Wakean Tourism: a Cartography of the Soul

Walking tours of Dublin are an absolute treat – some argue necessity – for the curious Joyce reader. You can do it either through the Joyce Centre on Great George’s Street, the James Joyce Summer School, or simply using xerox photocopies of the numerous maps from Don Gifford’s annotation books. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, and especially Ulysses will come to light in many wonderful and surprising ways, and the city of Dublin is very much ready to accommodate you if you’re seeking to visualize the experience contained in these three books.

Finnegans Wake is a different matter, though, and not just because its prose is difficult. For one thing, most of the Wake‘s Dublin references are to Phoenix park, and the Dublin tourism industry doesn’t seem to have any interest in providing Phoenix park/Chapelizod tour buses for Wake enthusiasts. We’re pretty much on our own, I’m afraid, and it’s not easy. The Phoenix park is Eurasia’s seventh largest municipal park, meaning a whole lot of legwork. It’s worth it, though, and not just for Wake readers. Surprisingly, the Wakean tour of Phoenix Park provides crucial insight into the other books – especially Ulysses. It is a little tricky, though. So where better to start than…

The Famous Quotation

The following is a famous quotation. No, I mean it – it’s really famous. I’ve heard it read out loud at Joyce conference panels so many times that as soon as I hear the words “Joyce once told Frank Budgen…” I already know what’s coming, and I have to actively prevent my eyes from rolling. For Joyceans, it’s basically the equivalent of “Four-score and seven years ago”, and it’s emblazoned on virtually every single Joyce guidebook and map the Dublin Tourism Center on Suffolk Street can shove into your hands:

“I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day sud­denly dis­appeared from the earth it could be recon­structed out of my book.”

-from Budgen’s James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses

Grandiose and provocative though this second-hand quote may be, it’s also hackneyed, simplistic, and hardly ever scrutinized. If we are to assume – as Budgen clearly intends us to – that Joyce meant Ulysses when he said “my book”, the Dublin we’d be reconstructing from its pages wouldn’t have a Wellington Monument…Wellington Monument

…or a Magazine Wall…Magazine Fort     …or a Dublin Zoo…Dublin Zoo

…or a Fifteen Acres…

Fifteen Acres

…or any other salient feature of the Phoenix Park for that matter:

Phoenix Park2015 GoogleMaps image with 1904 placenames
(present name/state in parens)

Perhaps Budgen mis-heard his friend saying “my books” – plural, for just about everything in the the above map is referenced in Finnegans Wake – in most cases repeatedly, and some ubiquitously. According to Louis Mink, over 300 direct references to and meditations on the Phoenix park and its features are distributed more or less evenly throughout the book, with that number essentially doubling if you include Chapelizod, the small strip of high-end suburbia that hugs the park’s southern border along the Liffey.

Ulysses is another matter entirely.

I encourage anyone interested to word-search the above place-names in a Ulysses etext – some of them are there, but without exception their references are marginal and unenlightening. Bloom recalls a water well near the “Hole in the Wall” (U5.296-7, 17.210), Molly imagines a trip “to the furry glen or the strawberry beds” (U18.948), and Stephen… …umm, okay Stephen doesn’t think about the park … or anything in it … or around it … at all. Add Bloom’s occasional and extremely vague, misinformed references to the “Phoenix Park Murders” of 1882 (more than twenty years previous), and there’s your complete list of meditations on Phoenix Park by the three main protagonists of Ulysses. There are a few other exceptions, and other characters give the park occasional mention, but that’s pretty much it. (Chapelizod also receives virtually zero mention in Ulysses. For the record, here’s the one exception from the ‘Aeolus’ chapter [U7.732]: “Ignatius Gallaher we all know and his Chapelizod boss, Harmsworth of the farthing press…”)

More to the point – and this is the big shocker – the only event in the whole of Ulysses to actually happen within the park’s boundaries is the following sentence:

William Humble, earl of Dudley, and lady Dudley, accompanied by lieutenant­colonel Heseltine, drove out after luncheon from the vice­regal lodge. (U10.1176)

…and that’s it – period. In sum, there is no Phoenix Park to “reconstruct” from the pages of Ulysses in terms of description. This is kind of astonishing considering the amount of sheer acreage the park constitutes: Most Joyce-readers are aware of the fact that Phoenix Park is big, but it’s still shocking to see just how enormous it is when you compare it to Dublin City as defined by its canals:Dublin and Phoenix ParkEven if you argue that Phoenix Park isn’t really part of Dublin City “proper”, you still have to explain why the novel would come so close to completely ignoring it, especially since four of its chapters take place much further away from city-centre than the park:Dublin & EnvironsPlus, while no actual Bloomsday event takes place in Howth, Howth would certainly be easier to reconstruct from Ulysses than Phoenix Park, as would Gibraltar, for that matter.

