A doctor but not Dr Freud
U 9.737-8: Steadfast John replied severe:
— The doctor can tell us what those words mean.
U 9.779-80: […] writing of incest from a standpoint different from that of the new Viennese school Mr Magee spoke of […]
Gifford’s comments on “The doctor can tell us what those words mean”
seem to have become the accepted reading of this line:
Several publications show that Joyce scholars have since adopted this view (see, for example, Katherine Mullins, James Joyce, Sexuality and Social Purity, Cambridge 2003, p. 124).
A closer look at the context and the genesis of the relevant passage as well as the background of the characters involved casts some doubt on this identification.
“Steadfast” John Eglinton’s reference to “the doctor” did not exist in the text of Ulysses when Joyce first published this section of the Scylla and Charybdis episode in the May 1919 issue of the Little Review. So the reference to the “Viennese school Mr Magee spoke of” obviously hints at an unrecorded earlier remark of his during the discussion in the National Library (The first sentence of the episode, “Urbane, to comfort them […]”, suggests a foregoing debate.). But even after Joyce added Eglinton’s “severe” comment in the proofs in the autumn of 1920, the link to Freud remains unconvincing. The immediate context at line 738 is “the charge of pederasty”, whereas 779 refers to “incest”. Why should Stephen Dedalus describe an assumed allusion to Freud in the context of pederasty as the Viennese school’s standpoint on incest?
The reference to the “new Viennese school” in itself has a strong anachronistic bias, as the term1 (as well as Freud as a member of the group) was not regularly documented in British publications for years to come.2 The familiarity implied in a reference to the Austrian professor as “the doctor” had no basis in the reality of Dublin intellectual life in 1904. A rare article in a medical journal mentioning Freud can hardly explain it. The first English translation of The Interpretation of Dreams was published in 1913.
There was, however, a person known to all the people present in the librarian’s room in the early afternoon of 16 June 1904 to whom a reference as “the doctor” would have made immediate sense, particularly while discussing Shakespeare’s bewildering disposition to leave his second-best bed to his wife. (His alleged pederasty only enters this debate as a roughshod deviation from Stephen’s argument by Mulligan.)
William Kirkpatrick Magee, alias John Eglinton, who makes the reference, had the closest ties to this doctor, as he had benefited from his support since his student days at Trinity, culminating in his appointment as assistant librarian to Thomas William Lyster, who also befriended this patron. In the context of the episode, Buck Mulligan has just mentioned him by name in his amusing, yet distractive anecdote. Different from most of his academic colleagues Professor Edward Dowden was indeed regularly referred to as Dr Dowden, not only by the press, but also in publications such as Henry A. Hinkson’s Student Life in Trinity College, Dublin, 1892, from which this illustration is taken. In a letter to Edmund Gosse Dowden writes:
Dowden, whose Shakespeare - A Critical Study Of His Mind And Art, was regarded as a standard work on Shakespeare for many decades, would indeed have been able to explain “these words”, i.e. the second-best bed. What other words in the context in question would have demanded a doctor’s explanation, even if the reference had been to Freud? Eglinton remains steadfast to the matter at hand, the second-best bed, by appealing to the authority of the very Dr Dowden Mulligan tried to poke fun at.
To sum up: Dowden was the Shakespeare authority of the time, a familiar figure in Dublin academic circles and widely known as Dr Dowden. He has just been mentioned by Mulligan as the object of an anecdote when Eglinton refers to “the doctor”. Freud on the other hand was virtually unknown in Ireland in 1904 and is hinted at only later in the episode and in a different context. His identification as “the doctor” under these circumstances, in the context of the line and in view of the textual genesis seems unconvincing.
Hinkson, Student Life in Trinity College
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