Philip Beaufoy and the philosopher’s tone

U 4.500-5: Asquat on the cuckstool he folded out his paper, turning its pages over on his bared knees. Something new and easy. No great hurry. Keep it a bit. Our prize titbit: Matcham’s Masterstroke. Written by Mr. Philip Beaufoy, Playgoers’ Club, London. Payment at the rate of one guinea a column has been made to the writer. Three and a half. Three pounds three. Three pounds, thirteen and six.

Philip Beaufoy is familiar to readers of Ulysses as the author of a prize-winning story in the magazine Tit-Bits, which Bloom reads in the lavatory. Beaufoy makes several other brief appearances in Ulysses, notably in the Circe trial scene, where he accuses Bloom of plagiarism:

A plagiarist. A soapy sneak masquerading as a litterateur. It's perfectly obvious that with the most inherent baseness he has cribbed some of my bestselling copy, really gorgeous stuff, a perfect gem, the love passages in which are beneath suspicion (U 15.822-5).

Stanislaus Joyce recalls that his brother had planned to submit a story to Tit-Bits:

Not wanting to use his own name, he gave it to a young man of his acquaintance who rejoiced in the patronymic of MacGinty to send it in under that name. The last time I heard of the story, MacGinty was 'just going' to post it to Titbits.1

The story was apparently about Russian Nihilists in London. As Stanislaus Joyce continues:

A similar magazine story of this kind is attributed in Ulysses to a Mr. Philip Beaufoy, of the Playgoers' Club, London, who, if I am not greatly mistaken was, and I hope is still, a real person who had various short stories accepted by Titbits in those years. 'That Titbits paper' was the only one my father used to read for general culture.

The true identity of Philip Beaufoy has remained a mystery. Excellent detective work by David Pierce in back copies of Tit-Bits has uncovered much of the mystery. Pierce has:

Over the years [...] managed to track down most of the stories by Beaufoy that appeared in Tit-Bits between 1899 and 1904, but not 'Matcham’s Masterstroke'. Whoever he was in real life, Beaufoy [...] had an enviable knack of regularly producing stories for a popular audience.2

In particular, Pierce found ‘A Reading-Room Romance’, the ‘Prize Tit-Bit’ written by ‘Mr. Philip Beaufoy, Playgoers’ Club, Strand, W.C.’, in the issue for 6 March 1897. Beaufoy is buttoned down as a published author, a writer of stories of Tit-bits, and a member of the Playgoers’ Club – just as James Joyce says. Whether Joyce despised Beaufoy’s writing style, or was simply envious of the winner of a prize for which he too had apparently entered, we shall probably never know.

The contenders

As David Pierce helpfully observes in his Joyce and Company (2006), there are three authors listed in ‘library and other catalogues’ who might reasonably be Joyce’s Philip Beaufoy. There is:

a Philip Beaufoy, author of the title story in a children’s book of stories The Dosing of Cuthbert (1928), a Philip Beaufoy Barry, author of The Mystery of the Blue Diamond (1925), one of the children’s Captain stories, and a P. Beaufoy, author of The Red Book of Boys’ Stories (1927).3

‘Philip Beaufoy’ published The Dosing of Cuthbert, and other stories for boys for Thomas Nelson and Sons’ Red Star Series in 1927. It is presumably safe to assume that the ‘P. Beaufoy’ who (with others) published The Red Book of Boys’ Stories for Thomas Nelson, also in 1927, is the same author. These are two separate titles, the former of 127 and the latter of 95 pages.

As well as writing regularly for Tit-Bits, ‘Philip Beaufoy’ and ‘P. Beaufoy’ contributed stories and letters to other periodicals at the turn of the century, and his work was syndicated internationally. On 1 July 1895 The Theatre published "Feuilleton: a History told through the Post’ by ‘Philip Beaufoy", a melodramatic epistolary tale telling how a false lover was unmasked by watching her former exploits revealed on stage; the January 1900 issue of the Idler carried "A Transfusion of Blood" by ‘P. Beaufoy’, a melodramatic account of the temporary character change experienced by a ‘Poet’ after he received a transfusion of costermonger’s blood; a year later, in January 1901, Quiver presented "The Vulture’s Bid" by ‘P. Beaufoy’, a melodramatic tale telling how a brilliant journalist, working for a failing magazine, was saved from ruin by the guiding advice of his sweet wife Dollie. Beaufoy was strong on melodrama: the stories are gripping and of their time, often involving the leading character (male, upright, from or aspiring to the upper echelons of society, with literary leanings) rubbing noses with the grubby (but sometimes honest) ‘lower orders’.

