If I have sinned, I have suffered
U 5.372-4: Letters on his back: I. N. R. I? No: I. H. S. Molly told me one time I asked her. I have sinned: or no: I have suffered, it is. And the other one? Iron nails ran in.
Bloom’s Catholic wife Molly misuses two well-known religious abbreviations in the quotation cited above.1 She also makes use of the common Catholic consolatory observation "(If) I have sinned, I have suffered".
I.H.S. is a "Christogram" or combination of letters forming an abbreviation of the name of Jesus Christ. In this case "I.H.S." represents the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek capital letters (iota, eta, and sigma: ΙНΣ).
I.N.R.I. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase "Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum" (Jesus of Nathareth, King of the Jews). It is familiar to all Catholics because it was ordered by Pontius Pilate to be inscribed on the cross at Jesus’s crucifixion (John 19:19).
It seems that neither of Molly Bloom’s misinterpretations of these abbreviations ("I have sinned", familiar from the confessional as well as biblical texts, and the starkly descriptive "Iron nails ran in") are Joyce’s own creations.
We can find evidence for her use of "I.H.S." in the 1880s. The British Architect discussed misreadings of "I.H.S." in mid 1880. On 9 July a correspondent from Boston tells the story of a “clergyman of Salem” who left his parish after some disagreement and was settled in a nearby parish. Some re-slating work was done on the roof of his new church. On one side the slates depicted an immense cross, and the other slope picked out the letters “I.H.S.”:
This was clearly a well-known popular interpretation of the letters. A Tasmanian newspaper, the Launceston Examiner, has another story, which was doubtless doing the rounds of the "Fancy That!" columns:
Molly’s reading of I.N.R.I ("Iron Nails Ran In") seems to have an Irish background.2 To date no records of this interpretation contemporary with Joyce have been discovered, but modern contributors to internet sites and publications in Ireland and America give evidence that it was familiar to earlier generations:
The correspondent added in a private email:
Another American publication confirms:
The dual exclamation "I have sinned, I have suffered", involving two expansion of "I.H.S.", may be found regularly in nineteenth-century Catholic texts. It appears, for example, in Goffiana: a Review of the Life and Writings of John B. Gough (Boston, 1845). Gough was a celebrated English-born American temperance orator of the mid nineteenth century:
The magazine London Society for late 1884 (p. 684) offers:
Molly bundles together a stream of Catholic thoughts which Bloom attempts to untangle.
Eamonn Finn and John Simpson
1 Both abbreviations may also be found in Phillip Herring, Joyce's Ulysses Notesheets in the British Museum (1972), p. 88. Joyce added "I.N.R.I." to his text late, in June 1921, and he added its explanation even later (August/September 1921).
2 Alternative expansions of the abbreviation include "Iron Nails Run In" and "Iron Nails Right In". See:
3 Tony Mulqueen, 30 May, 2005: 09:41 a.m. (text no longer online).
Joyce's Allusions >