Perfide Albion — Perfidious Albion
U 12.1208-9: And says Lenehan that knows a bit of the lingo:
—Conspuez les anglais! Perfide Albion!
U 12.1385-9: —The French! says the citizen. Set of dancing masters! Do you know what it is? They were never worth a roasted fart to Ireland. Aren't they trying to make an entente cordial now at Tay Pay's dinnerparty with perfidious Albion? Firebrands of Europe and they always were.
—Conspuez les français, says Lenehan, nobbling his beer.
The phrase “perfidious Albion” (in French “la perfide Albion”) specifically references England’s “alleged treacherous policy towards foreigners” (OED, “Albion,” n.). The Marquis de Ximénèz (1726-1817) was the first to use “la perfide Albion” in his well-known poem “L’Ère Républicaine” (1793), after the British joined the allies against France. Ximénèz called for supporters of the French revolutionary cause to:
From these revolutionary roots, the phrase “Perfide Albion” became synonymous with England, particularly in the liberal French paper L’Ancien Moniteur in the 1840s. Thackeray complained that:
A couple of decades
later, the expression had lost its initial political force. M. P. Larousse’s Grand Dictionnaire Universelle (1866) notes
But at the height of the Boer War (1899-1902) and during the series of English-German talks about an entente cordiale, which France continually rebuffed (1898-1901), “perfide Albion” regained some of its initial strength. This is particularly true in Ireland where British foreign policy was viewed with suspicion.
In Ulysses, “perfide” and “Perfidious” resonate with
(and quite possibly originate in) two different temporal contexts: the time of
the novel’s setting and that of “Cyclops’” composition in 1919. In July 1901,
Benedictines at Solesmes Abbey were forced into exile because of a French Third
Republic law against “associations”. The monks from Solesmes settled in the
Isle of Wight but were met with some hostility. The United Irishman of 7 December 1901 gave the following report on
these events under the headline “Francophobia”:
The United Irishman is rooted in the historical milieu of Ulysses’ setting and is explicitly mentioned in “Cyclops” with reference to foreigners visiting England. The Citizen reads out “that skit in the United Irishman today about that Zulu chief that’s visiting England” (U 12.1509-10). Lenehan could well have picked up “a bit of the lingo” from such a source.
“Perfidious Albion”, on the other hand, is clearly an afterthought that
came to Joyce as he was composing “Cyclops”. The phrase is scribbled in the
left-hand margin of the page after which “Conspuez
les anglais” appears (Buffalo V.A.8–38; JJA
13, 122). In 1919, when Joyce was working on the initial drafts of the episode,
Ireland’s first Dáil began sitting in
the Mansion House on 21 January. Canon Charles O’Neill, parish priest of
Kilcoo, County Down, attended one of the first Dáil sessions. Many members who had been elected were absent, and
when their names were called from the roll they were met with the reply “faoi ghlas ag na Gaill” (“locked up by
the foreigner”). Reflecting on the Easter Rising and political events that led
to Ireland’s first independent parliament shortly thereafter, O’Neill wrote the
song “Foggy Dew”, of which the third stanza is:
The first edition of the sheet-music only credits these lyrics to Iascaire (“fisherman”). “The music belongs to an old love-song, recorded in 1913 by John McCormick [sic]” in an arrangement by Carl Hardebeck (O’Boyle 57), so it could have been quickly produced and distributed by Whelan & Son once the lyrics were completed. Click here to see the first printed edition.
stereotypically xenophobic interjections shrewdly appeal to narrow-minded
concepts of nationalism and race so that he can continue to court favour and
drinks from the men in Barney Kiernan’s. Lenehan’s
slogan, “Conspuez les Anglais”, was initially only employed in isolated
circumstances in France. R. T. Long, editor of the cycling paper Wheeling, notes:
The escalation of the Boer War and British success in the Transvaal increased Anglophobic demonstrations in Paris. News arrived in Paris on 3 March 1900, just after Mardi Gras, that General Cronje had capitulated.
Later that year, similar demonstrations took place in Marseilles following South African President Paul Kruger’s arrival on Thursday, 22 November 1900:
This background of violent demonstration attached to the phrase would make it a more appealing slogan for a militant nationalist like the Citizen.
Philip Keel Geheber, TCD