Kate Jackson notes how:

The audience of Tit-Bits actually became writers, through being contributors, competitors and correspondents, and they gained a sense of identity from the process of creating the text. The £1000 prize story competition, employed by [the publisher and editor George] Newnes to choose the magazine’s first serial story, and won by Grant Allen with the story "What’s Bred in the Bone", attracted over 20,000 MSS. from aspiring authors.4

And she reproduces Newnes’s typical offer:

TO LITTERATEURS. The price we pay for original contributions specially written for Tit-bits is ONE GUINEA PER COLUMN.5

Beaufoy did not only write for Tit-Bits, but he publicly supported its style of New Journalism from his bastion at the Playgoers’ Club:

Sir, - Referring to your admirably written article called 'A Revolution in Journalism', in this week's issue, may I enter a mild protest against the existing tendency in all serious journals to deprecate the class of papers represented by Tit-Bits?

Were such papers to consist exclusively of 'snappy' paragraphs, bare of all useful information, the sneer would be justified. But this is not so.

In order to illustrate my contention I turn to a recent issue of Tit-Bits, and find among other things: (1) a detailed explanation of military journalism; (2) an account of the workings of the Meteorological Office; (3) a biographical account of Sir George White; (4) nearly 200 scientific facts; (5) a story which, although of minor literary merit, is possessed of a certain interest. [Etc.]

I am, &c., P. Beaufoy. Playgoers' Club, Strand, W.C.: March 9, 1900.6

‘Philip Beaufoy Barry’ became a more established author than ‘Philip Beaufoy’. Like Beaufoy, his oeuvre was unleashed in book form on the British public in 1927, starting with How to Succeed as a Writer: Twenty Methods of Earning Money by the Pen (Allen & Unwin), How to Succeed on the Stage: a Practical Handbook to the Actor's Profession (Allen & Unwin), The Secret Power: A Handbook to the Art of Living (Allen & Unwin), The Mystery of the Blue Diamond (this book published by Beaufoy’s publisher T. Nelson & Sons), and Twelve Monstrous Criminals from Nero to Rasputin, A.D. 37-A.D. 1916 (in Hutchinson’s True Crime series).

The fact that all five of these books were first published in 1927 suggests that Barry had a stupendous unpublished backlist awaiting recognition. His subjects include the stage, the profession of writing, and crime. He followed these up in later years with further publications, including How to Succeed as a Playwright (Hutchinson: 1928), Amateur Acting from a New Angle (1928: Benn), Sinners down the Centuries, from Cleopatra to Cora Pearl & from Ovid to Edmund Kean: 69 B.C.-A.D. 1886 (1929: Jarrolds), Twenty Human Monsters in Purple and in Rags from Caligula to Landru: A.D. 12-A.D. 1922 (1929: Jarrolds), and others, as well as drifting in his later years into science fiction.

A mystery uncovered

The real identity of Philip Beaufoy is revealed in a legal notice published in the London Gazette and the (London) Times by his executors shortly after his death in 1947:

Philip Bergson deceased. Pursuant to the Trustee Act 1925 All persons having CLAIMS against the ESTATE of PHILIP BERGSON, also known as PHILIP BEAUFOY also known as PHILIP BEAUFOY BARRY late of Heathfield Hotel Guildford Street W.C.1, formerly of 31 Regent Square, W.C.1, the Stage Guild, 9 Great Newport Street, W.C.2 and the O.P. Club, 3, King William Street, W.C.2. who died on the Nineteenth day of January 1947 are required to send particulars thereof in writing to the Trustee Department Barclays Bank Limited, 27, Regent Street, S.W.1. [etc.].7

