Volupcy and mystic bliss
U 12.354-5: The highest adepts were steeped in waves of volupcy of the purest nature.
Volupcy is a puzzle. Don Gifford (Ulysses Annotated) wonders whether Joyce invented the word:
But there is evidence for the word before Ulysses, and enough to suggest that Joyce borrowed it. We find it, for example, in the first issue of a short-lived American magazine of 1900 called Les Jeunes. Its ‘Song of Love’ contains the verse:
The sense here involves sensual or sexual pleasure (voluptuousness). Joyce extends this to mystic bliss.
The poem from Les Jeunes received a certain amount of publicity in 1900, in the Academy (vol. 58, p. 244), in Literature (no. 145, p. 58), and in newspapers such as the Atlanta Constitution (6 March, p. 4). The Academy was not impressed:
But the word was apparently invented a century earlier (in the form volupsy) by the journalist, translator, and inveterate coiner of words which often didn’t quite make it: William Taylor of Norwich (1756-1836). His life story may be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Volupsy appears in a letter Taylor wrote to the poet Robert Southey in 1799:
It’s possible that the much more widely recorded volupty (‘pleasure, desire’), from French volupté or from the stem of Latin voluptas ‘pleasure’, was an impetus for Taylor’s volupsy.
Volupcy in Joyce’s notesheets
Although Joyce’s volupcy appears in the Cyclops episode, the word is listed in the notesheets for Circe (Herring, p. 294). It is not always possible to determine the sources from which Joyce selected words and ideas for his notesheets. He did not necessarily copy out text exactly as he found it, but abbreviated some words and changed others (presumably to forms he thought he might subsequently use). But he usually copied words down in the general order he found them in his text.
Herring himself was unable to identify Joyce’s source, which appears to supply notesheet material from lines 68 – 84 on p. 294. He writes:
With many more online sources available to today’s researcher it seems possible to identify Joyce’s source as the chapter entitled ‘The Forehead and Eyebrows’ in The Influence of the Stars (first edition: 1889, pp. 117-33), by the popular palmistry writer and handwriting analyst Rosa Baughan.1 Here is a consecutive sequence of correspondences (with notesheet text shown here in italics and equivalent Baughan text highlighted in yellow):
Notice that volupcy does not occur in Baughan, but Joyce writes it in place of voluptuous.
In addition, “<Wrinkles: 1. Saturn, 2. Jupiter, 3 Mars,>” and “<prudence volupcy courage>” and the Baughan text behind this become a source for this line in Circe:
U 15. 3657-8: (she counts) Two, three, Mars, that’s courage.
1 Rosa Baughan had previously published this chapter in her Handbook of Palmistry (1882) and also in her Handbook of Physiognomy (1885), but in an altered form which does not include some of the necessary correspondences.
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