Mulligan has been waiting for a chance to perform his masterpiece, the “Ballad of Joking Jesus.” More is coming in the next few pages.
The ballad is one of many things in Ulysses not written by James Joyce. It was written by the real-life inspiration for Buck Mulligan, Oliver St. John Gogarty. The ballad even has its own Wikipedia page. It’s brilliant. A friendly Welshman (Gareth, you out there?) once told me that the song was meant to be sung to the tune of “Sweet Betsy from Pike.”
I’ve cherished this as a bit of inherited Joycean lore, but it does seem to have some basis in tradition. Note this retro website from John Patrick, a scholar of bawdy songs. Mr. Patrick (surely he is Dr. Patrick by now?) has an mp3 snippet of a 1962 recording of the song here. The snippet comes from the Library of Congress, and a recording in the Archive of Folk Culture of an interview with a man named Donald Laycock who was from New South Wales.
Would cherish further information, or even video of a boozy rendition of the song…
Having left the tower, Mulligan, Haines, and Stephen walk towards the sea.
Mulligan is beating the grass with his towel, seeming playful, but when Haines asks about the rent, he quickly inserts himself into the conversation. In an early version of this drawing, we had attributed the statement about the rent to Stephen–it seems like a logical thing for him to say, since he makes that following comment about paying the rent to the Secretary of State for War. But Joyce clearly puts those words in Mulligan’s mouth. What this does is to remind us of Mulligan’s interest in money, particularly in making some money off of their gentleman houseguest. He needs to make sure that Haines knows what the rent is–perhaps in order to set up an “ask” later on–and doesn’t want Stephen to step in the opportunity again.
Richard Ellmann’s biography of Joyce has a surprising amount to say about Joyce’s life in the actual Martello tower. It also has a great image of the original lease from the government, which was signed by Oliver St. John Gogarty, and was for 8 pounds, not 12. Ellmann describes Gogarty as wanting the tower to seem a a “haven of unrespectability in ‘priestridden godforsaken’ Ireland” a “temple of neo-paganism” where “Nietzsche was the principal prophet, Swinburne the poet laureate” (172).
Skipping back to Ulysses for a moment–Mulligan also has these dreams of the tower being an “omphalos,” a kind of center of bohemian and free thought. But his credibility depends on Stephen, who’s the real artist. But Stephen doesn’t look like he’s going to want to play this part.
Gogarty was much respected by Dublin literary society in later years and the rift between him and Joyce is a fairly unsolvable knot of which man might, in the final analysis, prove to be the greater ego. Particularly interesting in this judgement is Joyce biographer Richard Ellman’s assertion that Gogarty was the man who got Joyce drinking and, as Simon Dedalus might say, “tickled his catastrophe.”
-Rob; Here we begin with the big “S” (yes, we’ll get to that). I’ve made the file a little bigger here so that you can see some quick margin notes there on the bottom left and that page number on the right. At this time we hadn’t really decided on the chapter header as part of the page count, so numbering the original storyboards is off from what you’ll see online. But we eventually figured things out.
On the subject of pagination you will also find that from here on in there are citations from both the Gabler Revised text that is commonly used and the original 1922 edition. All the work you’ll see done here is from the ’22 (for various reasons). There are many edition that you might be following along and it makes it hard to find the right passage at times. A new online resource comes to us now (2018) with John Hunt’s excellent Joyce Project. It is an informative guide for new and experienced readers alike, but it also has a wonderful feature six different editions to the pagination!
[cf. Gabler 3:1, 1922 p. 3]
-Mike; Some pudgy guy is carrying a bowl to the top of a tower. So begins the most important novel of the twentieth century. A ceremony of sorts is about to happen.
This is not our first main character, but is instead a secondary one–this is his biggest scene. He’s based on a real acquaintance of Joyce’s Oliver St. John Gogarty, a physician and writer who would go on to be a Senator in the Irish Free State. In 1904, he rented an abandoned military fortification outside the city, which he lived in and would use as a kind of salon for over twenty years. Joyce lived there, but only for a week in September 1904.
Let us say something obvious. Living in an unheated Napoleonic fortification, 7 1/2 miles from the center of town as the crow flies, is not a practical decision.
And one more obvious thing–there’s a practical reason Mulligan comes to the top of the tower to shave. It’s very dark and smoky in the living quarters below, not to mention the heady aroma of one rather unclean Dedalus (more on that later) and a sleeping Englishman.
Rob’s drawing gives us an intriguing birds-eye view that conveys at least two important pieces of information: a) we’re out in the middle of nowhere, and b) Mulligan is putting on a show without an audience. Not having an audience is intolerable for Mulligan, so he will shortly summon Stephen Dedalus to serve as an altar boy to his perverse shaving mass. Making the “S” extra big, like Random House did when they designed the first American edition of Ulysses, Rob really makes it stand off the page. Some scholars have taken the fact that the book begins with an S to suggest that Stephen is the focus of the early chapters… we just like the way it looks and how it lends an epic feel.
I’ve always thought Mulligan gets a bad rap… and I identify with him in a way. Here, at the beginning of the day, he seems a little glib, a little snobby, but he’s more sensible than Stephen. And he’s funny and stately and plump.
We’ll meet Stephen in a minute, who is skinny and anxious. If we were casting Mulligan, we’d need someone a little officious, with a touch of wickedness and a sharp wit, a little aristocratic, a little paunchy, someone not entirely in control of their appetites but who’s comfortable with that…. a young John Malkovitch, perhaps?
[singlepic id=37 w=320 h=240 float=right]Buck Mulligan is the antagonist of the Telemachus episode. He attempts to maintain superiority over Stephen Dedalus through mockery and other subtle bullying tactics.