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The Scandal of ‘Ulysses’

On this page, 541 or 662, notable for a Homeric allusion to the treachery of Sirens in a couplet sung by Stephen, Joyce’s final hand is overruled eight times in the 1984 and 1986 editions. The Rosenbach Manuscript itself is rejected six times; one late addition by Joyce in proof is not followed; and his insertion of an ellipsis—to suggest a gap in the dogtired exchange of Bloom and Stephen—is ignored. Beyond these eight “corrections” are three more cases in which typist or printer first made a slip that Joyce touched and varied. I dissent from but won’t quibble here with the 1984 edition’s return to earlier versions than the one finally reached by a mixture of corruption, correction, and last-minute inspiration.

It is a claim of the 1984 and 1986 editions that fearsome “transmissional departures” (jargon for “nonauthorial changes”) are not accepted, regardless of how many times Joyce saw them, varied them, or added to them. (This is more posture than postulate: just as the typist tried to rein in Joyce so have more recent editorial hands.) On “corrected” page 541 only one among eight editorial changes, a comma to close a subordinate clause, even begins to suggest an “obvious error” (whatever that means). Allow the comma, and there remain seven editorial alterations of what Joyce last wrote. (Sometimes in overruling Joyce’s manuscript the 1984 text arrives at the same reading as the 1961 text, which it dismissed as corrupt.)

The seven “corrections” of Joyce’s final manuscript and his proof additions are as follows:

  1. The song title Youth here has end is altered to capitalize End. Yet lower case was standard British style in song and book titles.

  2. Joyce’s underlined name for the German composer Johannes Jeep is altered to roman type, though in Jeep’s lifetime at the turn of the seventeenth century most books would have italicized it. A Baroque Joyce might have spurned that rule and used roman. Modernist Joyce made a typographical play by italicizing the songster’s name. Not once in seventeen prior typesettings did a printer think italics an error. Nor are they.

  3. Still bucking Joycean syntax by page 541, the edition has a comma after Monday in this typical Bloomism, an entire paragraph in itself. In Joyce’s hand:

Still, supposing he had his father’s gift as he more than suspected, it opened up new vistas in his mind such as Lady Fingall’s Irish industries, concert on the preceding Monday and aristocracy in general.

The typist, alarmed by this hefty boa, added commas after “gift,” “mind,” and “Monday.” The 1984 synopsis omits the first two, without even a footnote, but plugs in the typist’s third, after “Monday.”

  1. The typist also inserts a colon that Joyce neither wrote nor deleted. It is adopted in The Corrected Text, although elsewhere such colons are not provided by Joyce and are not supplied in the 1984 synoptic edition. Stephen will sing his couplet:

about the clear sea and the voices of sirens, sweet murderers of men, which boggled Bloom a bit:

Von der Sirenen Listigkeit
Tun die Poeten dichten.
[From sirens’ cunning
Fashion poets verses.]
[86U 541]

The harmless colon is not Joyce’s but the typist’s. Fair enough, if one feels Joyce saw and accepted the change. (The Corrected Text claims not to be what Joyce passed but what he wrote without interference by the typist.) Once one has accepted the colon before the song found in all editions, would it not make sense to do the same two pages later? All editions before 1984 read:

Stephen singing more boldly, but not loudly, the end of the ballad:

Und alle Schiffe brücken
[And every ship ?broke up
?crossed over].

Only two pages after inserting the typist’s colon, The Corrected Text offers one of its five thousand improvements by removing the same mark provided by the same typist in the same circumstance. Being neither what Joyce wrote nor what he passed, pages 541 to 543 of the 1986 edition generate new inconsistencies. (The mysterious verb brücken sails by without a textual note, silent as Death’s ship.)

  1. In the wee wicked hours, the Dubliners have cheek-to-cheek fur on their tongues and fog in their skulls. The narration, too, deteriorates, as in the paragraph broken off (in editions 1922–1983) with three dots indicating an ellipsis:

Stephen went on about the highly interesting old…

[61U 662; cf 86U 541]

Joyce added the ellipsis on second proof; in 1984 it was removed. These narrative suspensions first appear in Joyce’s early draft of the episode, and he multiplied them in the Rosenbach Manuscript. Joyce gradually reshaped the “Eumaeus” episode, adding ellipses throughout. Another ellipsis that Joyce added in proof is disallowed in The Corrected Text:

Still, to cultivate the acquaintance of someone of no uncommon calibre who could provide food for reflection would amply repay any small…

[61U 646; cf 86U 528]

Joyce never says what small compensations boon companionship may demand. On the third proof he thought three dots there would do just fine. The first edition and all others have thirty ellipses in “Eumaeus,” every one coming from Joyce. Twenty-seven are removed in 1984 without even an explanatory paragraph. Typical of the confusion, the 1984 text notes (p. 1749) assert that the typist added “frequent” ellipses. The typist added none—all are in Joyce’s hand. The 1984 accusation against the typist has already entered Joycean lore, and is credulously retailed in Derek Attridge’s Peculiar Language (1988, p. 176).

