A galería masquerading under the name of “Becche”
U 16.487-9: Mr Bloom, without evincing surprise, unostentatiously turned over the card to peruse the partially obliterated address and postmark. It ran as follows: Tarjeta Postal. Señor A. Boudin, Galeria Becche, Santiago, Chile.
The Galeria Becche has puzzled commentators. For Gifford it is, without explanation, the “Galeria Becchi”. For Richard K. Bass it is “’Galeria Becche’ (Becche Art Gallery)”, which “appears on a street map of Santiago (Guia de Santiago, Chile, 1920).”1 Even this is surprising, because there was no such art gallery in 1920s Santiago, and so the map is unlikely to have indicated this.
The Rosenbach MS of Ulysses clearly reads “Galeria Becche”, so it appears that this is the reading Joyce intended. It is not known if the passage is part of the so-called Eumeo draft, which regrettably is not available for scholarly research. The description of the postcard lies just outside the surviving parts of the earlier Paris draft from notebook V.A. 21, whose beginning, "message evidently” at (16.490), however indicates that it was part of it, and it stands uncorrected in later versions. As Joyce nervously awaited the arrival of "a case of books and documents ... to enable [him] to write the two episodes Circe and Eumaeus" (Letters, vol. 1 p. 149) he presumably acquired the postcard second-hand in Trieste. The address of the Galería is, of course, “partially obliterated”, so a mistake – intentional or otherwise – should not be ruled out.
The address will actually have read “Galería Beeche”, the name of an alleyway or arcade running through a large building (sometimes called the Beeche Building) taking up a whole block in downtown Santiago in the 1910s. A “Galería” is not an “art gallery”, but a passageway within a building, accessible from the street, and normally a ground-floor arcade where there are shops and offices.
Hector Beeche (also Beéche) was a Chilean
businessman who lived in Paris in the early years of the twentieth century. He
(with his brother Salustio) had been involved in numerous businesses trading in
or with South American countries, and in particular with one which became Wessel,
Duval & Co, of which he was managing director of the Chilean branch.2 In 1909 he had a
large building erected at the intersection of Calle Huerfanos
and Calle Estado in central Santiago, and the following year leased it to the
growing Buenos Aires firm of Gath & Chaves, who now wished to expand their
department-store empire into Santiago. The building – officially opened for
business in September 1910 - contained an internal passageway called the Galería
Beeche, after the property’s owner, with entrances both on Calle Huerfanos
and Calle Estado. The square was completed by the Calle Merced and the Calle
San Antonio. The Gath & Chaves department store was at first known as the
“South American Stores” and then (after their Buenos Aires store opened) as the
The Gath & Chaves building in Santiago (1911)
From at least 1911 there are directory entries for businesses along the Galería Beeche: the Armería y Lamparería Belga de Juan Seyler had a branch at Galeria Beeche 21, and the Allis Chalmers Co. and the Belliss & Morcom Engineering Co. had offices elsewhere along its length.3 By November 1913 the Santiago newspaper El Mercurio was reporting on Gath & Chaves’s plans to expand throughout the whole of the block.4 By 1915 the Galería was also known as the home of the Teatro Palace.
The intersection of
Calle Huerfanos and Calle Estado in central Santiago, with the Galeria Beeche
presumably marked in white in the block surrounded by these streets, Calle
Merced, and Calle San Antonio
The Gath & Chaves departmental store remained in its location around the Galería Beeche for many years. But trouble arose between the store and the Beeche family after Hector’s death, and in the 1930s there was a widely reported legal case between the family (the plaintiffs) and the store over lease payments.5 The building occupied by Gath & Chaves closed down in 1952 and was subsequently demolished.6 In its place rose the Edificio España, with its own galerías.
The identity of “A. Boudin” remains unexplained, unless he is a “partially obliterated” “M. Toutin” whose business is listed at 5 Galería Beeche in another Santiago guide, of 1918.7
This remarkable photograph of one entrance to the Galeria Beeche c1910 was posted by the Centro de Investigación y Documentación en Historia de Chile Contemporáneo, and spotted by Aida Yared.
See also A postcard from Bolivia by Aida Yared
Richard K. Bass “Additional Allusions in ‘Eumaeus’”, in James Joyce Quarterly (1971), p. 323.
I am indebted to Aida Yared and John Gallaher for many suggestions during the writing of this article, and in particular to Aida for identifying the image of the Galería Beeche.
Joyce's Environs >