“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.”
To listen to a discussion of this topic, check out the podcast episode here.
This post is a part of an occasional series on the real people behind the characters in Ulysses.
*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.
Born in 1881, the man who would be known as Haines was born Richard Samuel Chenevix Trench. He was known as Samuel, but later adopted the name Irish name “Dermot.” I’ll refer to him as “Trench” here. Trench was active in the Gaelic League, an organization that focused on revitalizing the Irish language. His only publication was a 1907 pamphlet entitled “What is the Use of Reviving Irish?” He attended Oxford, which is how he knew Gogarty, and how he ended up at the Martello tower in Sandycove in 1904. He took his own life in 1909 at the age of 27. Trench was Anglo-Irish, meaning someone of English descent who is born or lives in Ireland and is generally of the upper classes. Trench himself spent a lot of time in Ireland, but from what I could find, was born in England.
The most striking thing about Trench was his love of the Irish language. While at Oxford, Trench was an active member of the Oxford Gaelic Society. He traveled in Ireland, particularly to the Aran Islands, in order to improve his Irish and reportedly spoke Irish to anyone who would listen. In 1906, he played the lead in an Irish language play to mostly positive reviews. He wrote that he believed embracing the Irish language would encourage Irish people to stay in Ireland (rather than emigrating to England) and improve industry at home as well as bolstering love for their native culture, including history, music and dance.
Much of what is known about Trench was written in a 1975 article by a distant cousin called C.E.F. Trench. C.E.F. felt that Joyce had done a hatchet job on Trench’s character and set out to salvage his relative’s reputation. In the article, entitled “Dermot Chenevix Trench and Haines of ‘Ulysses,’” C.E.F. lays a lot of the blame for Trench’s tarnished reputation on Gogarty, saying, “Making people look ridiculous was a well-known pastime of Gogarty’s.” Another source on Trench is Gogarty’s autobiographies, which are rather creative with facts and details, to put it nicely. Gogarty claims Trench walked off with Gogarty’s gold and ivory shaving brush upon leaving and once removed the lamp shades in the tower until they could procure ones made of Irish glass, causing the living quarters to fill with smoke.
Particularly, C.E.F. took umbrage with Gogarty’s account of Trench’s panther dream. (You can read about that here). C.E.F. alleged that Trench never actually fired his gun inside the Martello tower, spurring Joyce to flee the tower and, eventually, Ireland. Instead, he believes Gogarty likely just asked Joyce to leave since their friendship was on the rocks by that point anyway. Joyce’s brother Stanislaus wrote in his diary that, “Gogarty wants to put Jim out, but he is afraid that if Jim made a name some day, it would be remembered against him.” The source for the panther story is Gogarty’s autobiography Mourning Became Mrs Spendlove, so it’s possible he totally invented it to save face or as a joke. On the other hand, Joyce included it in his novel, even after falling out with Gogarty. He had no reason to protect Gogarty’s reputation in one scene in a novel that includes multiple unflattering portraits of his circle in Dublin. On all this, Gogarty says, “This will explain the rather obscure reference to the black panther in Ulysses. But I am sure the scholiasts can explain is more obscurely.” Have at it, scholiasts!
The more I read about Gogarty, the more I realize he was a consummately unreliable narrator, to put it kindly. C.E.F. pointed out that in Mourning Became Mrs Spendlove, Gogarty falsely wrote that Trench had legally changed his name to “Diarmuid” (the Irish spelling of Dermot) when in fact he had just added “Dermot” to his long string of names (Richard Samuel Dermot Chenevix Trench) and used it amongst his friends. C.E.F., himself an enthusiastic Irish speaker, pointed out that many speakers of Irish use a gaelicized version of their name when speaking Irish due to some linguistic quirks of the language.
