And do the brave deserve the fair?
The annotators rightly link Joyce’s expression “The brave and the fair” to John Dryden, one of the most influential English poets and stylists of the late seventeenth and early eighteen century. Sam Slote, for example, writes:
It is, however, worth looking at the expression in slightly more detail, as reference to Dryden’s celebrated line masks the independent life enjoyed by Joyce’s phrase.
This use of “the fair” (as a collective noun taking a singular or plural verb and preceded by the definite article) can be dated back to the Middle Ages. But “the brave” is first cited by the (unrevised) OED from Dryden, and in fact from his line in “Alexander’s Feast” (1697): “None but the brave deserves the fair”.
It seems reasonable to accept that Dryden was associated with linking “the brave” and “the fair”. Before “Alexander’s Feast” he had done just this is his Annus Mirabilis (1666):
The expression was particularly used to counterpoint Mars (“the brave”) and Venus (“the fair”), and similar contrasting couples. That Dryden remained connected in the public mind with the linkage is apparent from John Glanvill’s “Song, Occasioned by a Manuscript, one of Mr. Dryden 's, since printed in the fifth Miscellany, by the Name of The Lady's Song” published in his Poems of 1725, and celebrating the marriage and co-regency of William and Mary:
Dryden’s “Lady’s Song”, on which this is said to be based, refers neither to the brave nor the fair.1
In the eighteenth century we find “the brave” and “the fair” in songs. Scene 6 of Charles Coffey’s Boarding-school (1733) contains the popular air “Come Boys fill around”, which includes the verse:
Perhaps the most often-cited eighteenth century reference to the expression comes from Lord Chesterfield’s short essay on duelling, first published in The World on 27 February, 1755:
The piece was published and anthologised widely into the nineteenth century.
“The brave and the fair” maintained its musical existence in song at the end of the eighteenth century. The Wit of the Day, published in 1784, offers “Fox, Freedom, and the Fair For Ever. A New Election Song”, which includes the verse:
and the chorus of Mrs Rowson’s New Song, Sung by Mr. Darley, jun. in the Pantomimical Dance, called The Sailor's Landlady of 1794 preserves the expression in a medium particularly enjoyed by the Joyces:
At this point a new factor comes into play. Matthew Gregory (“Monk”) Lewis published by much-copied ballad Alonzo the brave and the fair Imogene (later also Imogine): a moral and sentimental tale in 1796. This was frequently cited (and parodied) throughout the nineteenth century, and was adapted for the stage, where it proved enormously popular, especially in the burlesque developed in 1836 by F. C. Burnand:
Although the syntax of “the brave and the fair” differs here from that used in the earlier songs, the lexical reinforcement provided by this acclaimed light drama must have been considerable. At much the same time Walter Scott found room for the expression in his Peveril of the Peak (1823):
and a new song, recorded from time to time in the mid ninenteenth century, turned the expression into something of an Irish anthem, the opening verse of which follows:
By now “the brave and the fair” (like its converse the fair and the brave) was dissolving into cliché. It was often used by authors and subeditors to introduce their stories. Punch of 11 December 1858 (p. 241) includes, for example, a poem entitled “The Brave and the Fair. Or the Girls from the Garrison”, still associating love and soldiery.2 The popular magazine Judy (1 February 1888, p. 58) uses the same device as a title:
Just before the publication of Ulysses the common reference is cited as the title of a play being staged at the Kingsway Theatre in London, “a comedy or war and after-war”, “in aid of Earl Haig’s Officers’ Association”.3
Although Dryden was doubtless initially responsible for the popularity of the association of “the brave” and “the fair” in English, his quotation from “Alexander’s Feast” was not the direct inspiration for Joyce’s reference, which arose from a long tradition of military/amorous dalliance which used the precise phrase “the brave and the fair” in popular song, popular literature, and in journalistic cliché which existed separately from but in parallel with Dryden’s famous quotation.
Joyce's Allusions >