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…
…or a Magazine Wall… …or a Dublin Zoo…
…or a Fifteen Acres…
…or any other salient feature of the Phoenix Park for that matter:
2015 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:Even 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:Plus, 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:
But 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:Because 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:Another 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.Attempts 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:…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:This 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.
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.