magic and Religion, 137(j)-141(a) and in a short while he will also read African tales disclosing the primitive Soul of the Negro, on Prairies B.14.202(i)-208(d). Joyce probably read the Crookshank book on his return from Brittany, or during his London trip.

The Mongol in our Midst proposes the thesis that Mongolism, or Down’s syndrome as we call it now, in honour of the physician who first described it, is really an atavism, or falling back to a previous state of human development. Well, it isn’t, but at the time medicine was still not aware of chromosomes and the like. Crookshank goes a step further and he tries to make a case for the separate evolution of the three races, white, yellow and black, and more, he argues that the white man descends from the chimpanzee, the black man from the gorilla, and the yellow man from the orang utan – as Joyce notes on 136(i)-(m) – or at least have common ancestors. Crookshank gathers this from similarities in handmarkings, gestures and especially in posture.

There is a Dutch writer, Matthijs van Boxsel, who collects all kinds of farfetched, ridiculous or faulty theories, whether it be the hollow-earth theory, or theories of everything and pyramids, or the idea that Ulysses came from Walcheren in Holland, but also scientific theories that have since proven to be false. He writes about them under the name of Morosophy, or Encyclopedia of Foolishness or Stupidity (‘domheid’). He describes these apparently nonsensical theories, or rather, the people who thought them out and then laughs very loudly about them. He wants to show that he knows better. And that, of course, is the greatest foolishness, to think in a Hegelian way that history ends with you. I’m sure that Van Boxsel would have loved to include Leonardo with his improbable theories of flying machines and underwater boats, were it not that they now exist. Most of these ‘foolish’ theorists were very learned and very serious men (although sometimes they were jokers and their theories were meant as pranks – also something Van Boxsel fails to appreciate, having no sense of humor), and if science took a turn that was not theirs, it is not their fault: they were, unlike Van Boxsel, inventive, inspired thinkers. Even Crookshank, however outdated, racist or completely misguided his theories may sound now, was a serious and attentive doctor. He even wrote an appendix to C.K. Ogden’s classic about the influence of language on thought, The Meaning of Meaning,[28] pointing to the dangers in medicine of fixing labels to diseases that are not well understood, because after a while the labels start leading a life on their own, not a bad observation at all, as far as I can judge. With which I only want to say – finishing my polemical interlude – that I hesitate to call Crookshank foolish or stupid.

But whatever Crookshank is or isn’t, Joyce did not particularly take to the book. Apparently he read less than half of it. He could well have left the book behind on his night table in the London Euston Hotel on checking out (only conjecturing). And, what’s more, he used only one meagre element in Finnegans Wake, the word ‘mongoloid’, that ended up on FW 550.16, ‘and to my saffronbreathing mongoloid, the skysig, I gave Biorwik’s powlver and Uliv’s oils ...’ Not something that Crookshank would be proud to show to visitors wanting to know what that book was doing on his coffeetable. (‘Look! I’m in Finnegans Wake!’ ‘Oh, you’re finally taken seriously?’)

Crookshank’s central thesis starts from this observation on page 33-34: ‘The interest attaching to these homologies is enhanced by the fact that, incidentally to these observations, certain homologies have been found between (1) certain types of the ‘White’ groups of the human race (2) the Chimpanzee and (3) a kind of mentally defective individual, found amongst certain white races, who is said to suffer from Dementia Precox. § Furthermore, homologies of the same order appear to obtain between (1) the Black, or Negro division of the human race (2) and the Gorilla, or great African ape, and also (3) a type of idiot occasionally (though rarely) seen in Europe, and described by Langdon-Down as of the ‘Ethiopic’ variety.’

Joyce makes one apposite social comment (a rare occurence), on Prairies B.14.135(j) ‘arrears of love’. Crook­shank talks about “arrears of development” by which children of “the Hospital type of Mongol” fall “still more into arrears of development and are recognised ultimately as imbecile.” Indeed, as Joyce’s note implies, the ‘arrears of development’ often point to suffered ‘arrears of love’. This might be one of the reasons why Joyce soon lost interest in this book.[29]

Maybe Joyce finished the book at a later date, but there are no traces of it in the following (lost) notebook Slings VI.D.3, so probably he closed the Mongol in Our Midst for good. Out of regret and frustration that he stopped reading so soon, I have compiled a hypothetical Joycean index for the remainder of The Mongol in Our Midst, hoping someday it will be helpful for a continuation of Finnegans Wake, using all of Joyce’s unused and virtual notes from his sources. Here are the words he didn’t take down:

palmar eminences [48]

accoucheurs, conjurers and pickpockets [51]

hand of idiot at Cork [53]

fissured tongue [54]

mongoloid [success]ful comedian [57]

sham letterwriting on the stage [56-57]

lellow [58]

lobeless ears [62]

eye = little fish [65]

