anybody here

“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:

 Railway Humor

A railway porter often simply can’t help being funny. Only the other day a zealous luggage-smasher wrathfully pulled a gentleman out of a second-class carriage because he had a first-class ticket. "Cheating the Commissioner," he called it.

It must have been a relative of his who walked down a platform, put his head into each carriage of the train, and asked "Is there anyone there for here?"

Arrow (Sydney, New South Wales) (1896), 18 July p. 16

     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:

"Anybody here for there?" is a variation of the familiar "Change for -- " which requires explanation in the case of unimaginative foreigners.

     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):

And if he was truly Irish, so was the porter at the little way station where we stopped in the dark, after being delayed interminably at Claremorris by some trifling accident. We were eight persons packed into a second-class carriage, and totally ignorant of our whereabouts; but the porter, opening the door hastily, shouted, "Is there anny one [sic] there for here?" – a question so vague and illogical that none of us said anything in reply, but simply gazed at one another, and then laughed as the train went on.2

     The New York Observer, in reviewing Penelope’s Irish experiences, noted that the expression could have wider implications:

"Is there anyone there for here?" A life to be useful must be definite, must know whether "there is anyone there for here", and what the "here" means in the journey of life.3

     Throughout 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:

No story amused him more than that of the re-christened station whose Celtic title the passenger could not read or the officials pronounce, the difficulty being characteristically solved by the porters running along the carriages calling: "Any one there for here?" (p. 307)4

     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
(datestamped 1928)

     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.

John Simpson

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1 Phillip F. Herring, Joyce's Ulysses Notesheets in the British Museum (1972), p. 150.
2 Kate Douglas Wiggin, Penelope’s Irish Experiences (1901), pt. 4, ch. 22, p. 218.
3 New York Observer and Chronicle (1901), 8 August, p. 168.
4 The English Windsor Magazine (1910: vol. 31, p. 696) tells the same story of a station renamed Rotherington from Packthorpe.