“God, isn’t he dreadful? he said frankly. A ponderous Saxon. He thinks you’re not a gentleman. God, these bloody English! Bursting with money and indigestion. Because he comes from Oxford. You know, Dedalus, you have the real Oxford manner.He can’t make you out.”
*A note about terminology: The native language of Ireland is referred to in this post as both “Gaelic” and “Irish.” I only use Gaelic in quotes or names. The language is referred to as Irish by those who speak it.
Many of the characters that populate the Dublin of Ulysses were based on people that Joyce knew, although sometimes briefly. One such character is simply known as Haines – the over-eager Oxford student who irritates Stephen Dedalus with his delighted passion for Irish culture. Haines was a real person – a friend of Oliver St. John Gogarty’s (a.k.a. Buck Mulligan) from Oxford called Dermot Chenevix Trench. I became determined to learn more about Trench upon discovering that he has no Wikipedia page. Who was he? Why did Joyce include him in Ulysses? Was he really as dorky as the fictional Haines?
In the text of Ulysses, Haines appears only a few times, most notably in “Telemachus,” where we learn he has been keeping Stephen awake at night with his night terrors of a black panther. He speaks Irish to the milk woman and seems very keen to learn about Irish customs and culture generally, much to the amusement of Mulligan. Later, in “Scylla and Charybdis,” we learn he was supposed to join the other young men in the National Library, but he has scampered off to buy a book called Love Songs of Connacht. He just couldn’t wait to get his hands on it. He appears finally in the “Circe” episode, assisting Mulligan in performing a Black Mass. He’s characterized as an innocuous source of curiosity for Stephen’s friends but is mostly just a background character.
–Rather bleak in wintertime, I should say. Martello you call it?
— Billy Pitt had them built, Buck Mulligan said, when the French were on the sea. But ours is the omphalos.
Ulysses opens with a scene familiar to anyone who has lived in a too-small apartment with roommates – Stephen Dedalus chafing at the harsh banter of Buck Mulligan and the too-eager curiosity of Haines the English Hibernophile in their shared chambers in a seaside tower. Ultimately, Stephen decides not to vacate the tower; a literary “Screw you guys, I’m outta here.”
The Martello towers’ design is based on a tower held by the French in Mortella on the island of Corsica. It took British ships years to breach the tiny cylindrical tower even though it was only manned by a small crew. Seeing as how it managed to keep them out, the British decided the same design could be used to keep foreign invaders out of their empire as well. Roughly 50 were built in Ireland, mainly along the east coast. 15 were commissioned between Dublin and Bray in 1804 to prevent a French invasion during the Napoleonic wars, and we have to assume they worked because the French never invaded Ireland. They were unable to protect the coast from a more malevolent force, however, as Bono once resided in the Bray Martello tower.
I had the pleasure of curating a series of readings for the 2018 Bloomsday celebration at T.C. O’Leary’s Pub in Northeast Portland, where members of their Ulysses Support Group (aka book club) read portions of the great novel at intervals throughout the day. I tried to choose passages that not only reflected the prose, characters and themes of Ulysses, but that also captured its humor, vulgarity and surrealism. I chose selections that would give the casual listener a taste of the story if they happened to hear all fourteen selections or feel entertained if they were only to catch one. Additionally, I tried to choose passages that would give readers dialogue to play with as an “actor” and capture some of our club’s favorite lines. I wanted to make sure the spirit of the novel came across more than its reputation for difficulty (although I didn’t avoid all the challenging passages). Most of all, I didn’t want it to be boring.
Below, is brief description of each selected passage and why I chose it along with an approximate page number. I redacted portions of some of the passages since they were just too long (I tried to keep each passage in the 600-800 word range to keep the readings brisk and entertaining). My page numbers are based on the 1990 Vintage International edition of Ulysses.