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Eatondph and douradora


U 16.1255-61: The mourners included: Patk. Dignam (son), Bernard Corrigan (brother-in-law), Jno. Henry Menton, solr, Martin Cunningham, John Power, .)eatondph 1/8 ador dorador douradora (must be where he called Monks the dayfather about Keyes's ad) Thomas Kernan, Simon Dedalus, Stephen Dedalus B. A., Edw. J. Lambert, Cornelius T. Kelleher, Joseph M'C Hynes, L. Boom, CP M‘Coy, - M‘lntosh and several others.

Bloom reads the report of Patrick Dignam’s funeral in the Evening Telegraph, and comes across the passage of ‘bitched’ (= botched, mangled) type after John Power’s name.

         There are (at least) two ways of reading this mangled type. Hugh Kenner adopts the solution that Joyce was struggling to remember the Linotype operator’s etaoin shrdlu:

A footnote [..] should record that ‘eatondph’ is the grope of James Joyce’s memory toward ‘etaoin’. He was trying for a plausible ‘line of bitched type’ in a newspaper, and it’s one of the few things he didn’t get exactly right.

Hugh Kenner Mechanic Muse (1987), p. 8

        The letters ‘etaoin’ (lower-case) represented the leftmost column of keys on the Linotype composing machine, running from top to bottom. And ‘shrdlu’ was the sequence of letters in the column next to this. When a compositor made an error, he would often cancel the line by running his fingers down one or more columns of keys to generate enough garbled metal print characters to complete the line – which would then be extracted and replaced by the correct line.  



The left-hand side of a typical Linotype keyboard (1937)

Useful Matrix Information (Linotype)

        The Freeman’s Journal company, of which the Evening Telegraph was a subsidiary, acquired its first Linotype machines in 1898/9. These machines generated a ‘line of type’ in metal at one go, and were considerably more efficient than the letter-by-letter composing machines which preceded them. They were invented by the German-born Ottmar Mergenthaler in the United States in the mid 1880s. By the 1890s they were the favoured composing machine for newspapers, though book publishers preferred  Monotype.

        In February 1899, at the Freeman’s AGM, the Chairman proudly reported on the new technology:

I am glad to tell you that an installation of the line-type composing machines have been successfully made within the year with results that are already important and that promise to be more important in the future.

Freeman’s Journal (1899) 14 February

        Needless to say, it wasn’t long before readers started to find evidence of etaoin shrdlu, as compositors forgot to remove slugs of garbled type before the page was set. Here is an example from the Freeman’s Journal of 17 April 1899:

        Something has gone wrong at the start of the line, so the operator cancels the line by reverting to his leftmost column ‘etaoin’, followed by a space and the next column ‘shrdlu’, followed by a space and the next column ‘cmfwyp’, then the next column ‘vbgkqj’, followed by ‘cmf’ from the third column and a final ‘f’ to complete the line to the correct length of type.

        So Joyce may simply have been attempting to reproduce this type of sequence, and in struggling for ‘etaoin’ found ‘eaton..’.

        That’s quite possible. Another alternative, and one which seems to have much to commend it, is that Joyce represents the compositor becoming distracted after typing John Power’s name and then producing a line of botched type while his mind was elsewhere. And we have Bloom’s contention that this ‘must be where he called Monks the dayfather about Keyes’s ad).

        How does this hypothesis play out? Here is Joyce’s string:     

.)eatondph 1/8 ador dorador douradora

        The first character is represented as a full-stop in the Gabler edition of Ulysses. In fact, the Rosenbach manuscript shows that it is a raised (decimal) dot. This character appears directly below the closing parenthesis ‘)’ in the centre of some versions of the Linotype keyboard. (There is variation on the positioning and availability of these ‘special characters’.)

        We can’t be certain whether Joyce invented this line of type, or whether he was quoting a botched original. He was quite familiar with 'the usual crop of nonsensical howlers of misprints' in newspapers (U 16.1267).

        If we take either of these eventualities, then here is a scenario for the real or imaginary compositor:

        After a doodle in the centre of the keyboard (or perhaps after bodging an opening parenthesis to include Kane and Power's professional affiliation), he moves to the leftmost column and, instead of running his finger down the keys to cancel the line, dances around five of the six keys, roughly from top to bottom (‘eaton’ rather than ‘etaoin’). ‘dph’ involves him retracing his steps back up the keyboard. Then a space, then the fraction 1/8 (‘commercial fractions’ were an option on Linotype keyboards, or were created by a more complex subsystem) back at the bottom of the board. We can’t recreate his thought processes precisely, but in general he progresses up and down the keys on the left-hand side of his keyboard.

        At this point he changes his actions to a crisscross movement over a fixed set of four keys on the left-hand side of the keyboard: A-R-O-D. These appear halfway down on the leftmost two columns.  His fingers describe various crisscross motions across these four keys, branching out once to include U (two keys below D) as he realizes what he is doing and needs to complete the row of type so that it can be rejected. NB Joyce wrote this line of mangled type on a line to itself in the Rosenbach manuscript, perhaps suggesting that it was initiated by an idle doodle rather than a compositor’s error.

        Fanciful? Six of one and half a dozen of the other? You find examples in the newspapers of botched lines of type caused by the operator inadvertently touching the keyboard. I prefer the doodle option myself. 

John Simpson

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