Decoding Dedalus: A Dedalus Never Pays His Debts

—I will tell you, he said solemnly, what is his proudest boast. I paid my way. … I never borrowed a shilling in my life. Can you feel that? I owe nothing. Can you?

This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a paragraph of Ulysses and  break it down line by line. 

The passage below comes from “Nestor,” the second episode of Ulysses. It appears on pages 30-31 in my copy (1990 Vintage International).


A guide to pre-decimal currency can be found here.

Mr. Deasy’s quote above is meant to be the pride of the English – being so sensible (or just wealthy, let’s be real) that you live your whole life without debts. It’s worth recalling that in “Telemachus,”  Haines the Englishman said to Buck Mulligan, “Have you your bill? We had better pay her, Mulligan, hadn’t we?” just moments before Mulligan underpays the milkwoman for her milk, an underpayment on owed money. Stephen, most unEnglishly, also has his fair share of debts, of which he takes mental stock after Mr. Deasy extolls the virtues of lacking debt. Stephen’s debt mirrors the financial realities of James Joyce himself at a similar age.

Much like Stephen, Joyce had returned from medical school in Paris, his family in disarray following his mother’s death. His father, John Joyce, was selling off their household items to patch holes in the family’s dire financial situation while coping with the strain through alcohol. Though James could have hypothetically worked to support his family, he was dead set on making his mark as an Artist. This sometimes took the form of all-day writing sessions and other times sleeping until four in the afternoon following an all-night drinking session. In Joyce’s mind, one justified the other.

James moved out of the family home in early 1904 and rented a room at 60 Shelbourne Road in Dublin. He dedicated himself full-time to developing his music career and borrowed handsomely (mainly from his friend Oliver St John Gogarty) to take lessons from Dublin’s best voice teacher. This caused him to fall behind in his rent, but the family he stayed with (the McKernans) were sympathetic to his situation. By the 15th of June, a day before the historic Bloomsday, their sympathy had run out, and Joyce was told to come back when he had some of the money he owed them. Joyce’s interest in music faded by the end of spring, but he was encouraged to submit his writing to the journal The Irish Homestead. After publishing three of his stories, the Homestead asked him to stop submitting because they had received too many complaints. Joyce, much like Stephen, did briefly hold a job at a school in the town of Dalkey, south of Dublin, and even considered turning himself into a company. Gogarty recalls:

He had, at first, thought of forming himself into a company, the shareholders in which were to receive all the proceeds from his future writings. The idea was novel. The shareholders would have to keep and humor him…. There were worse investments than in James Joyce, Inc.

Most of Joyce’s cashflow that year came from borrowing from his wealthy friends, many of whom, one by one, cut him off because he never repaid those debts. Stephen is similarly indebted to his social network, which he recalls when Mr. Deasy asks him if he can say he owes nothing. A tricky question, since while Joyce owed much materially to those around him, his ego prevented him from feeling that he owed them anything creatively, leading to clashes of personality, to put it politely. His friend John Francis Byrne wrote to Joyce in 1904: “I can’t give you a pound, because I’m in an extremely impecunious condition. I wonder why you have satirized your friends; was it because they had no money?”

Certainly these debts weighed on Joyce psychically in the years after 1904, enough that he enumerated them in Ulysses. Gogarty has said that the only compliment Joyce ever paid other people was to include them in his writing, so perhaps this was Joyce’s idea of remuneration. Ulysses is full of this sort of unexplained list. This one, appearing in “Nestor,” is short, but let’s decode each of the people included.

Mulligan, nine pounds, three pairs of socks, one pair brogues, ties.

Mulligan, of course, is Buck Mulligan, Stephen’s tower roommate who we met in the previous chapter. Mulligan is a medical student who comes from a well-to-do family and has more money than Stephen. He has not only leant Stephen £9, but also assorted items of clothing (“brogue” [bróg] is Irish for shoes). Joyce borrowed heavily from Gogarty, Mulligan’s real-life counterpart, though as far as I can tell Gogarty often gave freely and never expected to be repaid. Mulligan’s generosity is a bit muddled because we know that Stephen considers him a usurper and that he demands the tower key even though Stephen pays the rent (£12 annually). Due to their contentious relationship, Stephen surely chafed at the idea he owed anything to the likes of Buck Mulligan.

Curran, ten guineas.*

Constantine Curran was a friend of James Joyce’s who in 1904 was the editor of the magazine St. Stephen’s at University College Dublin. Curran made several small loans to Joyce in 1904. In August (about a month before Joyce moved into the tower), Curran rejected a piece of incendiary verse called “The Holy Office” in which Joyce proclaimed his superiority to the literary elite of Ireland. Curran referred to it as an “unholy thing” but gave Joyce a bit of money for his troubles. “The Holy Office” seems to have been inspired in part by his rejection from The Irish Homestead.

