Death in Ennis
But the worst of all, Mr Power said, is the man who takes his own life. […]
U 17.621-5: What suggested scene was then reconstructed by Bloom?
In the late autumn of 1917 Joyce eventually started to write Ulysses episode by episode. Shortly before leaving Zurich for Locarno on 12 October he must have made a serendipitous find in an Irish newspaper that helped seal the fate of Rudolph Bloom, the father Laertes to Joyce’s Jewish-Irish Odysseus. The so-called Subject Notebook for Ulysses (NLI 36,639/3), also begun in October 1917, contains an intriguing note under the heading “Jews”:
On the day after Marshall took his own life, the Irish Independent, Joyce’s most likely source, carried a brief report of the tragedy:
Buffalo notebook VIII.A.5, which Joyce started in early 1918, clearly shows that he had Odyssean analogies in mind for Bloom’s parents:
Like Odysseus’ father Laertes, Rudolph Bloom goes to the country; like Odysseus’ mother, Antikleia, he commits suicide from grief about a loved one.3
Isaac Marshall, the son of Benjamin Marshall, a cotton worker like his own father John, was born in Colne, Lancashire in 1872 and baptised in the Anglican Parish Church there. He married Margaret Corbett from County Clare in the west of Ireland, and the couple initially lived in Colne with their two children (Joyce) Ida and Francis O’Grady Marshall.4 Isaac bought the Queen’s Hotel at 19 Church Street (now Abbey Street), Ennis, in County Clare, from Patrick Roughan, grocer and publican some time after January 1916.5 The family grave of the Marshalls in the old Catholic graveyard at Drumcliff, just north of Ennis, bears the inscription:
So ironically, Joyce’s assumption that Isaac Marshall was a Jew was unfounded.
In his “scrupulous meanness” Joyce also made use of the inquest and its verdict mentioned in the papers. Memories of his father’s inquest and the phrase that was commonly applied in cases of suicide in Victorian and Edwardian times, “temporary insanity”, turn up in various places in the narrative of Ulysses. But unlike married Isaac Marshall lonely widower Rudolph Bloom died from aconite poisoning in a “room in the hotel with hunting pictures”. Death by hanging in Ulysses is almost exclusively connected with the notorious barber hangman Rumbold or the Croppy Boy, and its farcical and obscene presentation in the Cyclops and Circe episodes would have made for unwelcome connotations for the father of Leopold Bloom.
The Freeman’s Journal, The Irish
Examiner, The Irish Independent of 2
October and the Weekly Irish Times of
6 October 1917 carried similar reports, though only the Irish Independent uses “hanging from a beam” rather than
“suspended” and “coachhouse” rather than
“coach-house” as the other papers.
Joyce's People >