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The Scandal of ‘Ulysses’

Hours of idleness under a blue sky, the endless round of play. Why the broken window? Is the broken window real or Joycean? (“I hear the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry” [61U 24].) Who is Buller? Is he the army captain in the Finnegans Wake roster of legendary players, “barrackybuller” (FW 584)? Dublin’s only Captain Buller is in Thom’s Official Directory—the equivalent of today’s phone book, which Joyce plundered shamelessly when his memory faltered—on page 1819:

Buller, Captain, Byron lodge, Sutton.

The Byron family, unrelated to the poet, had a tavern that is mentioned in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Later than 1904 someone must have assumed the poet lent his name to Byron Lodge when a neighboring property was renamed Shakespeare Lodge. Joyce twigged to the filiation of a Dubliner named Byron and a poet named Byron, and Captain Buller is his cunning way of linking them. He expected the professors would seek out Buller in Thom’s. We have proved him right.

If The Corrected Text remains the only version being printed, taught, and studied, few will make the leap from “Flowers of idleness” to Byron to Buller to Byron Lodge, because the 100,000 copies most recently printed all read “Captain Culler.” There was no Culler in Dublin 1904, captain, sergeant, or civilian. Whence this Shriftian blunder? In a word, facsimiles. The recent text was compiled from published facsimiles, photocopies, and microfilms. The “research” was done in Munich, thousands of miles from Joyce’s scattered drafts, final fair copies, typescripts, and proofs, and the transcriptions were not checked against originals. The proof sheet on which Joyce wrote Captain Buller in ink is unambiguous in the original at Harvard. Printer’s pencil markings nearby, although no distraction in the original, are so dark and unruly in the facsimile that a careless transcriber might for a moment think that there was a capital C on the page. (See Joyce Archive, Vol. 17, p. 93.) Neither Joyce nor the printer wrote a C. The printer put an “e” in a circle, attempting to clarify “Kildare” for his typesetter, who set Buller accurately but came up with “Kildere” (soon enough set right). No one associated with the production of Ulysses—not author nor shop foreman nor compositor—wrote, read, or rendered a C in Buller. The first edition has Buller; Thom’s has Buller; Joyce wrote Buller. Just as the 1922 text had Thrift, the Evening Telegraph had Thrift, and Frank Budgen wrote Thrift from Joyce’s dictation.

The Corrected Text correctly spells all Dublin names in the first three pages of Ulysses, but soon meddles with the early morning exchange between Buck Mulligan and Stephen Dedalus. The new version claims to correct Conolly (one “n”) Norman to Connolly Norman. As all editions stood before now:

—That fellow I was with in the Ship last night, said Buck Mulligan, says you have g.p.i. He’s up in Dottyville with Conolly Norman. General paralysis of the insane. [61U 6]

Thom’s Directory, page 1381, clarifies Dottyville:

Richmond District Lunatic Asylum, North Brunswick-Street./ For the Country and City of Dublin, Counties of Wicklow and Louth./ Resident Medical Superintendent, Conolly Norman, F.R.C.P.I.; ex-F.R.C.S.I.

Telling us that Conolly Norman is an ex-Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland is one of the quainter touches in Thom’s. Conolly Norman is named correctly on Thom’s pages 826, 840, 865 (with gynecologist Professor Kidd), 867, 879, 1381, and 1438.

A bad repair job inevitably unmasks itself on the first long trip out of town. That Conolly to Connolly is the first name change in The Corrected Text shows you won’t get far without a fanbelt. Norman and Thrift and Buller are ill-served by these corruptions, and their names were letter perfect in all previous editions.


It is a commonplace that Ulysses has suffered hilarious typos—I have already mentioned “beard” for “bread” (61U 147). The odd thing about all the essays decrying the pre-Corrected text is that most of the rehashed examples are trivial, far more trivial than Shrift and Culler. From its context one can tell a beard from a bread, a bear, or a bard. But the Buller-Byron allusion cannot be recovered from the name Captain Culler. Harry Thrift is unrecognizable as Shrift. Conolly Norman gets off lightly in The Corrected Text. He might have been rechristened Donolly Gorman.

As a purported transcription of “manuscripts” (as the advertisements and jacket blurbs boast) the Synoptic Edition is worthless because it relies so heavily on facsimiles. The Joyce Archive reproductions are intentionally high-contrast, darkening to legibility anything detected by the film. Pencil markings take on the appearance of flowing ink and colored pencil looks like black lead. High-contrast development of the film wipes out distinctions that are visible to the naked eye.

To be precise, there are two distinct types of lead pencil. The spidery thin lead is definitely the printers’; the thick lead will be harder to apportion among Joyce, his helpers, and the Dijon printers, Hirschwald and Darantiere. A documentary edition would distinguish markings in the thin lead and the thick, and specify colors of pencil and ink. Not one of thousands of markings was thus labeled in the Synoptic Edition of 1984. Even if the originals had been transcribed, no one could confirm or reject hypotheses about the various hands, authorial or not, without this data.

All studies of Joyce’s drafts, typescripts, and proofs must now begin anew, as if Ulysses had never been edited. Only then will we know who underlined a word for italics, diddled an accent, inserted a comma, deleted a preposition, or remade “you’re a doner” into “you’re a goner” (61U 104). Why argue, as some have done for the past three years, whether “goner” has the true Dublin ring if we have no idea whether the change is in ink, in pencil, in blue pencil or red? Many fantasized “corruptions” will turn out to be Joyce’s own revisions.