Unfortunately, C.E.F. is the sole detailed source I could find on Dermot Trench. Having a single source with an agenda (he says his aim is to “assemble what information is available about Trench and to correct some errors of fact which are current in Joyce literature.”) is problematic because he is susceptible to bias. He also never knew Trench, having been born in the same year that Trench died. The more I read into the issue, the more I feel like I’ve stumbled into a spat amongst family and friends that has been drug out for decades because one of the friends happened to be James Joyce. I guess what I’m saying is, we need to take what C.E.F. says with a grain of salt, but I also think we should take Joyce and Gogarty’s characterization with an even bigger grain of salt.
As for Joyce himself, he only knew Trench briefly – during the six days they spent together in Sandycove, but he clearly left an impression on Joyce. Gogarty says in the same memoir: “He upset Joyce literally and metaphorically…. Trench tried but failed to convert Joyce to Gaelic, so he becomes the Englishman, Haines, in Ulysses, where Joyce betrays a hidden respect for what is derisively called ‘The Ascendancy.’”
And I think this is the real issue of this story. Gogarty came from a well-to-do Dublin Catholic family and was used to mixing with the Anglo-Irish (Protestant) elite. Joyce was not. He may have felt ashamed of his family’s relative poverty and perhaps chose to make Haines into a buffoon out of a sort of inferiority complex. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce refers to Ireland as “the sow that eats its farrow.” He must have found it extremely off-putting, to say the least, to hear a foreigner celebrating Irish culture so ardently when Joyce saw Ireland as a place of deprivation. Even today, English promotion of Irish culture is viewed skeptically. In 2013, the Irish Independent ran an article about an Oxford-published Irish-English children’s dictionary. The first paragraph read: “It’s lessons in Irish – from England. After centuries in which the occupiers tried to wipe out the Irish language, that bastion of British education and culture, Oxford University, is making amends.”
Additionally, Trench may have just seemed inauthentic to some of his Irish peers. This could explain why it so rankled them that he took on an Irish name and used the gaelicized spelling on top of it. Not only was he a representative of an oppressive power extolling the virtues of Irish tradition, he had the gall the to affect an Irish persona on top of it.
It’s easy to see how a famous jokester (Gogarty) and a self-serious intellectual (Joyce) might just find someone like Trench ripe for ridicule, but I think Joyce’s disgust goes deeper. In “Telemachus,” he actually characterizes Haines as an anti-semite. Haines says to Stephen, “I don’t want to see my country fall into the hands of German jews either. That’s our national problem, I’m afraid, just now.” This is point-of-view is echoed in “Nestor,” the following chapter, in the words of Mr. Deasy, the headmaster of Stephen’s school: “England is in the hands of the jews…. And they are the signs of a nation’s decay.” In a novel that focuses on a Jewish main character, I feel putting these words in Haines’ mouth is very pointed. It seems to suggest a deeper disdain than one deserves for smoking up a room.
Trench did have his defenders. C.E.F. quotes several, including the author C.P. Curran, who said of Trench: “ I can in no way recognise him in the Haines of Ulysses and he should not be so identified with him.” In researching this article, I too have become sympathetic to Trench. I can understand why he and Joyce did not get along, but to create such a mocking characterization of someone he barely knew, years after his tragic, early death, just seems cruel. Despite all his genius, Joyce had a penchant for working out personal vendettas in his writing. Trench was just one more unfortunate victim.
Ellmann, R. (1959). James Joyce. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gogarty, O. (1948). Mourning became Mrs. Spendlove and other portraits grave and gay. New York: Creative Age Press.
Spain, J. (2013). In the name of the fada: English giving us a lesson in Irish. The Irish Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/in-the-name-of-the-fada-english-giving-us-a-lesson-in-irish-29778304.html
Trench, C. (1975). Dermot Chenevix Trench and Haines of “Ulysses”. James Joyce Quarterly, 13(1), 39-48. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25487234
(2005). Pioneer of the youth hostel movement and researcher in antiquarian field. The Irish Times. Retrieved from https://www.irishtimes.com/news/pioneer-of-the-youth-hostel-movement-and-researcher-in-antiquarian-field-1.426824