So I’m going to do something that should make the Freudians out there smile (and everyone else grimace, consequently) and argue that James Joyce makes the Pheonix park as conspicuous by its absence in Ulysses as its presence is in Finnegans Wake. By way of example: three of Phoenix Park’s most noticeable features – all within Dublin’s city limits and all major locales in Finnegans Wake – are given no mention whatsoever in Ulysses, and careful comparison reveals an interesting pattern. We’ll start with the “biggie”:

The Wellington Testimonial

The Wellington Monument (officially “Testimonial”) is famously “toured” in the early pages of Finnegans Wake (the “Museyroom” passage, pp. 8-10) and from there, references to either Wellington, his memorial, or the Museyroom run all the way through the book.

Its COMPLETE absence in Ulysses could only be deliberate. The W.M. was by far the tallest structure in 1904 Dublin, over half-again as high as Nelson’s Pillar (the second tallest), and not to be outreached until 2003 by ‘the spire’. It would have been visible from any Dublin rooftop or southern quay on the west side of town. Joyce could easily have had Bloom take note of it any one of the numerous times he crosses a bridge over the Liffey, not to mention when he’s buying Sweets of Sin at the bookstall on Wellington(!) Quay – that would have been the perfect place to make mention of the monument, both thematically and practically:

Victoria Quay DublinBut no – neither he nor anyone else in the novel ever take time to notice or even think about the single largest landmark within Dublin city limits.

So what gives? Joyce didn’t have any kind of “author’s allergy” to it, witness Dubliners:

“Gabriel’s warm, trembling fingers tapped the cold pane of the window. How cool it must be outside! How pleasant it would be to walk out alone, first along by the river and then through the park! The snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and forming a bright cap on the top of the Wellington Monument. How much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper-table!” (‘The Dead’)

Here’s where visiting the Phoenix park itself really starts to pay off. Gabriel Conroy’s idealized and overly-sentimental attitude would be immediately quashed if he actually did what he contemplates here. The Wellington Testimonial sits in the middle of a tree-less, shelter-less field and once you’re there, the obelisk is utterly impossible to take in – it’s just too big. Even with a foot of snow on it, Gabriel still wouldn’t have been able to see a “bright cap” at the top, and what he could see would have been even more vandalized than what I photographed in 2002:WM DetailsBecause of the design of the monument itself, I had to hold my camera way above my head in order to get these shots – getting them head-on would have required a telescopic lens. And note: the Irish are very careful not to vandalize memorials to people they like – O’Connell, Parnell, Larkin, etc., and climbing high enough to put the paint(?) on these inset plaques would have taken a lot of determined effort. This is the kind of stuff they were doing to King Billy’s statue, General Gough’s statue and Nelson’s Pillar before eventually blowing them up. Ask a native Dubliner why they didn’t do the same with Wellington, they’re likely to tell you that the Archduke was born in Ireland, and so gets a pass. I’m personally skeptical of this response: Wellington himself denounced his Irish lineage by quipping that a man born in a stable was not a horse – a deliberate insult if you ask me. I think a much more likely explanation as to why the W.M. wasn’t destroyed during the Troubles is because it’s made of solid stone and would basically require an ICBM to level; getting rid of the pillar was hard enough. The point is Wellington’s monuments and statues are loathed and vandalized all over the current and former British Empire, from Ireland to India. Of course they’re also celebrated; Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington is nearly as much a synecdoche for British imperial power as the royals or the Union Jack. The inscription on the right-hand side in the above photos reads:

Asia and Europe, saved by thee, proclaim
Invincible in war thy deathless name,
Now round thy brow the civic oak we twine
That every earthly glory may be thine.

This borders on straight-up supplication – the only thing missing is the “amen” at the end. No: Gabriel Conroy was wrong. No self-respecting Irishman claiming Nationalist sympathies would find the Wellington Monument during a nighttime January snowstorm even remotely pleasant.

Even in broad daylight the place is creepy.