The notice makes it clear that Philip Beaufoy and Philip Beaufoy Barry are the same person, and that both are pseudonyms of Philip Bergson. Bergson’s theatrical credentials are apparent from his membership of the Stage Guild and of the ‘O.P. Club’. The ‘O.P. Club’ was the ‘Old Playgoers’ Club’, one of London’s theatrical debating clubs. It was regarded as more fun than the stolid Playgoers’ Club, of which Bergson had formerly (and perhaps concurrently) been a member:

'The Playgoers' Club' meets at the Hotel Cecil, and generally has a somewhat heavy style of paper read, and little sparkle in the debate which follows the lecture. 'The Old Playgoers' Club', known as 'The O.P.', aims more at amusement.8

A brief history of Philip Bergson

Zaleq Philip Bergson was born in London (the Kensington registration district) in 1871. His father was Michael Bergson, better known as Michel Bereksohn (1818-98), a Polish Jew from Warsaw. Michael was a professional musician and composer who had studied under Chopin and had been for a time Director of the Geneva Conservatory. He had left Poland for Switzerland and France, before moving to England in the 1860s, where he made a living as a ‘Professor of Music’. As Philip Beaufoy Barry, Bergson referred to his father in Twenty Human Monsters (1929, p. 183):

The composer, Michael Bergson, whose works never achieved the fame that they merited, chose the story of Salvator Rosa, fallen into the hands of brigands, as his subject for a remarkable opera.

Evidence of collaboration between father and son appears in an incomplete manuscript held by Northwestern University, Illinois: Firelight visions: for soprano or tenor in B [flat], by Michael Bergson and P. Beaufoy (dated towards the end of the nineteenth century). [Click here to see the extant page of the manuscript at Northwestern.]

Philip Bergson’s mother, Catherine (‘Kate’) Bergson, née Levison, was born in Islington of a Jewish father, Jacob Leslie Levison, a surgeon dentist trained in America and the author of several medical texts, and a mother (also Catherine) born in Doncaster, Yorkshire.

Philip was educated at the City of London School in the 1880s. Both George Newnes and Thomas Fisher Unwin, Bergson’s early publishers, were old boys of the school, though from the previous generation. Philip was clearly talented. In 1886, while in the Lower 4th Class, he was praised for his portrayal of Lady Macbeth and also Hamlet’s First Gravedigger in short theatrical performances on the annual Beaufoy Prize Day. At the same commemorative celebration he received prizes of ‘Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians’ and ‘Crutwell’s History of Roman Literature’.9

The City of London School’s Beaufoy Prize Day (and the Beaufoy Shakespeare Medal, awarded on the prize day), as well as Beaufoy Scholarships to the University of Cambridge, are named after Henry Beaufoy (1786-1851), a wealthy distiller whose benefactions to the school amounted to some £10,000. It seems at least possible that Philip looked to Henry Beaufoy when deciding on a nom de plume several years after leaving the school.

In the national census of 1891 Philip Bergson is shown, aged 19, as a ‘shorthand writer’ living with his parents and family at 92 Percy Road, Hammersmith, in London. Ten years later, in 1901, ‘Philip Bergson’ is still living ‘at home’ with his widowed mother and a younger brother and sister, at the same address, 92 Percy Road, but is listed as an author and journalist. By now he was contributing regularly to Tit-Bits and other periodicals, and was building a life as a journalist.

It is odd that his name does not appear as the author of a book, rather than a periodical or newspaper article, until 1927. It is possible that he was also working under another name, but then the legal notice in The Times might be expected to cover this too. Perhaps his career received an unexpected boost from his mention in Ulysses in 1922, but there is no evidence for this.

