The Scandal of ‘Ulysses’


Until his death in 1958, Harry Thrift was known around Dublin as the man in the bicycle race in Ulysses, where he was runner-up in the quarter-mile flat handicap in the Trinity Races of June 16, 1904. Joyce doesn’t mention that the young man also placed second in the first heat of the 120-yard handicap, but out of the money in the final. Ulysses is a big book, but not big enough for all the newsworthy events of Bloomsday, 1904. Harry’s transit in the track of the sun was brief. By 1917, when Joyce was composing the “Wandering Rocks” episode in Zurich, Thrift had been a Fellow of Trinity College for ten years, having won tenure in the 1907 Madden Prize examination. Harry devoted himself more to the advancement of rugby and cricket than to the sciences. Eventually he was bursar, then auditor of the college, serving fifty years on the faculty. One of the great collegiate sports boosters in Ireland this century, the teen-age cyclist of 1904 grew into the old boy of quad and green. He died on February 2, 1958, the thirty-sixth anniversary of the publication of Ulysses.

Those who remember Thrift are themselves rounding the bend, most recently (in 1987) Roger McHugh, Joycean and director of the School of Irish Studies. Harry Thrift’s good works, sturdy frame, and jolly demeanor may fade to a misremembered blur, because he is deposed in Ulysses: The Corrected Text (1986), the only form of the novel being printed in the world today. The versions with H. Thrift cycling in the last segment of the “Wandering Rocks”—the only one now in the classroom—have all been replaced with versions putting an H. Shrift near the head of the pack:

Thither of the wall the quartermile flat handicappers, M.C. Green, H. Shrift, T.M. Patey, C. Scaife, J.B. Jeffs, G.N. Morphy, F. Stevenson, C. Adderly and W.C. Huggard, started in pursuit. [1986 Ulysses, p. 209]

Production of all the old Thrift versions was halted in order to replace them with the Shrift version, which is claimed to be part of “Ulysses as Joyce wrote it” (1986, p. 649 and elsewhere). Did it occur to anyone to check whether Thrift was a real person before changing him to Shrift? Apparently not.

The disappearance of Harry Thrift is only one of literally thousands of unfortunate features of Ulysses: The Corrected Text (1986), prepared by Hans Walter Gabler, a professor at the University of Munich, with two graduate students, Wolfhard Steppe and Claus Melchior. In 1986 the Random House hardcover and Vintage paperback editions of Ulysses, last “corrected and reset” in 1961, were replaced by a very different text claiming to correct 5,000 errors. Outside the US, the Bodley Head Ulysses and the Penguin paperback editions of 1960 and 1968 were also replaced with The Corrected Text. Thus a uniform text became the only trade version in print worldwide, although this version differs radically from what Joyce had himself brought forth in…

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