McCann, one guinea

MacCann appeared in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as well and is based on Joyce family friend Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. As registrar of University College Dublin, Skeffington offered Joyce a job as a French teacher in 1903, which Joyce turned down. He resented Joyce’s lack of repayment of loans.

Fred Ryan, two shillings

In real life and in Ulysses, Fred Ryan was a writer and editor at Dana, an Irish intellectual journal, which he worked on with John Eglinton. Eglinton appears in “Scylla and Charybdis,” asking Stephen to contribute to Dana, for which Fred Ryan is composing an essay on economics. In 1904, Joyce sent an autobiographical essay to Dana, which was rejected by Ryan. That essay laid the groundwork for Portrait.

Temple, two lunches

Based on Joyce’s friend John Elwood, Temple also appeared in PortraitElwood ran in the same social circle as Joyce, Gogarty and Vincent Cosgrave (the model for Lynch in Ulysses).

Russell, one guinea

George (A.E.) Russell was a major figure in the Dublin literary scene, particularly in the Irish Literary Revival. He pops up again as himself in “Scylla and Charybdis” when Stephen explains his Shakespeare theory. Stephen is reminded of his debts to A.E. (“AEIOU”) upon seeing him in the flesh. Russell was a mystic, a leader in the Hermetic Society of Dublin and frequent target of pranks by Gogarty and Joyce. Among other things, they broke into the Hermetic Society on multiple occasions to display items mocking Russell and his supposed asexuality.

Cousins, ten shillings

James and Gretta Cousins housed Joyce on and off during 1904. James Cousins is described by Richard Ellmann in his biography of Joyce as a “Theosophical poetaster.” The Cousins’ were supporters of the arts and Joyce in particular. Their eccentricities got to Joyce over time and in June 1904, he left their “vegetarian house, complaining of stomach trouble induced by a ‘typhoid turnip.’”

Bob Reynolds, half a guinea

This reference is unclear. It may refer to W. B. Reynolds, the music critic for the Belfast Telegraph. Reynolds had set some of Joyce’s poems from Chamber Music to music after its publication in 1907.  However, Reynolds was not part of Joyce’s 1904 Dublin circle like every other name on this list. I’m not sure what “W.B.” stands for or if he went by Bob.

Koehler, three guineas

“Koehler” is believed to be T. G. Keller, a literary friend of Joyce’s. After successfully selling his first short story to The Irish Homestead for £1 in 1904, Joyce offered to sell his next six stories to Keller for an investment of £5. Keller turned him down, and The Irish Homestead asked him to stop submitting soon after.

Mrs MacKernan, five weeks’ board. The lump I have is useless.

The McKernans, as mentioned above rented a room to James Joyce at 60 Shelbourne Road in Dublin. He was often behind in rent and moved into the Martello tower with Gogarty in part because the McKernans had gone on holiday, and he could no longer stay there.

*Stephen recalls many of the owed amounts in terms of “guineas,” rather than pounds. A guinea was a coin worth one pound, one shilling. It was considered a more gentlemanly amount than a simple pound. A working man received payments in pounds, whereas a gentleman, especially an Artist, received payment in guineas.

Further Reading:

Ellmann, R. (1959). James Joyce. New York: Oxford University Press.

D’Arcy, A.M. (2014). Dindsenchas, Mr Deasy and the Nightmare of Partition in Ulysses. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 114C, 1-31. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/3524058/Dindsenchas_Mr_Deasy_and_the_Nightmare_of_Partition_in_Ulysses_Proceedings_of_the_Royal_Irish_Academy_114C_2014_1-31

Gifford, D., & Seidman, R. J. (1988). Ulysses annotated: Notes for James Joyce’s Ulysses. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gogarty, O. (1948). Mourning became Mrs. Spendlove and other portraits grave and gay. New York: Creative Age Press.

Mr Deasy Dalkey James Joyce Ulysses Nestor

Who was the Real Mr. Deasy?

“You will see at the next outbreak they will put an embargo on Irish cattle. And it can be cured. It is cured. My cousin, Blackwood Price, writes to me it is regularly treated and cured by cattledoctors there.”

Discussing the real-life counterpart of Mr. Deasy, the headmaster of the school where Stephen Dedalus works, is a bit more complicated than characters like Buck Mulligan or Haines for the simple fact that he has no one-to-one correspondent in James Joyce’s life. Rather, Mr. Deasy is a mélange of two people from Joyce’s life.

