Charley

Chase me Charley, chase me Charley, chase me Charley do

 


U 15.2426-7: Perceive. That is his appropriate sun. Nightbird nightsun nighttown. Chase me, Charley! (he blows into Bloom’s ear)  Buzz!


Virag contributes a contemporary catch-phrase “Chase me, Charley!” to Circe. Don Gifford paraphrases Eric Partridge in calling this “a common Edwardian music-hall expression of female high spirits”.

     The occurrence of “chase me charley” at Finnegans Wake 494.14 prompts the Wake Newslitter to offer a further interpretation:

chase me charley [Chase Me Charlie, released in England in 1918, was a selection of scenes from Essanay comedies woven together by Langford Reed into a film of seven reels. This information and the release dates of the films were taken from The Films of Charlie Chaplin by Gerald D. McDonald, Michael Conway and Mark Reid, Bonanza Books, 1965, p. 116.]1

     If this were the correct reading of Chase me, Charley then it would clearly be anachronistic in relation to 1904. This is not impossible, but suggests that further research may be desirable.

     The early film Chase Me, Charlie was not authorised by Chaplin. It was a compilation of previous material, released by the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company in 1917. When it was showing at the Stoll Picture Theatre at the London Opera House it was, however, styled “An Original Revue”:

               Last three days of
“Charlie Chaplin” in "Chase Me, Charlie".2

     A newspaper notice three weeks later is hardly encouraging:

 The Evolution of Mr. Charles Chaplin.

The combination of Charlie Chaplin and revue sounds so attractive that, in spite of its ridiculous title, one welcomes "Chase Me, Charlie", now at the Deansgate Picture House, with the rosiest expectations. Unfortunately, only a very few moments of realisation are needed to bring disillusion.3

     But there is plenty of evidence that the catch-phrase did not originate with the 1917 film. By 1914 it was well-enough known as a song to be whistled by French girls encountering a British officer landing in France on his way to war (as gleefully recounted by the Washington Post):

If ever a girl was seen within a hundred yards the men began to grin at me and nudge each other, and some one would whistle softly, "Chase Me, Charlie", or "You're My Blue-Eyed Baby" until I had to threaten to knock their heads together for them.4

     As early as 1900 the expression is being recorded in the newspapers as a catch-phrase:

Defendant explained that she was sitting on her doorstep playing with her little grandson, and was saying to him "Chase me, Charlie" – (laughter) – when her daughter came past and called her "a – drunken Irish old –".5

     By now we are back near to the genesis of the expression. A year earlier, in the autumn of 1899, we catch an early instance of the catch-phrase heard, which originated on the boards of the Victorian (not Edwardian) music hall:

Diogenes beckoned the fair girl to him.

"I was made to be admired," he said, "you must love me."

"Can’t," she answered him, the merry dimples chasing each other about her cheeks.

"And why not?" he demanded.

"Because you’re so tubby," she called out as she sped off like a fawn, crying in the choicest Greek, "Chase me, Charlie".6

     The song “Chase me, Charlie” was written by C. G. Cotes, composed by Scott Bennett and sung by Miss Childie Stuart. The musical score was published by Francis, Day & Hunter in London in 1899. The “authorised” spelling of the personal name in the score was “Charlie”, though “Charley” (as in Joyce) is of course a common variation.

     The stage magazine The Era explains part of the attraction of an unnamed lady who wishes to commandeer Charlie's attention:

The London Music Halls […] The Royal […] Miss Childie Stuart gives a brisk rendering of "Chase me, Charley", the lady who is responsible for this somewhat enigmatic expression being a lady of uncertain age but certain intentions in the matrimonial line.7

     Miss Childie Stuart was a popular singer, comedienne and dancer of the day, performing throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles. In April 1899 she appeared at the Empire in Belfast. Her “immense success” at the time was particularly based on two songs: “A Tiny Little Scrap of Paper”, and “Chase me, Charlie”.8 It is a matter of record that she appeared in Dublin in 1900 at the Empire Palace, in a show headlined by Miss Daisy Mayer (“Great American Artiste and Sand Dancer”) and Mr. Edwin Boyde (“Rowley’s Son and Rowley Redivivus”), and doubtless regaled the audience with “Chase me, Charlie”.9 But we need not have recourse to this in order to explain Joyce’s familiarity with a common catch-phrase.

Miss Childe Stuart advertising Ogden's
Guinea Gold Cigarettes
(No. 850: 1901)
Card in the author's possession

     Joyce’s use of the catch-phrase of a music-hall singer in a dream sequence involving some of the less salubrious characters of Ulysses is entirely fitting. He will doubtless have known the words with which the heroine tries to entrap her men:

Angeline for years had been
Upon the shelf, you know;
Though she's forty - rather shady,
Angeline's a perfect lady.
Leap years come and go, yet she's
Not tasted married sweets,
And this is what she says to ev'ry single chap she meets -

Chorus: 'Chase me, Charlie, Charlie, chase me; chase me, Charlie, do!
I've got ninepence in the bank - and it's all for you;
I'm as fresh as a two-year old - don't leave me in the lurch;
Oh, Charlie chase me, Charlie - chase me off to church!
'

Angeline is rather lean,
And doesn't carry weight,
So you must be quick to pace her -
Sixteen miles an hour to chase her;
Still, it sounds ridiculous,
And takes one down a peg
To hear her shout out to a chap
Who's got a wooden leg -

Chorus: 'Chase me, Charlie, Charlie, chase me; chase me, Charlie, do!
I've got ninepence in the bank - and it's all for you;
I'm as fresh as a two-year old - don't leave me in the lurch;
Oh, Charlie chase me, Charlie - chase me off to church!
'

Angeline has lately been
To Barnum's wond'rous show;
'Pon my word she'd stay for weeks there,
Interested in the freaks there, -
Giant or the skeleton,
She'll mash them if she can,
To cap it all they heard her whisper
To the legless man -

Chorus: 'Chase me, Charlie, Charlie, chase me; chase me, Charlie, do!
I've got ninepence in the bank - and it's all for you;
I'm as fresh as a two-year old - don't leave me in the lurch;
Oh, Charlie chase me, Charlie - chase me off to church!'
10

John Simpson


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1 Ann Kay McGarrity “Chaplin” in A Wake Newslitter (1973), vol. 10 No. 5 October p. 75.
2 Observer (1917), 19 August p. 5.
3 Manchester Guardian (1917), 7 September p. 4.
4 Washington Post (1914), 20 December p. ES14.
5 Essex County Standard (1900), 15 December.
6 Pick-Me-Up (1899), 30 September.
7 Era (1899), 2 September.
8 Era (1899), 15 April.
9 Freeman’s Journal (1900), 20 June.
10 Bodl. 5c c.32 (32). A link to the tune may be found at the foot of the page indicated here.