Introduction to the first issue - September 2011
James Joyce Online Notes has been set up to publish new short notes on the words, allusions, people, and things of Ulysses and Joyce's other fictional works prior to Finnegans Wake. In general these are notes which would individually be too small to interest the established Joyce journals. Online publication gives us the opportunity to publish this material almost as soon as it is received and accepted – rather than having to wait for the next available space in the publication cycle of print journals.
The editors are acutely aware that the material published in the first issue has been written principally by themselves. This is not surprising, as the need for such a journal arose from the fact that we have been preparing many short pieces on minor aspects of Joyce’s work as a result of our own research, which (we felt) were of general interest to scholars of Joyce’s text and which we hesitated to present in such volume to the editors of the established periodicals. As the web site shows, we are very keen for others to help broaden the ranks of contributors by providing other small nuggets of information which help to explain Joyce’s texts or the world in which he lived (and latterly observed from afar).
The two editors have different and complementary (but often overlapping) interests. Harald Beck is a Joyce scholar who has published in the field for many years. As well as having a particular interest in the Dublin background to Joyce’s fiction he also researches Joycean vocabulary – especially because, as a translator of Joyce’s fiction, he needs to be able to understand the meaning clearly before being able to render it into another language. This led to contributions to the Oxford English Dictionary and discussions with John Simpson over individual words and phrases which Harald’s research was able to elucidate. Ongoing research into Joyce’s vocabulary is showing that many of the expressions once thought to derive from the creative perspective of Joyce in fact stem from the language of Dublin and of popular media from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. John Simpson, as editor of the OED, has been interested in observing how research into Joyce’s vocabulary has developed a sharper focus with the emergence of so many full-text online historical resources and genealogical databases, and has been keen to exploit these resources for the benefit of the study of the language. But the OED is not simply a record of the English language; it also offers a fascinating glimpse into the society, culture, and lives of the people who speak or spoke the language over the centuries. By taking Joyce as an example, John is eager to examine how the historical record helps to fill in the forgotten picture of life in Joyce’s Dublin.
The journal is divided into five sections: Joyce’s People, his Words, Allusions, and Environs, and also a section on research 'In Progress' (see the various tabs). These are convenient hooks on which to present findings. In the present issue Joyce’s People brings us into contact with Marcella, the Midget Queen, who worked the small theatre above the waxworks in Henry Street (her true identity comes out as a result of the relevant research); Bartle McCarthy appears as a model for Joyce’s Bartell d’Arcy, and we follow his life as a hatter and singer from Dublin to America (the Chicago World’s Fair) and then to Lancashire – as the hatting industry in Ireland begins to collapse. The final ‘person’ in this issue is Captain Buller, who remains something of a mystery but whose prodigious hit out of the Trinity cricket ground and into the Kildare Street Club is shown to be just the latest in a series of such hits perpetrated by the powerful cricketers of Joyce’s day and before.
Joyce’s Words this time looks at three terms: one a puzzling colour name (adelite), another (basilicogrammate) previously thought perhaps to be Joyce’s own creation, and finally contransmagnificandjewbangtantiality, often wrongly regarded as Stephen Dedalus’s own formation (readers can listen through a link to the sound recording of an American song about the word from Joyce’s time).
With Joyce’s Allusions we enter into an extensive world in which Joyce draws on existing songs, literature, ephemera, and other texts. By uncovering allusions we are better able to appreciate the scope of Joyce’s reading and the cultural markers which he brought into his fiction. Amongst other things, Harald Beck reveals the origin of two songs from Ulysses, Clive Hart looks at a reference to Charles Spurgeon in heaven (when did he arrive there?), and John Simpson helps to pin down the reference to the shooting of a mad cow on the Cabra Road.
Joyce’s Environs picks up additional stories that relate to Joyce's experience of Dublin and further afield. In the present issue this involves the adulteration of peas with copper sulphate (to give them a greener appearance), a brief history of the Elster Grime Grand Opera Company (and the real name of Marie Elster), and various urban myths surrounding the visits of the Shah of Persia to England in the late nineteenth century.
In Progress opens the channels for research that is incomplete but helpful to others, and also includes puzzles for which no satisfactory solution has yet been proposed. The first in this category is the unidentifed allusion "in my hand there steals another", from Ulysses.
The editors have scoured the secondary literature in an attempt to ensure that these notes are new. But we will be happy to add notes to the notes if this on occasion proves not to be the case. Sometimes notes present more information than will have been available to Joyce at the time. But this does not run counter to the overall intention of providing readers with deeper information about the world of the author and of helping them to become ‘Joyce’s contemporaries’.
Harald Beck and John Simpson