by gold in your pocket
U 11.1090-1: Gold in
your pocket, brass in your face.
Bloom uses this phrase in the Sirens episode to explain Boylan’s success with
women, most obviously his wife, who, impressed by his gold watch and expensive
outfit, has probably surrendered to the brass in her lover’s face that very moment.1 None of the standard
commentaries annotates this saying, which is documented in John Tobin’s
comedy The Honey Moon, published a
year after the author’s death, in 1805.
Physicians […] are shining examples, that a man will never want gold in
his pocket, who carries plenty of brass in his face! [Act 3, scene 2, p. 48]
Tobin’s play was republished in
Britain and America, and was a popular success, as this newspaper snippet quoting
Tobin’s character Jaquez, shows:
remained only a season at Portmouth. He was a notorious character, remarkable
alike for his impudence, vanity and deceit. He was a perfect Jeremy
Diddler, and the success of his schemes strikingly exemplified the truth
of Jaques’s shrewd remark that "a man never wanted any gold in his pocket
as long as he carried plenty of brass in his face".
(1853), Sunday, 27 March
also quotes from Tobin in the Nausicaa episode at 13.301-2, as Vincent
Deane suggested to Gifford.
An earlier source for the phrase is
George Farquhar’s comedy Love and a Bottle,
which premiered in 1698 (published 1699):
I an impudent Dog? Had I as much Gold in my Breeches, as Brass in my Face, I
durst attempt a whole Nunnery. [Act 3, p. 27]
Farquhar is preceded by the following source of 1660:
His Mask being now
taken off, he begins to appear in his Colours; And truly I wonder, he that hath
from his youth dealt so much in Silver an
d Gold, should now have
Brasse in his Face, as so impudently and in Print to Patronize
his mischiefs under the names of such persons as the Lord Mayor of
Commissioners of the Great Seal, the Lord Chief Justice of
The Great Trappaner
of England Discovered,
seems to have been proverbial, based on "brazen-faced", which suggests hardened
emotions and which has been documented since 1571. A later example extends the
metaphorical use of metals to describe human qualities:
four metallic qualifications a man may feel pretty certain of worldly success:
They are gold in his pocket, silver in his tongue, brass in his face, and
iron in his heart.
Illustrated Police News
(1886), Saturday, 15 May
1 In the Wandering Rocks episode the
reader is told that “Blazes Boylan rattled merry money in his trousers' pocket”
and thinking of him past midnight Molly Bloom remembers “that determined
vicious look in his eye”.