Blacow

The irreverent Richard Blacow in Ulysses

 


U 15.1757-8: This vile hypocrite, bronzed with infamy, is the white bull mentioned in the Apocalypse.

U 15.1768-9: By heaven, I am guiltless as the unsunned snow!

U 16.1495-1500: He, B, enjoyed the distinction of being close to Erin's uncrowned king in the flesh when the thing occurred on the historic fracas when the fallen leader's, who notoriously stuck to his guns to the last drop even when clothed in the mantle of adultery, (leader's) trusty henchmen [...] penetrated into the printing works of the Insuppressible […]


Joyce's Paris notes taken during the summer and early autumn of 1921 (Phillip Herring, Joyce's Notes and Early Drafts for Ulysses. Selections from the Buffalo Collection, Charlottesville 1977) contain three phrases that became integrated into the text of the Circe and Eumaeus episode: "clothed in mantle of adultery" (Herring, p. 74),  "unsunned snow" (pp. 74 and 83) and "bronzed with infamy" (p. 83).

    All three are from a sermon preached (and immediately published in print) by the Reverend Richard Blacow of St. Mark's, Liverpool, in which he branded Queen Caroline (the queen consort of George IV) an adulteress. The sermon was quoted against him in court proceedings shortly after the Queen's death on 7 August 1821. Blacow was sentenced to imprisonment for libel and heavily fined. The case attracted a lot of attention, and was extensively covered in newspapers both in Britain and America.

    The relevant section of the sermon reads:

After exhibiting her claims to their favour in two distinct quarters of the globe, after compassing sea and land with her guilty paramour, to gratify to the full her impure desires, and even polluting the holy sepulchre itself with her presence, to which she was carried in mock majesty astride upon an ass, she returned to this hallowed soil so hardened in sin, so bronzed with infamy, so callous to every feeling of decency or of shame, as to go on Sunday last, clothed in the mantle of adultery, to kneel down at the altar of that God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; when she ought rather to have stood barefoot in the aisle, covered with a sheet as white as 'unsunned snow',1 doing penance for her sins! Till this had been done I would never have defiled my hands by placing the sacred symbols in hers; and this she would have been compelled to do in those good old days when Church discipline was in pristine vigour and activity.2

    Joyce obviously noted the striking analogies to the case of Parnell: public opinion on the side of the prominent victim of clerical hypocrisy and self-righteousness. The most likely source for his notesheet entries would have been an article, "Libel Upon Her Late Majesty", which the Observer republished on 18 September 1921, on the centenary of the Queen's death and one hundred years after the paper had originally published the article on 17 September 1821. The three elements were added to the text of Ulysses on the placards (galley proofs) in late November and December 1921.

Harald Beck

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1 Shakespeare, Cymbeline, ii. v. 13, "I thought her / As chaste as unsunned snow".
2 The substance of a discourse preached in St. Mark's Church, Liverpool, on Sunday evening, Nov. 26th 1820, by the Rev. Richard Blacow, A.M. on the aspect of the times (various editions: Liverpool and London, 1820), cited from the Observer, 18 September 1921, p. 11.