The Magazine Wall/Starfort*

*Louis Mink makes a dis­tinc­tion bet­ween the Ma­ga­zine Wall – just south of the park, and the Magazine Star­fort – within the park. Joyce him­self doesn’t bother making this dis­tinc­tion, however, so neither will I.

Built in 1734 by the occupying British army in case of revolt by the natives, the Magazine Wall/Starfort – is about a half-mile west of the Wellington Monument. Here’s the GoogleMap aerial view:StarfortAnother locale that receives ubiquitous mention in Finnegans Wake (p. 44-47 et al), the Magazine Fort sits atop a hill (also mentioned frequently in the Wake – vide FW7.31-32 et al) where you can get a fairly decent view of the surrounding area. But the fort itself is essentially impossible to take in by the naive Joycean tourist. An enormous trench and thick overgrowth surround the entire structure, which is itself closed to the general public due to its current state of disrepair.Starfort OvergrownAttempts have been made to turn the fort into a museum, but what kind of traffic would this blatant reminder of Ireland’s Troubles receive? Were it not so sturdily constructed, my guess is that it would have been demolished long ago.

Creepy creepy. Unpleasant to visit, unpleasant to think about, the Magazine’s excision from the minds and memories of the denizens of Ulysses is somewhat understandable, and if you pair it with the neighboring Wellington Monument, you start to see a pattern of sorts – at least I do.

The Dublin Zoological Gardens

Like the Wellingtom Monument and Magazine Wall, the Dublin Zoo receives detailed and lyrical treatment in Finnegans Wake (pp. 244-246), and again, no mention in Ulysses whatsoever.

But wait a minute – zoos are much more pleasant to visit. Witness these stills from the Dublin Zoo website:Dublin Zoo Conposite…very pleasant indeed. I’ve been to the Dublin Zoo myself, and the habitats were quite nice – even if the animals within them didn’t seem particularly thrilled to be there.

Of course, one should bear in mind that zoos back at the turn of the century were a little different:Jardin de Plantes 1902This sketch was taken at the Jardin de Plantes, Paris, in 1902. I couldn’t find any comparable Dublin Zoo photos, but we can assume conditions in Dublin were just as bad if not worse. Joyce wouldn’t have gone anywhere near such a place, and not just because of the sickening prison-like atmosphere, or that the idiot dangling the doggie-bag half-a-meter from the tiger or the moron who laid his sketchbook inches away from the male lion’s grasp were likely to lose an arm. Admission in 1904 was prohibitively expensive for most Dubliners; only the posh, mostly pro-British class had any real access to it, and judging from the above sketch, their behavior inside would have been further testimony to the Brits’ general attitude of imperial entitlement.

Creepy creepy creepy.

Nightmare Fuel

The hard fact is that unless you were a polo-player, Phoenix Park would have been a miserable place to go on a Thursday in June 1904, even imaginatively. Any mention of Phoenix Park in Ulysses is likely to have the word “murder” nearby, and when you look closely at the final passage in ‘Wandering Rocks’, the Viceregal Cavalcade (avatar of imperial subjugation and the park’s single issue) is spit out of the Park’s mouth like a trail of venom and stops the entire city dead in its tracks as it makes its way to the Mirus Bazaar on the other side of town, nearly trampling Denis Breen, Dilly Dedalus and others in its violent wake.

So while Finnegans Wake is all that Joseph Campbell, Michael Begnal and others say it is – with its mono-mythologies blending the phoenix with Christ with the Buddha etc. all into a glorious dreamscheme of pluralistic humanity, it’s also the very unpleasant thing that Edmund Wilson, Kimberly Devlin and others say it is – the unreadable, the unthinkable, the impenetrable, the nightmarish. The museyroom passage tickles us with “tip” and its goofy cadences, but it also recounts some of humankind’s bloodiest pre-20th century battles. The “Magazine Wall” may very well be where Earwicker gratifies his desires, but it’s also where he is caught, mugged and humiliated. And while the cries of the zoo animals recounted in the Mime chapter may be stunningly lyrical (some argue it to be the most beautiful passage in the book), they’re also the cries of the caged, the oppressed, the conquered.

Chances are that this is the real reason why the Dublin Tourism Office doesn’t have much to offer Wake readers. Finnegans Wake has lots of lightness and comedy in it, but it is in its essence a study of the shadow-self, that part of us we prefer not to look at. Perhaps obfuscating the language is Joyce’s way of enticing us to look anyway.