[??] flattish calves [75]

stellate arrangement [77]

not in need of circumcision [78]

Rolandic area [79]

Klaatsch! [80]

exhausted parents [83]

the present writer [88]

sporadic occurrence [92]

orangism [97]           his frowsy cap [100]

Dr Unterhose [103]

brilliant observ[ation] [116]

Virgin on the Rocks [117]


The Negro Soul (by Maurice Delafosse)

L’âme nègre by Maurice Delafosse (Payot, Paris, 1922) is a handsome booklet, ‘schlank und rassig’ as the Swiss bookdesigner and typographer Jan Tschichold would say, of 9.5 x 16 centimeters and 180 pages. It doesn’t take more than an hour or two to read. The author sets out, as he states in his introduction (in which he often quotes Lévy-Bruhl), to find out what goes on in the mind of the Black Man. What does he think? What is his mentality? What does his soul look like? Other writers have tried to describe this black soul from the outside, from their own Western point of view, but Delafosse wants to let the inhabitants of the Dark Continent speak for themselves. He has collected a great number of tales, songs and sayings from all kinds of tribes and all kinds of languages, all faithfully translated by people who knew the respective language perfectly. The faithfulness of Delafosse is attested by the numerous square brackets he uses to insert words and phrases to make the tales more understandable. Joyce’s attention must have been drawn to this booklet by the promise of a truthful transcription of the black man’s words: that was also the reason he previously read two books by the Scottish missionary Dan Crawford, containing many peculiarities of African languages and of what Crawford called ‘black thinking’.[30] African culture is deeply steeped in oral tradition, with lots of songs and music and a firm belief in the supernatural. Doesn’t that make – to rephrase John Lennon and Roddy Doyle – the Nigger the Celt of the Modern World, or the Celt the Nigger of the Past? (Even as the holidays were finishing, Celtic tradition and the Dawn of Civilisation remained Joyce’s main line of inquiry in his prolonged period of enforced idleness.)

In his time Maurice Delafosse (1870-1926) was a well-known anthropologist and a prolific writer on African subjects, especially on the many languages of Africa he encountered on his explorations, but he was also interested in all kinds of customs and rites. In 1904 he published a comparative vocabulary of more than sixty Senegalese languages and in 1922 and 1923 he published no less than five books, besides L'âme nègre also Les Noirs de l'Afrique, a French-Fulfulde (or ‘Peul’ as the French say) dictionary, a book about Sudanese religious terms, and a collection of reminiscences, Broussard ou les états d'âme d’un colonial, suivi de ses propos et opinions.

In total Joyce made 62 notes, of which ten are crossed out and used, one in I.4, one in III.1, four in III.3, and four not (yet) located in the manuscripts. Quite scattered and not especially revelatory of their source. In L’âme nègre, Joyce was looking for colourful expressions and fairytale-like happenings, like ‘brothers of the same breast’ and a ‘laughing forest’, on Prairies B.14.202(m) and 203(d). ‘Here the story fell to the sea’ on 204(a) derives from the Senegalese equivalent of the Irish ‘and they all drank tea’, the closing formula of a tale without a proper ending: ‘Here the tale goes for a walk and falls into the sea’ (Delafosse, p.28). Interesting is the note on 206(e), Joyce turning the gazelles of the source text into two Issies: ‘I have eaten 2 / that will be 3 } proverb’. In L’âme nègre (p.131): ‘The leopard took the goblet in question and pronounced the proverb: ‘I have already eaten two gazelles, whoever will pour the palmwine will be the third.’ Shaun is the one Joyce thinks of on 207(i) (‘ he is Shaun / who am I’), reading the story Simplicity about a man named Abarnakat, who doesn’t know himself anymore when he wakes up, because in his sleep his comrades have taken his characteristic red band around his neck and adorned someone else with it, and they did the same with Abarnakat’s red blanket and his donkey. On waking up, Abarnakat saw the other person, with a red band round his neck, the donkey attached to his feet and himself asleep under the red blanket, and said, getting up crying: ‘That person is Abarnakat; and me, who am I?’