Failure to consult originals not only means that the guesswork leading to the five-thousand-times renovated Corrected Text is unsound, but that students of Joyce’s drafts will be misled by the falsified record of the Synoptic Edition. Throughout the 1984 volumes, erasures and illegible deletions are recorded as if detected. Yet facsimiles cannot be used to spot erasures, or decipher blurred and faint writing. The 1984 apparatus alleges erasures that simply are not in the originals. In the third episode, “Proteus,” Stephen recalls the “fading prophecies of Joachim Abbas” in Marsh’s library (61U 39). Five lines below is the variation, “Abbas father, furious dean, what offence laid fire to their brains?” The 1984 edition uses a symbol that means Joyce wrote another word, then made a deletion beneath the first Abbas. Did Joyce toy with Joachim’s name? He is also known as Joachim Flora, Floris, Flore, or Fiore. One could speculate on lost revisions except that there is no erasure beneath, beside, behind, or before Abbas in the original.

So it stands with the entire record of erasures for the 690-leaf Rosenbach Manuscript. The 1984 apparatus records erasures that never existed and misses even more that do. If one goes to Philadelphia and holds up to a lamp each leaf of the second and shortest episode of the book, “Nestor,” one can find in minutes ten erasures not detectable in the facsimile, and not recorded in 1984. Twenty pages from the start of the book and the transcriptions are in a mess.

The Synoptic Edition, then, is a study not of Joyce’s manuscripts but of inadequate facsimiles. At spots where the manuscripts have worn away the 1984 edition pretends to decipher Joyce’s hand. One example should suffice. When Joseph Prescott wrote his 1944 Harvard dissertation, he examined proofs of Ulysses in the Houghton Library. His Exploring James Joyce of 1964 has a footnote about this garbled mouthful: “I munched hum un thu Unchster Bunk un Munch-day” (61U 170). The 1984 edition claims this is what Joyce wrote on the first proofs (84U 358). As Prescott noted, the first “un” does not exist in Joyce’s hand—the sheet’s folded corner has been torn away for decades. The 1978 facsimile that the Munich team worked from has a blur (Joyce Archive, Vol. 18, p. 123). It seems they peeped ahead to what the printer set in the next proof and doubled back to substitute this “un” for the blur. Voila! Ulysses As Joyce Wrote It.

Another pitfall of the 1984 edition’s reliance on facsimiles is exposed on the 1922 Ulysses typescript now at Buffalo, in which Joyce added, in black ink, Crême de la crême. The phrase is in Bloom’s mind, so the circumflexes instead of the usual accents graves (è) may be his slip, not Joyce’s. In any case, someone has blue-penciled in the “correct” modern accents. How does the Synoptic Edition distinguish Joyce’s ink from the blue pencil? It doesn’t (84U 370). Joyce’s circumflexes are unreported because they are obscured by the blue pencil, which appears black in photocopies (Joyce Archive, Vol. 12, p. 316).

Aside from the claim that it’s based on original manuscripts, the most misleading boast of The Corrected Text is that it reproduces letter by letter and comma by comma Joyce’s own spellings and punctuation. In more than two thousand places, or three times a page, the new version is demonstrably not what Joyce wrote in any manuscript. Rather than confess to extensive alteration of Joyce’s spelling, punctuation, italics, capitals, compounds, and foreign language phrases, the editions insist the words are Joyce’s own:

Emendation is essentially confined to the removal of unquestionable errors…. This results in an unstandardised and unmodernised text. Inconsistencies of usage and orthography, unconventional spellings, obsolescent word forms and of course the idiosyncracies of Joyce’s punctuation are largely left standing. [84U 1898]

As admirable as this policy might be, it is not the one followed in 1984 and in 1986. Setting aside cases where Joyce may have revised now-lost drafts, and looking only at uncontested final manuscript readings, the newly edited texts overrule what Joyce actually wrote two thousand times. (In another thousand places we encounter dubious decisions made in the 1984 Synoptic Edition, where authoritative documents conflict, and the first edition of 1922 seems to embody final revisions.)

Although the refusal to print precisely what Joyce wrote usually affects only two or three readings a page, the alterations commonly swell to five, six, or seven per page. In chapters typed directly from the Rosenbach Manuscript, expanded on typescript, and passed in several proofs, The Corrected Text can depart from the final version in Joyce’s hand as many as seven times per page—the frequency, we were told, with which the first edition was corrupt.

For a useful sampling of the misguided policies of the editors, take the “corrected” page 541 of the 1986 edition, whose text begins on page 662 of the 1961 edition. (Yes, the new edition compresses the novel into one hundred fewer pages by using smaller type and more lines per page. An “unreadable book” made doubly so.) Bloom and Stephen are slouching toward Eccles Street after midnight. Stephen is stunned from a brawl and Bloom is in a stupor, although a loquacious one. The original documents consist of a draft, the Rosenbach Manuscript made from it, the typescript from the Rosenbach Manuscript, and the printer’s proofs. This typist, who entered at the sixteenth episode, was assailed for adding six hundred commas and generally restyling the text toward standard (non-Joycean) English. Since the Rosenbach Manuscript is heavily revised but carefully written out, the early draft would normally be drawn on only for emendations of “obvious errors,” none of which I could detect in the final manuscript for this page. Of interest are final elements in Joyce’s own hand that have been rejected in The Corrected Text.

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