13 comments on “Wakean Tourism: a Cartography of the Soul

  1. Elizabeth West says:

    Great post! wonderful fun tour of what I had looked at but not really seen when I explored Joyce’s Dublin. Wouldn’t it be grand if you could lead a group around Dublin and environs? What a caper that would be!

    • JoyceGeek says:

      Well, take it from me, it’s a lot more “fun” when done virtually. I actually stumbled upon a fornicating couple during my legwork tour – shades of James Duffy in “A Painful Case”. No doubt Phoenix park has more to share than just its creepy side, but that’s what it wanted to show me.

      • brianbuchbinder says:

        A lot less romantic than what Father Conmee saw in Wandering Rocks, too.

      • JoyceGeek says:

        @ Brian: Watch out for those Wandering Rock Misleads. Fr. Conmee’s reflections are actually on Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare, approximately 37 km to the west of the Park.

        But yes, Conmee’s reminiscences somehow don’t include that time when Stephen was shoved into the square ditch, or when he allowed (perhaps even encouraged?) Fr. Dolan to stamp out homosexuality with random pandybat attacks. No indeed: “His reign was mild.”

  2. Bruce W says:

    Chapelizod and Phoenix Park were among the first places I visited when I traveled to Dublin in the early 80s, inspired by the Wake. Thanks for the lovely return trip.

  3. PQ says:

    This post is phenomenal. Wow.

    Thank you for this.

  4. This is great. Did you get to the Mullingar Inn, which Joyce said was the ‘principal bistro’ in the book? There’s also the village church, St Laurence’s, whose stained glass windows are illuminated in Part IV, revealing the stories of St Patrick and the Druid and St Kevin.


    Joyce told Frank Budgen that ‘the whole basis’ for Finnegans Wake was an encounter his father, John Stanislaus Joyce, had with a tramp in the Phoenix Park.

    • JoyceGeek says:

      Readers: ^Follow that link!^

      @Peter: Dublin’s Joyce-tourism industry owes a surprising amount to quotes from Budgen, or I should say quotes from Joyce as filtered through Budgen.

      I didn’t make it out as far as Chapelizod – too much footwork. This is the great advantage to sticking with Ulysses: just follow the plaques down O’Connell, Westmoreland, Grafton etc., and there are a million places to stop and get a quick coffee, pint, sandwich, or just a bench to sit and take a load off, then take the train out to Sandycove. Properly you need a backpack with full camping gear to do the park and Chapelizod.

      Costello and Jackson give a detailed account of Joyce Sr’s encounter with the cad in their biography. If I can find it, I’ll pull out the quote. If I remember right, JSJ was carrying a cash-bag to the bank for deposit on behalf of the business he worked for, inexplicably cutting through the park in order to do so. He arrived at the bank empty handed, claiming a “cad with a pipe” had mugged him. His inability to get later employment was perhaps due to his own laziness, but it may have just as easily have been the case that his “Cad” story wasn’t believed.

  5. Jackson and Costello give two conflicting accounts:

    ‘’The office had heard a sad story from John of a misadventure that had befallen him in the Phoenix Park, near Chapelizod. Apparently, crossing it one evening he had strange meeting with a ‘cad with a pipe’, some sort of ne’er-do-well, who relieved him of his satchel with his municipal rates in it. It was unfortunate that he still had money with him after the day’s work. A more heroic version of the incident – probably the one told to his family – claims that John saved the day by valiantly fighting off no fewer than two vicious assailants with only the aide of his trusty shillelagh. p.140

    Ellmann originally told the story:

    ‘’The bravery he had displayed in defending his collector’s pouch against an assailant in the Phoenix Park was forgotten, to be remembered only in Finnegans Wake’.

    Neither biography gives any source. I wonder if the story isn’t what Hugh Kenner, in his scathing 1982 review of Ellmann, calls an ‘Irish fact, definable as anything they tell you in Ireland.’

    The only hard info is from Frank Budgen. ‘Commenting on a précis of Le Fanu’s book [ The House by the Churchyard] I made for him in 1937, Joyce wrote, referring to that spot in Phoenix Park where the fierce Dangerfield struck down Sturk: ‘The encounter between my father and a tramp (the basis of my book) actually took place in that part of the park.’ Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses, p330’

    By the way, Adam, I saw your Shem the Penman show in Edinburgh and loved it

    • JoyceGeek says:

      Glad you enjoyed it: it’s gotten much better since then.

