“Is there anybody here for there?”, as the railway porter asked the passengers
U 15.4023-5: ZOE
(Twirls around herself, heeltapping.) Dance. Anybody here for there? Who’ll dance?
In Circe Zoe drops two pennies into the slot of the pianola, twirls round as the music or the musician cranks into motion, and asks if anyone wants to dance. Her invitation to dance is presented in a popular phrase of the day (“Anybody here for there?”), which deserves further investigation.
We know that Joyce collected the expression between September 1919 and February 1920 in his notesheets to Nausicaa,1 though his exact source remains elusive.
The expression “Anybody here for there” and its variants is recorded from the closing years of the nineteenth century (so it was certainly is existence on Bloomsday). It has a specific reference, clarified here in this early reference:
The story became a staple joke in newspaper “humour” columns across the world. The most common variant is documented by the Australian quotation cited above. The railway porter walks along the platform asking passengers if anyone (or “anybody) there (i.e. in the train) wants to get out here (i.e. at this station), at the end of their journey or to catch a connection. Other versions, such as Joyce’s, reverse there and here.
The anecdote was particularly associated with the Irish, as we see from this article, entitled “More Humours of Irish Life” published in the Cornhill Magazine of October 1900:
The phrase was not restricted to the funny pages of the newspapers, though. Another early example derives from Kate Douglas Wiggin’s Penelope’s Irish Experiences (1901):
The New York Observer, in reviewing Penelope’s Irish experiences, noted that the expression could have wider implications:
the first quarter of the twentieth century the anecdote was told and retold,
cited and recited in railway magazines, newspapers, and any number of other
popular sources. The highest number of references originates in the United
States of America, but some emanate from Dublin, such as this quotation from
the Irish Monthly of 1912, published
by Gill’s of O’Connell Street, which links the porter’s incompetence with the
change from an English to a Celtic station name:
A railway porter in Wales is presented with much the same difficulty in this 1928 postcard :
ebay: “Celesque” Series Colour Comic Art: Welsh Humour theme No 2341
When Zoe says “Dance. Anybody here for there? Who’ll dance?” she is looking at the people standing or sitting around her like railway passengers and invites them to move from the edges of the room on to the dance floor.
1 Phillip F. Herring, Joyce's Ulysses Notesheets in
the British Museum (1972), p. 150.
Joyce's Allusions >