The last section of L’âme nègre, Chapter XXII, Jeux d’Esprit, is a collection of riddles, yielding six notes, on 207k-208d, of which three made it into Finnegans Wake:

- If I can count to ten without saying one, will I get some meat? the hyena asked. - Sure. - Two goats and a chicken, see if that doesn’t make ten paws. (207k-l ‘10 without saying 1 / 2 goats hen’)

— And which three bring fortune, and there is no hair growing on them? — The foot, the heel and the tongue. The foot because it carries the merchant on his travels, the heel because you sit on it during visits to powerful persons, the tongue because success follows beautiful talkers. (208a ‘heels to sit on’ -> FW 476.31 ‘they could not rightly tell their heels from their stools’)

— Here I have a billy goat; when you attach it to the inside of a house, its beard will find a way to go outside. What is it? — It is fire: when you light it inside a house, the smoke will go out. (208b ‘smoke = beard of the fire’ -> FW 501.26-27 ‘Bonafires! With their blue beards streaming to the heavens.’)

— What is a henhouse filled with little white chickens? — The mouth filled with teeth. (208c ‘pigeonhouse / mouth’ -> FW 444.24-25 ‘if you don’t keep a civil tongue in your pigeonhouse’)[31]

— What is a small boy who will hit everybody and nobody will see him? — It is the wind. (208d ‘harlequin wind’)

And with these words L’âme nègre closes. Joyce goes on making notes in Prairies B.14 from other books, articles and newspapers, some of them identified, but more still undiscovered. We still have a lot to do to catch up with Joyce, a lot of sources to hunt down.


The wonderful World of Wakecraft

‘I read a good deal here,’ Joyce wrote, in the understatement of the year, on the 5th of August 1924 to Sylvia Beach from his hotel in Saint-Malo. It is no wonder that the condition of his eyes barely improved. New eye operations turned out to be necessary, a sixth one in the end of November, and two more in 1925. In the meantime, he worked on, sporadically and as far as his eyesight permitted, on the watches of Shaun, stopping only to revise chapter I.5 for publication in Criterion (April 1925), and chapters I.7 and I.8 for This Quarter and The Calendar (June 1925). And no doubt reading all the while.

We know in many cases what Joyce was reading, but in many more cases we don’t. The search for Finnegans Wake sources is not finished by a long way. With Google Book Search we have a powerful new tool to unveil more sources and map the background of Finnegans Wake more fully, as more and more books will be put online and the European university libraries will follow the good example of the University of Michigan, until all the world’s a database. Of course, results from a Google Book Search alone are not enough to positively tell us whether Joyce read a particular book or not, because often a search only yields ‘snippets’. But if there are enough snippets of consecutive entries found in the same book, the probability rises, and it may be the right time to try to look for the book or periodical in its paper form, to establish the context and to doublecheck the findings. One thing is certain, however, and that is that the paper edition of the Notebooks is an essential prerequisite if you want to go source hunting on the internet. Joyce’s handwriting is almost impossible to read for untrained, ordinary human eyes, and without the transcriptions of Joyce’s scribblings in the Brepols edition (which often border on the miraculous) you will find yourself in the darkest of woods.

A final word of warning: searching for Wake sources can be addictive. Once I had found the second part of the Soirées notes in Prairies (VI.B.14), I locked myself up, I neglected my family, shirked my duties and generally wasn’t able to think about anything else but finding new sources. This lasted a full month, before I could tear myself away, little by little, from the World of Wakecraft, but after two months I still have to have my daily dose of source hunting. So beware. You may try this at home, but at your own peril.



[1]     The works on Breton folklore of Paul-Yves Sébillot (1885-1971) have been collected in two volumes, La Bretagne et ses traditions, L'enfance, le mariage, les fêtes, les saints, les pardons, le diable, les loups-garous, la sorcellerie (Royer, 1997) and La Bretagne et ses traditions: les paysans, les pêcheurs, les métiers, les trépas, les mégalithes, les fontaines, les arbres, les fées (Royer, 2000). The exact version and location of the article on marriage customs is still doubtful. It could be in the Revue des Traditions Populaires, but because that version lacks the ladders on the nuptial feast of VI.B.14.093(m), the real source may be a later version, reworked by Sébillot Fils.