But once established as an author, under the name of Philip Beaufoy Barry, he seems to have enjoyed a fair amount of success. Who’s Who in Literature for 1933 (p. 35) includes his selectively edited entry:

Barry, Philip Beaufoy. B. 1878. Au[thor] of How to Succeed on the Stage; The Secret Power; How to Succeed as a Writer; Sinners Down the Centuries; 12 Monstrous Criminals; 20 Human Monsters in Purple and in Rags; How to Succeed as a Playwright; The Mystery of the Blue Diamond; Amateur Acting from a New Angle; C. Windsor, Wide World, Chambers' Jl., Sun. Express, Dy. Mail, Truth, Passing Show, 20 Story Mag., etc. 31, REGENT SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.1.

It seems that by this time he was living as Philip Beaufoy Barry, as his death certificate is in the name of ‘Philip B. Barry’. When his death notice was published in the London Times it appeared under his birth name of ‘Bergson’:

Bergson. - On Jan. 19, at St. Paul’s Hospital, Endell Street, London, W.C.2, Philip Bergson (Beaufoy Barry). Cremation Golders Green, to-morrow (Friday), at 10.15.10

Philip Bergson modified or changed his name at least three times during his life: from Zaleq Philip Bergson, to Philip Bergson, to Philip Beaufoy, and finally to Philip Beaufoy Barry. His interests remained, however, remarkably constant: the theatre, popular journalism, and the melodramatic. But there remains a twist to his tale.

A melodramatic ending

At the time of the 1881 national census of England (Zaleq) Philip Bergson was living, aged 9, at 50 Alexandra Road, Willesden, Middlesex, with his parents Michael and Kate, his elder brother Joseph, his elder sister Rachel, and his younger brother John.

Ten years earlier Philip had not yet been born, and the family was living at 1 Ordnance Road, Marylebone. As well as Philip’s brother and sister Joseph and Rachel, there are two older children, Juliette (aged 13) and Henri (aged 11), both listed as having been born in France. Nearby another daughter, Mina (aged 15, born in Switzerland, and currently at the Slade School of Art), was living with Michael Bergson’s parents-in-law, the Levisons.

Philip’s elder brother Henri had moved back to Paris by the time of the 1881 national census. He is better known today as a philosopher, the Nobel prize-winning Henri Bergson, and one of the leading philosophers of the early twentieth century. Joyce owned at least two of his books (L’evolution créatrice, Paris 1914; The Meaning of the War: Life and Matter in Conflict, London 1915), as well as Joseph Solomon’s Bergson (first published in 1911).11 Philip Beaufoy Barry slipped in a reference to his brother in Sinners down the Centuries:

Those moderns who know the University of to-day as a place of exquisite culture — the former home of a famous mathematician like Condorcet — of a philosopher like Henri Bergson of our own era — can form small conception of its character.12

Philip’s eldest sister Mina is herself better known today as Moina Mathers, the wife of Samuel Mathers, one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, among whose prominent members we find William Butler Yeats and Annie Horniman, the major financial sponsor for the Matherses and of the Abbey Theatre.

Joyce may not have liked Philip Beaufoy’s tales, but perhaps he would have been quietly amused by the fortunes of Beaufoy’s elder brother and sister.

John Simpson


1 Stanislaus Joyce My Brother's Keeper. James Joyce's Early Years (Da Capo Press, 2003), pp. 91-2.

2 David Pierce Reading Joyce (Harlow: Pearson Longman, 2008), p. 246.

3 David Pierce Joyce and Company (Continuum: London and New York, 2006), p. 42.

4 Kate Jackson ‘The Tit-Bits Phenomenon: George Newnes, New Journalism and the Periodical Texts’ in Victorian Periodicals Review Vol. 30, No. 3 (Fall, 1997), p. 211.

5 Kate Jackson (1997), p. 205.

6The Academy (17 March, 1900), p. 238/1

7 The Times (25 April, 1947), p. 1.

8 Lone Hand, Vol. 1, p. 224 (1907).

9 The City of London School Magazine (1886), pp. 175-8.

10 The Times (23 January, 1947), p.1.

11 Richard Ellmann, "Joyce's Library in 1920", appendix in The consciousness of Joyce (London: 1977), pp. 101 and 128.

12 Philip Beaufoy Barry, Sinners down the Centuries (London: 1929), p. 73.

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