D (“The Sisters”) 262-5: If we could only get one of them newfangled
carriages that makes no noise that Father O’Rourke told him about – them with
the rheumatic wheels – for the day cheap […]
Eliza, one of poor Father Flynn's ignorant sisters, seems
prone to malapropisms: she also turns the Freeman’s
Journal into the Freeman’s General. In the first version of the story this mistake is still attributed to Nannie by the young, rather blunt narrator:
Of course, neither of his sisters were very intelligent. Nannie, for
instance, had been reading out the newspaper to him every day for years, and
could read tolerably well, and yet she always spoke of it as the
The Irish Homestead
(1904) 13 August, p. 675
The whole section about the planned outing to the old house was only added when Joyce revised the story for publication in book form in 1905.
five years before the reverend James Flynn died in 1895 John Boyd Dunlop had
opened his small factory in Dublin for the newfangled pneumatic tyres he had invented for his son's tricycle. Almost immediately the tyre
was jokingly referred to as the “rheumatic” tyre - Eliza may very well have picked it up from gossip.
Engelsche en Duitsche vakbladen gaan voort, luide de loftrompet te
steken over den hollen luchtdrukband (Pneumatic tyre, of, zooals een niet-vakblad
voor eenigen tijd schreef: "Rheumatic tyre").
(1890) 1 May 1890, p. 149/1
THE RHEUMATIC TIRE.
is the matter with Mr. Green? He looks dreadful."
— "He's been learning to ride a bicycle, and he thinks the rheumatic
tire was too much for him."
Judge's library: a
monthly magazine of fun
(1893) August, p. 57/2
A man who has a rheumatic tire can’t go very fast.
Dallas Morning News
(1893) 7 August, p. 4
Mrs Partington’s Successor
From Harper’s Bazar.
"My son has taken to riding those two-wheezicles," said Mrs Spriggins, "and he's perfectly crazy about 'em. He buys every new fandango that comes out.
What with rheumatic tires and patent feet gear and cycloramas to show how far
he's rid, he's just ruining himself as far as fiancees are concerned."
(Georgia) (1896) 6 April, p. 4
Green Purchaser (in automobile warerooms) — My friend sent me here to
get a rheumatic tire.
Clerk — Rheumatic? You mean pneumatic, don't you?
Green Purchaser — Perhaps it is pneumatic. I thought it was called
rheumatic because it's swelled.
(1910), October, p. 610
The tyre was to be seen at a number of stands at the Stanley Show in
January, 1890, and caused no end of comment, criticism and interest. One of the
humorous features of this exhibition was the hollow rubber-cushioned tyre shown
by Stanley Brothers. It bore a ticket designating it as the
"rheumatic" tyre. This caused plenty of fun and was looked upon as a
Herbert Osbaldeston Duncan,
world on wheels
(1927), p. 595
Eliza's substitution of "tyre" by "wheel" cannot be documented for almost another decade. Her totum pro parte is perhaps another, more subtle hint that she does not really know what the newfangled invention is all about.