Death in Ennis
— But the worst of all, Mr Power said, is the man who takes his own life. […]
—Temporary insanity, of course, Martin Cunningham said decisively.
U 17.621-5: What suggested scene was then reconstructed by Bloom?
The Queen’s Hotel, Ennis, county Clare, where Rudolph Bloom (Rudolf Virag) died on the evening of the 27 June 1886, at some hour unstated, in consequence of an overdose of monkshood (aconite) […]
Like Odysseus’ father Laertes, Rudolph Bloom goes to the country; like Odysseus’ mother, Antikleia, he commits suicide from grief about a loved one.3
So ironically, Joyce’s assumption that Isaac Marshall was a Jew was unfounded.
In his “scrupulous meanness” Joyce also made use of the inquest and its verdict mentioned in the papers. Memories of his father’s inquest and the phrase that was commonly applied in cases of suicide in Victorian and Edwardian times, “temporary insanity”, turn up in various places in the narrative of Ulysses. But unlike married Isaac Marshall lonely widower Rudolph Bloom died from aconite poisoning in a “room in the hotel with hunting pictures”. Death by hanging in Ulysses is almost exclusively connected with the notorious barber hangman Rumbold or the Croppy Boy, and its farcical and obscene presentation in the Cyclops and Circe episodes would have made for unwelcome connotations for the father of Leopold Bloom.
1 The Freeman’s Journal, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent of 2 October and the Weekly Irish Times of 6 October 1917 carried similar reports, though only the Irish Independent uses “hanging from a beam” rather than “suspended” and “coachhouse” rather than “coach-house” as the other papers.
2 Neither Marshall nor his wife were actually born in Yorkshire. (I am grateful to Declan Barron for clarifying several genealogical issues.)
3 The fate of Bloom’s mother is uncertain.
4 By some miraculous coincidence Joyce first chose Margaret as Bloom's mother's Christian name before he replaced it by Ellen, but it is highly unlikely that Joyce actually knew the first name of Marshall's wife.
5 The Limerick Leader of 5 January 1916, p. , still names Roughan as proprietor.
6 Clare County Library graveyard inscriptions: Joyce Ida May’s death date must have been mistranscribed, as she died on 11 October 1953.
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