Pom! he shouted twice: Some Memories of Buffalo Bill (1919) in Ulysses
U 16.404-5: — Buffalo Bill shoots to kill,
Never missed nor he never will.
For the eight months preceding the self-imposed deadline of his fortieth birthday, Joyce laboured over the voluminous proofs of Ulysses. This siege at the davenport, begun in mid-June 1921 with the first pulls of the Telemachiad, lasted until 29 January 1922, at which point, as Joyce told Harriet Shaw Weaver, he bundled all the accumulations of books and papers off his writing-table.1 The present note is continuous with the larger scholarly project of recovering the titles and content of the print sources so discarded (and adjudging their impact on the verbal texture of the novel), a collaborative venture that has seen numerous works join our reckoning of Joyce’s reading over the Ulysses years. Here I augment that virtual bookshelf with a single curious addition, the volume Memories of Buffalo Bill by his Wife, Louisa Frederici Cody, in Collaboration with Courtney Ryley Cooper (1919).2 Building on the scholarship of the Intertextual Joyce team, the discovery also provides further evidence of Joyce reading in regional Englishes in 1920.3 More crucially, however, it adumbrates one of the circuits of transatlantic ‘intercultural interaction’—here an account of the Old West found and consulted by an émigré Irishman living in Paris—that were so vital to the immediate textual make-up of Joyce’s novel.4
Memories of Buffalo Bill (1919). Collection of the author
In the fortnight leading up to 2 February 1922, a run of proofs stretching from the close of ‘Circe’ to the end of the book crossed the writing-desk at rue de l’Université. On the second pulling of Page Proof 37, a gathering active between 17-20 January, Joyce inserted into ‘Eumaeus’ a couplet lifted outright from Memories. The material in question is flagged as the first of two Level 4 additions in the excerpt from the synoptic edition reproduced below. The speaker, unnamed in the extract, is of course D. B. Murphy, ‘a sailor probably’ (U 16.338):
Typical of Joyce’s accretive development or ‘thickening’ of text at the proof stage, the passage presented an entirely coherent whole before the interpolation of Murphy’s ‘bloodthirst[y]’ recital. In the Rosenbach manuscript and through the early proofs of ‘Eumaeus’, the second shouted ‘Pom!’—or is it the third?—ushered in an immediate silence, broken only by Bloom’s tactful inquiry. The late change on page proof displaced that silence, however, pushing it into abeyance and introducing something of a genetic entr’acte or musical interlude between the story of Simon Dedalus, unlikely dead-shot, and the reaction precipitated by Murphy’s account.
As early as a 1973 number of the James Joyce Quarterly, Richard K. Bass identified the doggerel ‘jingle’ as a ‘condensation of one that probably gave William F. Cody his nickname’:
Bass cites the long form of the verse to its publication in Don Russell’s The Lives and Legends of Buffalo Bill (1960), which in turn derives its text from Frederici Cody’s Memories.6 True to the JJQ gloss, the account in the latter evinces a very Eumaean concern with names and naming. The scene quoted below places the Codys at one of the ‘extended camps’ of the Kansas Pacific Railway in the late 1860s. A voice hails the cook:
‘Sounds are impostures’, Stephen tells us, ‘like names’ (U 16.362-3), and challengers were subsequently to emerge who disputed Cody’s claim to the Buffalo Bill moniker.8 But even in carving his closed couplet out of Memories’ doggerel rhyme, Joyce would have encountered a suggestive vignette on the ‘application of a euphonious nickname’, which leaned more heavily on issues of transmission and circulation than on the tricky question of origination.9 Indeed, Red precedes his recital with a terse disavowal of authorship—‘it ain’t mine’—before offering only a version of the ‘piece of poetry’: ‘Runs something like’. Frederici Cody resorts to a cliché to describe the commissary man ‘doubl[ing] with laughter’ in response, but the bromide is apposite in that the steward himself repeats or doubles the verse ‘over and over’ in its committal to memory, and he promises its further doubling or recitation by ‘the bunch around here’. One might recall at this juncture Julia Kristeva’s foundational essay ‘Word, Dialogue, and Novel’, in which she asserts that ‘[t]he notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity, and poetic language is read as at least double’.10 In this light, the ‘Eumaeus’ narrator’s infelicitous ‘twice’ in the description of Murphy’s storytelling—‘Pom! he shouted twice’—is a coy reminder of intertextuality as an indwelling, inevitable property of language but, more pointedly, of the Buffalo Bill couplet as Joyce’s reprise of a specific and recoverable textual spur.11
