James Joyce Ulysses Buck Mulligan

Ep. 3 – Joyce v. Gogarty

Orpen_OSJGogarty
Oliver St John Gogarty

In this episode we tackle the falling out between James Joyce and Oliver St John Gogarty, the origins of the character Buck Mulligan, what really happened in the Martello tower, blasphemous poetry and how Joyce found his sense of humor.

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On the Blog:

Say ‘Hello’ to Martello Towers
Who was the Real Buck Mulligan?

Poetry in Ulysses: The Ballad of Joking Jesus

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Further Reading:

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.

Lyons, J. (1984). Oliver St. John Gogarty. Dublin Historical Record,38(1), 2-13. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30100748

Riley, M. (1984). Joyce, Gogarty, and the Irish Hero. The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies,10(2), 45-54. doi:10.2307/25512607. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/25512607?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Aafd1aaaa4471f11ab4207fabb5556216&seq=9#metadata_info_tab_contents

Trieste Notebook:

http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/JoyceColl/JoyceColl-idx?type=div&did=JOYCECOLL.SCHOLESWORKSHOP.I0013&isize=text

Turner, J., & Mamigonian, M. (2004). Solar Patriot: Oliver St. John Gogarty in “Ulysses”. James Joyce Quarterly,41(4), 633-652. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25478099

Music

Noir – S Strong & Boogie Belgique

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.

Homer The Odyssey Ulysses James Joyce Stephen Dedalus

Ulysses & The Odyssey: Telemachus

I am now writing a book based on the wanderings of Ulysses. ‘The Odyssey,’ that is to say, serves me as a ground plan. Only my time is recent and all my hero’s wanderings take no more than 18 hours. – James Joyce, 1918

Welcome to the first post in an occasional series in which I read The Odyssey, break down the references in each of Ulysses’ eighteen episodes and pull out the ancient Greek parallels. Ulysses has its basis in Homer’s ancient Greek epic, so exploring the journeys of Leopold Bloom and Odysseus side by side seems like an obvious route. However, a word of caution: while The Odyssey is present in the text of Ulysses, knowing and understanding the Homeric parallels in Ulysses will only take you so far and will sometimes present you with “false friends” – apparent parallels where there are none. It’s kind of like the Spanish word embarazada. It looks a lot like a familiar English word, but using it to mean embarrassment might lead to… well, embarrassment.

Telemachus_and_Mentor1
Telemachus and Mentor, Pablo E. Fabisch, 1699

Just so we’re clear on terms – “Homeric parallels” are the ways in which Ulysses is modeled on Homer’s Odyssey. “Ulysses” is the Latin name for the main character (Odysseus in Greek) after allIf you’ve used a reading guide or annotation to Ulysses, you’ve likely noticed that each episode in the novel is given a title corresponding to The Odyssey. The first chapter about Stephen and the boys in the tower is called “Telemachus,” for instance. Although these designations are common coin amongst Ulysses enthusiasts, they never appeared in any published edition of the book. They were popularized by Stuart Gilbert after they appeared in his 1930 book Ulysses – A Study.  Joyce provided Gilbert with a schema outlining his novel as well as prominent themes and parallels in each episode. If you use an annotation that lists the corresponding organ, color, art etc. for each chapter, these also have their roots in Joyce’s schemata.

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James Joyce Ulysses Buck Mulligan

Ulysses CCD – Mulligan Mocks Mass

In 2017, I was a founding member of the Ulysses Support Group at T.C. O’Leary’s pub in Portland, Oregon. Our goal was to read the entirety of Ulysses aloud between two Bloomsdays. On the first night, as we started analysing the opening lines of the novel, I pointed out that Mulligan’s actions atop the Martello tower were a blasphemous mockery of the Catholic Mass. One of the other participants blurted, “How do you KNOW it’s about Catholicism??” It caught me off guard, but another member deftly responded, “Joyce was Irish. Of course it’s about Catholicism!”

I was raised Catholic in a small town where most people were Catholic. I went to Sunday school (called CCD) every week. Monty Python and the Meaning of Life was banned in our house because of the “Every Sperm is Sacred” song. One thing I learned through our book club is that a lot of the religious references and imagery don’t necessarily stand out for those of us who didn’t grow up steeped in Catholicism. I also notice a lot of reading guides and annotations for Ulysses assume the reader’s familiarity with Catholicism. In this post and many posts to come, I hope to answer the question of Book Club Dude: “How do you KNOW it’s about Catholicism??”

Today, I’m taking on that very first passage of Ulysses about stately, plump Buck Mulligan.
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James Joyce Ulysses Buck Mulligan

Poetry in Ulysses: The Ballad of Joking Jesus

-We oughtn’t to laugh, I suppose. He’s rather blasphemous. I’m not a believer myself, that is to say. Still his gaiety takes the harm out of it somehow, doesn’t it?

In “Telemachus,” Stephen Dedalus and the boys head down to the sea beside their Martello tower home in Sandycove to bathe in the sea. On the way, Buck Mulligan regales them with a blasphemous tune he’s composed called “The Ballad of Joking Jesus.” Haines, the English student, is amused, but we learn that Stephen is tiring of the “Ballad,” having heard it “three times a day, after meals” for God knows how long.

joyce ulysses buck mulliganThe inclusion of “The Ballad of Joking Jesus” establishes Buck Mulligan as a low-brow blasphemer – a man whose irreverence has no deeper meaning behind it, unlike that of an artist such as Dedalus. Mulligan is just saying rude things to get a rise out of his friends or maybe a few laughs. He’s basically that one friend who constantly posts edgy memes on Facebook with the comment, “I’m going to hell lol.” Stephen’s rejection of the Church comes from a deeper more philosophic place. Stephen also refused to pray at his mother’s deathbed on principal, so I have a hard time taking his side here.

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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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