[2]     I really want to pick up on Fritz Senn’s sensible suggestion (in Genetic Joyce Studies, Special JJA issue, Summer 2002) to invent more descriptive names for the FW notebooks, like Scribbledehobble for VI.A, and I think naming the notebook after a phrase on the first page (like Buttle for VI.B.10, but also the red-backed notebook BL Add. MS 47171b, better known as the Guiltless copybook) makes good sense. For the published Brepols volumes I suggest the following codenames: Buttle (VI.B.10), Trist (VI.B.3), Speak Low (VI.B.25), Big Things (VI.B.6), Gem Thief (VI.B.1), Honestly (VI.B.16), Owldeed (VI.B.5), Prairies (VI.B.14), Culprick (VI.B.29), Romeo de Rezske (Vi.B.32), Prince Consort (VI.B.33) and Gill the Gulless (VI.B.47). VI.D.3 may be nicknamed Slings.

[3]     See Prairies B.14.094(f)-(j): jeu de massacre | assback roof | trema dieresis | low Irish (W) high Irish (E).

[4]     On the other hand, Joyce could have acquired the three volume Oeuvres choisis illustrées on arrival in Saint-Malo (as the notebook editors surmise), or he may even have taken it with him from Paris, as he would have booked the hotel well in advance and would have known its name, if indeed Joyce hadn’t even chosen Saint-Malo because of the Chateaubriand connection in the first place.

[5]     VI.B.5.010(a) ‘jew meen tseet there hwer yar antallmee / ay meen tositheer hwere ay aim / aslongas ay liv’, may be inspired by a passage on page 35 of Les Soirées, about the tendency of French poetry that the sounds flow over into each other, so you get to hear words like Maipantoubâssenmoquélasirènenri; which is a whole line in writing, Mais Pan tout bas s'en moque et la Sirène en rit.

[6]     If Joyce entered his mental notes in complete darkness or blindness, as Myron Nutting’s account in Ellmann seems to indicate, it would explain why there were so many pages left partly or entirely unused: “The most unpleasant part of the operation for Joyce was the aftermath, when, lying with face bandaged in a darkened room, he saw before his mind’s eye a cinema of disagreeable events of the past. This was varied by thoughts of Finnegans Wake. Myron Nutting went to the clinic, ‘Madame de la Vallière’s château, rue Cherche-Midi’ (as Joyce derisively called it), to visit his friend, and found him lying on his back in the dark, his eyes under dressings as big as small pillows. ‘Hello, Joyce,’ he said cheerily. Joyce remained silent and motionless for a few seconds, then reached under his pillow and drew out a composition book and a pencil. Slowly and carefully, by touch, he made an entry, put his book and pencil back under the pillow, then held out his hand to say, ‘Hello, Nutting.’ Aware of his friend’s bafflement, he took up the notebook again and showed him the words, ‘Carriage sponge,’ which left Nutting no wiser.” EllmannII, p.566. (There is no ‘carriage sponge’ around Owldeed B.5.037, when Joyce was in hospital; probably Nutting supplem­ent­ed his memory, maybe unconsciously, with a phrase from the Circe chapter in Ulysses, when Molly is in bath and says: ‘Raoul darling, come and dry me. I’m in my pelt. Only my new hat and a carriage sponge.’)

[7]     Prairies B.14 was also filled non-linearly with Soirées notes, Joyce excerpting - after notebook page 015 - the last chapter of Les Soirées on page 003, a page that he had left blank accidentally.

[8]     For the use Joyce made of Otto Jespersen, Growth and Structure in the English Language, and Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin, see for instance Roland McHugh, Jespersen’s Language in Notebooks VI.B.2 and VI.C.2, in: A Finnegans Wake Circular 2 (1987), p.61-71; Danis Rose, The Index Manuscript; Finnegans Wake Holograph Notebook VI.B.46, 1978; and Erika Rosiers and Wim Van Mierlo, Otto Jespersen in Work in Progress, in: James Joyce: The Study of Languages, ed. Dirk Van Hulle, P.I.E. Peter Lang, Bruxelles etc., 2002, p.55-70.

[9]     I wonder whether Joyce read other French books on grammar, linguistics and language abuse. One of my favourite books on this subject is Le Musée des Erreurs ou le français tel qu’on l’écrit (Albin Michel, two volumes), by Curnonsky and J.-W. Bienstock, in which the authors find fault with almost every French writer for blundering and castigate all kinds of jargon, barbarisms and solecisms from all corners of the French written world. The second volume is from 1928, and in the preface of their first volume the authors express their gratitude to, among others, the writers of Les Soirées du Grammaire-Club. Other essential books on the subject they mention are Comment il ne faut pas écrire (Antoine Albalat), Ne dites pas ... Mais dites ... (Etienne Le Gal), Moeurs des Diurnales (Marcel Schwob) and Xavier ou Les Entretiens sur la Grammaire (Abel Hermant).