  1. The hallmark of the “Eumaeus” episode is cliché, euphemism, redundancy, and mashed metaphor ambered in a gooey sentimentanty. Kindhearted Bloom’s thoughts, and maybe his actual words to Stephen, take this form:

But such a good poor brute he was sorry he hadn’t a lump of sugar but, as he wisely reflected, you could scarcely be prepared for every emergency that might crop up. He was just a big nervous foolish noodly kind of a horse, without a second care in the world. [1986 version]

Bloom then taggles out some nonsense about the plight of animals. Again the episode snarls itself into gibberish:

Nine tenths of them all could be caged or trained, nothing beyond the art of man barring the bees. [So far so good.] Whale with a harpoon hairpin, alligator tickle the small of his back and he sees the joke, chalk a circle for a rooster, tiger my eagle eye. [1986 version]

Those last four words make little sense on the surface and no explicator has taken them up. On the second page of A Portrait of the Artist young Stephen fears “the eagles will come and pull out his eyes,” and the Anglo version of mon oeil is loitering here, too. The “tiger my eagle eye” had a slightly different, albeit murky, form in Joyce’s final draft, the typescript, and the editions of 1922 to 1983: “tiger, my eagle eye.” An earlier draft—one as messy as any other—lacks the comma, so in 1984 the final written and published form is overthrown. To remove Joyce’s comma and to create the confounding “tiger my eagle eye” is hardly an obvious correction. Rather, it is an ill-considered conflation of drafts.

  1. The next fiddling with Joyce’s final draft and published version on page 541 raises fundamental questions about editorial theory. The blathery sentence-paragraph in its 1922–1983 form:

He looked sideways in a friendly fashion at the sideface of Stephen, image of his mother, which was not quite the same as the usual blackguard type they unquestionably had an indubitable hankering after as he was perhaps not that way built.

The claimed corrections of 1984 and 1986 are here given italics:

He looked sideways in a friendly fashion at the sideface of Stephen, image of his mother, which was not quite the same as the usual handsome blackguard type they unquestionably had an insatiable hankering after as he was perhaps not that way built.

First the addition of “handsome.” It is in neither the final Rosenbach Manuscript which Joyce gave his typist nor any published in his lifetime. Exhumed from the early draft, it plumps out the passage with no allowance for context. Bloom knew May Dedalus, and sees a resemblance in her son. Stephen is attractive, but not a hunk. Despite the redundancies and muddles peculiar to the episode, to say Stephen’s beauty “was not…the usual handsome” plasters over one of the rare glimpses of the physical Stephen we get. Ulysses is more than pure style: a portrait of Stephen is emerging and Joyce deleted a word to sharpen up that portrait. The Corrected Text is marbled with the fat of such pseudo-restorations from shoulder to shank.

Like the gratuitous “handsome,” the substituted “insatiable” for “indubitable” is born of inattention to context. Joyce’s typescript addition makes clear that Bloom thinks of the “blackguard type” whom women “unquestionably had an indubitable hankering after.” In this episode of windless repetition, is language anywhere as effectively becalmed as with “unquestionably…indubitable”? (See the reproduction of the corrected typescript on this page.)

The palpable genius of Joyce’s typescript revision is absent from the 1984 synopsis. The breakdown is traceable to the odd theory of the Synoptic Edition that all the fragments in Joyce’s hand from early drafts through last proof insertions can be assembled like mosaic chips. In service of this ill-conceived theory is a “synoptic” apparatus that omits entirely words or punctuation not in Joyce’s hand. Thus the typist’s error “indubitable”—which inspired Joyce to stitch in “unquestionably”—is banned from the display of revisions in the Synoptic Edition. We are told instead that Joyce added “unquestionably” two words to the left of “insatiable hankering after.” Not so. The “insatiable” was nowhere on the page when Joyce thought up “unquestionably.” The synopsis and footnotes have no record of the typed “indubitable” which catalyzed the revision. The fact that the typist mistakenly changed “insatiable” to “indubitable” is irrelevant once Joyce adopted “indubitable” as part of his own revision. A true-Bloomism is skewered on the 1984/86 trident of bad theory, apparatus breakdown, and literary insensitivity.

We have seen how seven changes of Joyce’s hand cluster on one page of what purports to remove seven “corruptions” per page. One could easily show that other pages have been similarly mangled.


Next we must lay to rest the claim that Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition is a record of Joyce’s own revisions. If we look at Joyce’s documents behind the one page of The Corrected Text just examined, it is obvious that the 1984 apparatus is incomplete. The newly edited text inserts a word (“handsome”—from the working draft) that Joyce had understandably omitted from his final copy. The “tiger, my eagle eye” also lost the punctuation of the Rosenbach Manuscript because of a trust in the same rough draft. But other telling variants from the working draft pass unmentioned. We can’t bemoan the insensitivity that led to replacing “indubitable blackguard” with “insatiable” (example 7) without noting that the working draft read “incurable.” Neither Joyce’s finally intended “indubitable” nor his earliest “incurable” are mentioned in the synopsis.

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