      I haven’t read Kenner’s review of Ellman, but I love his definition of “Irish Fact” – that one belongs in the Urban Dictionary.

      God only knows what really happened to JSJ that night – I’ll fully admit that what I said about his employment trouble is my own Irish fact. I think the takeaway for Wakeans in all of this is the whole concept of “conflicting accounts” – it’s more than just the Rashoman effect. Sure, take in every version of the story you can – there’s an element of truth in them all – but don’t stop there. Make up your own version; it’s bound to have its own truth as well.

      I think the two main Chapelizod studies to look at for readers of the Wake are Le Fanu’s House by the Churchyard – in which hearsay (along with a good dose of creepiness) plays an enormous role – and Joyce’s own A Painful Case, in which a man guards himself so zealously against possible hearsay that he essentially self-destructs.

  6. The zoo does appear in Ulysses, when Bloom defending himself in the Circe trial scene, describes witnessing a lewd chimpanzee, also witnessed by a blushing girl, in the monkeyhouse:

    ‘Girl in the monkeyhouse. Zoo. Lewd chipmanzee. (Breathlessly) Pelvic basin. Her artless blush unmanned me. (Overcome with emotion) I left the precincts.’

    The Phoenix Park Zoo’s association with lewd sexual displays is also the theme of the Zoological Gardens song, sung by Brendan Behan, the Dubliners and many more.

    ‘Oh thunder and lightning is no lark
    When Dublin city is in the dark
    So if you’ve any money go up to the park
    And view the zoological gardens

    We went out there to see the zoo
    We saw the lion and the kangaroo
    There was he-males and she-males of every hue
    Up in the zoological gardens

    We went out there by Castleknock
    Says she to me “Sure we’ll court on the lock”
    Then I knew she was one of the rare old stock
    From outside the zoological gardens

    We went out there on our honeymoon
    Says she to me “If you don’t come soon
    I’ll have to get in with the hairy baboons”
    Up in the zoological garden

    Says she to me “It’s seven o’clock
    And it’s time for me to be changin’ me frock
    For I long to see the old cockatoo”
    Up in the zoological garden

    Says she to me “Me lovely Jack
    Sure I’d love a ride on the elephant’s back
    If you don’t get out that I’ll give you such a smack
    Up in the zoological garden’

    ‘I long to see the old cockatoo’ is a play on ‘cock or two’

    Here’s Behan’s version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVbPuGvdw0k

    That ties in with the Phoenix Park as a place of fornication and sin.

    However, when Joyce treats the zoo in his Phoenix Park Nocturne, he gives us a much more innocent scene, with the animals saying their prayers for the night.


    • JoyceGeek says:

      Readers: ^Follow follow follow!^

      Bloom’s truncated syntax makes it real easy to miss things – I suppose that’s what e-text and word-search are for. Alright, using the latest in said technology, I’ve found another zoo reference:

      “Bears in the zoo. Filthy trip.” (U13.1184)

      This is from Bloom’s recollection of a cruise he and Molly took on the Erin’s King, which of course couldn’t possibly have included a trip to the park, but there can be no question as to what any thought crossing Bloom’s mind concerning “the zoo” would refer to. By his own admission, he’s never been further than the Isle of Man.

      So my bit about “no mention in Ulysses whatsoever” stands corrected – at least as far as the Dublin Zoo is concerned. But that’s all part of Joyce’s aesthetic – there are hardly any rules he isn’t willing to take exception to. There might even be a reference to the Wellington Monument tucked away somewhere in Ulysses – who knows?

      In any case, this business about “lewd behavior in park” is all clearly about prepping us for what’s to come in Finnegans Wake.

  7. Talking of zoos, Ole Vinding describes a 1936 visit to the Copenhagen one with Joyce:

    ‘We reached the zoo, and Joyce declared that he didn’t care much for the animals, only cats and goats appealed to him. But in front of the cage of the Siberian tiger he remarked comically:
    ‘That is a terrible, restless animal, and look how petty his face is. The lion is much more majestic!’
    The goats entertained him highly with their pranks…’

    Joyce put goats into Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. ‘Hircus Civis Eblanensis! He had buckgoat paps on him…’ 215.27

    Explaining this, Joyce told C.K.Ogden ‘The first man of Dublin was a he-goat.’

    Where did he get that idea from?!

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