[10]    Schuré devotes a small and not very significant chapter in his search for the Celtic Soul to Saint Patrick. You’d think that Joyce would have read this small chapter attentively, but curiously he doesn’t even take one note from it. Perhaps it didn’t tell him anything new or noteworthy. On the other hand, it could be that it was this small chapter that set him off to resume his explorations in the life of the Irish patron saint, of which the next notebook, Prairies B.14, bears eloquent witness.

[11]    Joyce makes the same pun on ‘Brenn(an)’ in Prairies B.14.046(j).

[12]    ‘Not located in MS/FW’, the editors note about the flux and reflux. I think the note is locatable on the same manuscript page as the addition from Owldeed B.5.136(g) (I transcribe it not the same as the editors): MS 47472-34, LMA: ^+Hither, craching estuards, they are in surgence. Hence, cool at ebbing, they requiesce.+^ JJA 44:122 | Nov 1926 | I.1§1.*2/2.*2 | FW 017.25-26.

[13]    The previous attribution of a part of the Prairies (VI.B.14) cluster to Adolphe Pictet’s Le mystère des bardes (Introduction to the VI.B.14 Notebook, p.13) can be discarded. Joyce noted the name of this book and its place in the Saint-Malo library on VI.B.11, and his attention was probably drawn by it in a footnote in Schuré (Les Grandes Légendes, p.255)

[14]    About this visit, Ellmann recounts an anecdote of the American writer Lloyd Morris, who accompanied the Joyces with Morris’s mother. Joyce took him aside and told him: “If the ladies of the party were to remark the shape of the stones, nothing was to be said about their significance; in Joyce’s view, Morris wrote later [in 1943 in A Threshold in the Sun (p.243)], any discussion of a phallic symbol was taboo in the presence of ladies.” (Ellmann II, 567). But the outing with Morris was not to Carnac, but to Saint-Malo and other places, almost a month earlier (see Banta and Silverman, James Joyce‘s Letters to Sylvia Beach, p.45)

[15]    Tapp, on p.27 translates the word ‘Men-Gurun’ as ‘thunderbolts’, but Joyce corrects his mistake and writes down the right translation, ‘thunderstones’ (in the French original: ‘pierres de tonnerre’). Either Joyce paid very good attention to the text and already knows some Celtic words (on p.13, Le Rouzic explained that men = stone, and hir = long), or Joyce used a corrected edition of the guidebook.

[16]    Joyce read the English Carnac guide, but perhaps in a later, corrected edition. Prairies B.14.123(g) has ‘Men-gurun / (thunderstone)’, which is right: Le Rouzic wrote: ‘et les appellent Men-Gurun, pierres de tonnerre’. However, Mr. Tapp mistakenly translated it as ‘thunderbolts’: “They [axes or celts] do not appear to have been used and can only have been votive axes; even at the present day our peasants consider them valuable talismans and call them Men-Gurun, or thunderbolts.” (p.27) Now, Joyce may have paid good attention to Le Rouzic’s explanation of the word ‘menhir’ on p.13: ‘men = stone’ and “hir = long”, and is able to correct Mr. Tapp’s faulty translation on the fly, or it could be that he read a later, corrected edition of the English version of the guide.

[17]    Joyce also changes a proverbial sheep into a goat in Prairies B.14.060(j) ‘looking for a fifth foot / (a goat)’, whereas in Brittany they say that someone is ‘looking for the fifth foot of a sheep’ when he misses the obvious.

[18]    Joyce started the Miscellanies with the dialogue on education Euphranor on page 59, skipped the Preface to Polonius except the last page, then read the Death of the Rev. George Crabbe, the piece on Charles Lamb, after which, skipping the last three sections, he returned to the Memoir of Bernard Barton, though only started taking notes halfway. The Death of Bernard Barton yielded two notes and the Funeral of Bernard Barton none.

[19]    Miscellanies, p.143-144: “ “Not forgetting,” said I, “the being able to help in compounding a pill or a plaister; which I dare say your Great-grandmother knew something about, Lycion, for in those days, you know, Great ladies studied Simples. Well, so I am fitted,—as Lycion is to be #144# with one who can Valse through life with him.” § “ ‘And follow so the ever-rolling Year § With profitable labour to their graves,” ” § added Euphranor, laughing.”