Though a recent account of the verse suggests that it dates to the early 1870s, Steve Friesen, the director of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden, Colorado, notes that the poem is included in neither Julia Cody Goodman’s reminiscences of her brother nor Helen Cody Wetmore’s Last of the Great Scouts (1899).12 Friesen’s canvas of such disparate texts as the Buffalo Bill dime novels of Ned Buntline and the series as continued by Prentiss Ingraham in the late 1870s; William F. Cody’s own writings; John Burke’s ‘authentic history of the wild West’ Buffalo Bill: From Prairie to Palace (1893); Frank Winch’s early biography Thrilling Lives of Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill (1911); and D. H. Winget’s Anecdotes of Buffalo Bill which have never before appeared in print (1912)—the work of Cody’s ‘boyhood friend and “pard”’—has not turned up a single example of the verse in print prior to its publication in Frederici Cody’s Memories.13 A near contemporary volume, Richard John Walsh’s and Milton S. Salsbury’s The Making of Buffalo Bill (1928) includes the ‘jingle that fixed his famous nickname upon him’, but derives the story from the widow’s account.14 Inasmuch as this overview suggests a paucity of candidate texts for Joyce’s source for the ‘piece of poetry’, forestalling the need for further inquiry are two adjacent gleanings from Memories copied onto the ‘Circe’ notesheets:
The neighbouring phrases occur in equally close proximity in Memories, where they appear amid the vivid idiom that characterises William F. Cody’s direct speech. In the passage quoted below, the army scout and former buffalo hunter regales his wife with an account of his part in the July 1876 Battle of Warbonnet Creek, at which he fought, killed, and personally scalped a Cheyenne warrior, Heova’ehe (here translated as ‘Yellowhand’). The latter deed he describes in grisly detail:
Neither phrase on the notesheets is crossed out, suggestive of unuse, but individually and collectively, the two entries provide conclusive evidence of Joyce reading Memories.17 Moreover, that magpieish consultation took place not in January 1922, when he added the condensed Cody jingle to the proofs of ‘Eumaeus’, but a full fifteen months earlier when the composition of ‘Circe’ was foremost in his mind.
Elsewhere I have dated the compilation of ‘Circe’ notesheet 10-13 to the autumn of 1920, which supplies a neat terminus ad quem for Joyce’s first perusal of Memories.18 The volume might strike one as an unlikely tributary text of Ulysses, but in actuality, its inclusion is entirely of a piece with a self-imposed reading curriculum earlier that same year. Apropos the American dimension of Joyce’s oeuvre, Jack Morgan has written that ‘[t]he evidence of Joyce’s writings overall, in fact, suggests a sense of America similar to that of the “Encounter” narrator: little intercourse with the United States in actuality, but a significant mythical, literary and popular-cultural fascination.’19 This valuable assessment has been complemented and complicated recently by the genetic scholarship of Sarah Davison and Chrissie Van Mierlo.20 As Intertextual Joyce, the two’s efforts are concentrated on the ‘ingredients’ of ‘Oxen of the Sun’—hardly an episode one would suspect of harbouring American prose writing among its conspicuously British gallery of stylists21—but through an innovative spatial retranscription of the episode’s notesheets and assiduous source-hunting, they reveal the degree to which Joyce’s work on the ‘Oxen’ ‘tailpiece’ (Letters (1966) vol. III, p. 16) in the late spring of 1920 looked westward, to periphery and to frontier, for its raw material. As Davison writes:
Several months later, Frederici Cody’s Memories was to offer one more example of ‘[t]he fringe Englishes that were developing at the extremities of a rising nation’.23 But Joyce’s rummage through its pages for ‘Circe’ and his actual use of the memoir in ‘Eumaeus’ gesture towards the diverse energies that he found in the book. A reading campaign drawn up for the ‘Oxen’ tail-piece proved to be reconfigurable for and adaptable to the compositional needs of such radically different writing projects as the following two episodes.
In 1920, Buffalo Bill actually was all around. January saw E. E. Cummings’ untitled verse ‘Buffalo Bill’s / defunct’, which Ezra Pound dubbed somewhat later the ‘Beefalu Bull poEM’, published in the inaugural issue of the Thayer-Watson New York Dial.24 By the autumn, however, Joyce was ranging over the showman’s own direct speech as recorded by his widow and pillaging origin stories for reusable copy in the home stretch of Ulysses’ long unfolding.
von Humboldt Postdoctoral Research
Joyce to Harriet Shaw Weaver, ALS, 30 Jan 1922. British Library
Add MS 57346. Vol. II. 1920-2, fol. 87.
Debra Buchholtz, The Battle of the Greasy Grass/Little
Bighorn: Custer’s Last Stand in Memory, History, and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 2012), p. 90.
Joyce's Allusions >