Much like Stephen, Joyce did briefly teach at Clifton School in Dalkey, an affluent suburb to the south of Dublin near Sandycove, home to Joyce’s Martello tower. Clifton School was originally housed in Summerfield Lodge on Dalkey Ave. and later moved to a house called Cintra on Vico Road on the far side of Dalkey. Joyce’s tower roommate Oliver St. John Gogarty (the real-life Buck Mulligan) wrote that Joyce took the job at Clifton School to finance their bohemian experiment in the Martello tower. Joyce being Joyce, however, originally had a more grandiose scheme. Thus spake Gogarty:

He had, at first, thought of forming himself into a company, the shareholders in which were to receive all the proceeds from his future writings. The idea was novel. The shareholders would have to keep and humor him…. There were worse investments than in James Joyce, Inc.

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James Joyce Ulysses women Mr Deasy Nestor

The Women of Ulysses: Mr. Deasy’s Perfidious Women

Part of an occasional series on the women of Ulysses.

In “Nestor,” the second episode of Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus finds himself in a discussion with his employer, Mr. Deasy. They have reached a conversational impasse after Stephen shrugs off the manifestation of God as a mere “shout in the street.” A pregnant pause follows, and Mr. Deasy responds by condemning four traitorous women. Mr. Deasy is the first, but certainly not the last, person to point to the evils of womankind in Ulysses. As we shall see, some of these women are less culpable than the Mr. Deasies of the world would have us believe.

—I am happier than you are, he said. We have committed many errors and many sins. A woman brought sin into the world.

The woman who brought sin into the world is of course Eve, the Biblical first woman, who gave into temptation in the Garden of Eden and unleashed sin onto the world. But what of Eve? Don Gifford points out in Ulysses Annotated that the language in the book of Genesis describing Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge is less accusatory than it is often remembered: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Romans 5:12 tells us it was man who brought sin into the world: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man…” On the other hand, there’s 1 Timothy 2:14: “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” I guess what I’m saying is, it’s not that hard to cherry pick Bible quotes to meet your agenda. There’s a different interpretation for everyone in the audience.

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Joyce Ulysses literature Lady Gregory Yeats

James Joyce’s Poetic Rage

To put it nicely, James Joyce was a prickly pear. It’s well known that he left Dublin for continental Europe in 1904, never to return. His exile was self-imposed, but that didn’t stop him from metaphorically backing out of the room with two middle fingers raised. This reaction was simultaneously over-the-top and kind of justified. Joyce struggled to find his place amongst the literary set in Dublin because his own ego was frequently a major stumbling block. In fact, Joyce had a track record of throwing down poetically when things didn’t go his way. Joyce’s angry poetry reveals a lot about his personality and worldview, and since Ulysses is heavily autobiographical, it can help us understand where Joyce’s head was when he was constructing the oft unflattering portrayals of his friends in his novel.

 

The Holy Office

In order to understand this poem, we need to take a look at Joyce’s relationship with the movers and shakers behind the Irish Literary Revival underway in the early twentieth century. Often associated with people like W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and John M. Synge, this movement is associated with a flowering of Irish talent and a promotion of Irish traditional culture and nationalism. Though Joyce’s poetry is arguably in line with the style of the time, he felt that he was left behind by the literary bigwigs of his day.

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ulysses joyce heretics blasphemy

Decoding Dedalus: Heresies in “Telemachus”

This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a paragraph of Ulysses and give it the ol’ Frank Delaney treatment – that is, break it down line by line. As an aside, if you haven’t listened to Frank Delaney’s excellent podcast, Re:Joyce, go treat yourself. His page by page analysis of Ulysses is informative and charming. I’m not going to analyse every line, (sorry!) but some passages require a more in-depth treatment than others.

The passage below comes from “Telemachus,” the first episode of Ulysses. It appears on pages 20-21 in my copy (1990 Vintage International).

……….

The proud potent titles clanged over Stephen’s memory the triumph of their brazen bells: et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam: the slow growth and change of rite and dogma like his own rare thoughts, a chemistry of stars.

Let’s start with the most intimidating bit here, the Latin. This phrase translates to “and one holy catholic and apostolic church.” Stephen quotes this phrase in English a few lines before as an explanation for his Italian master – the Catholic church headquartered in Rome. These lines are the “proud potent titles clanging over Stephen’s memory” as they are words every Catholic memorizes as a child. They come from a prayer called the Nicene Creed that lays out the basic tenets of Roman Catholicism and is recited during the Mass.

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joyce ulysses haines black panther

Who Was the Real Haines?

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.

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