[20]    See for instance Prairies B.14.005(h), where Joyce took down the name of Paul Sébillot and the title of his Traditions [et Superstitions] de Haute Bretagne, from a reference in another book he was reading, Les Pierres Bertonnes by the Abbé Millon in the Saint-Malo library. Sébillot was already headhunted by Joyce in Owldeed B.05.087(l) and 088(g), just prior to his holiday to Bretagne. The Sébillots, Paul, the father and Yves-Paul, the son may still be important missing sources for Joyce’s remaining unidentified Brittanic / Celtic / folkloristic notes. He must have come across the name quite often in other books.

[21]    The long sentence is partially crossed out in the C notebook (VI.C.12.060e-061a), and constitutes the only used element from this magazine article.

[22]    Note too that Joyce is still thinking of Saint Patrick: 092(h) ‘S.P asks to be 13the proph’, inspired by an remark in the Apocryphal New Testament about a legendary disciple, Maximianus, about whom M.R. James remarks: ‘this must be the legendary Maximin of Aix en Provence who figures in the late legend of Mary Magdalene’s mission to Marseilles’.

[23]    Cf the conceptual note for II.2 ‘A triangle’ in Prairies B.14.107(o), also above.

[24]    The crossed-out word ‘eject’ is locatable at: MS 47478-266, IMA: But trifid tongue, ^+ scab, ejected,+^ others woo will and work for ^+becaused of his cleverism, who lives more in future than in ^+a+^ past of bloody altars,+^ and dove without gall | JJA 52:164 | 1932 | II.2§4.*3 | FW #281.16

[25]    Joyce skips in Gorce p.33-143, 157-178 and 186-229, that is 155 pages, so in fact he read only half of the biography.

[26]    Prairies B.14.150(g) fructitude <- Gorce, Saint Vincent Ferrier, p.290: “La fructitude des légendes postérieures étant écartée, il demeure, on l’a vu, à l’actif du maître une quantité de faits merveilleux individuellement possibles et dans leur ensemble très probables.” (Discounting for the fruitfulness of later legends, there remains, as we have seen, a quantity of miraculous facts attributable to the master, each individual one possible and taken all together very likely.)

[27]    Patrick will slowly disappear from Joyce’s focus and some months later, at the end of the year or the beginning of next year, when Joyce finally knows how to continue Book III, Patrick will be allowed to enter into a Shem/Shaun context, and to split into Shemish and Shaunish characters, as evidenced by a note Joyce took during the reading of The Story of Early Gaelic Literature by Douglas Hyde, in Slings VI.D.3, a non-extant notebook, coming right after Prairies B.14. The unused items, 110 of them, can be found in Mme. Raphael’s transcription in VI.C.5 (19j-21a; 40j-43i; 46e-48c; 49k-51g and 52o-54d). In Chapter XI, Hyde discusses the Gaelic legacy of Saint Patrick’s life and he quotes extensively from documents in which the Saint is poised in a battle of wits against Ossian, the centuries-old heathen poet-druid. Reading this, Joyce notes, on VI.C.5.50(h): ‘S.P. and Ossian C and D’. So from here on Patrick finally can merge with one or both of the terrible twins.

[28]    From C.K. Ogden’s The Meaning of Meaning Joyce made a long index in June-August 1926 (VI.B.12).

[29]    The catholic antisemitism of Gorce may also have been the reason that Joyce was not very keen to read the book about Vincent Ferrier thoroughly. See Prairies B.14.150(f) ‘cobble words’, which is not found in Gorce but may be a Joycean meta-reflection on the wordy windings of the author to celebrate Saint Vincent’s segregating policies for Spain on these pages, especially to discredit the jews and to pose a ‘jewish question’ (p.237), e.g.: ‘And furthermore particularly between the israelite and the jew there was the blood of Christ’ (p.236), with Saint Vincent preaching from the pulpit: ‘Our worst enemies are the jews.’ (p.237)

[30]    For Joyce's African reconnaissance mission in the footsteps of Crawford, see my James Joyce in Africa, also in this issue of Genetic Joyce Studies. In the late 1930s Joyce added Swahili words to the Finnegans Wake galley proofs, and it could be that there are even more African languages present in the Wake, see Karl Reisman, Darktongues: Fulfulde and Hausa in Finnegans Wake, in: Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2008, p.79-103.

[31]    Mark that once again Joyce, when he starts harvesting his notes for his drafts, prefers his own version of what he read to the words he verbatim copied from the source, ‘pigeonhouse’ being Joyce‘s ad hoc transformation of Delafosse’s henhouse (poulailler).