An Affair of Honour

U 16.491-4: Though not an implicit believer in the lurid story narrated (or the eggsniping transaction for that matter despite William Tell and the Lazarillo-Don Cesar de Bazan incident depicted in Maritana on which occasion the former’s ball passed through the latter’s hat)

The allusion to Wallace’s popular opera of 1845 refers to the scene in which Don Cesar reports how he was shot at by Lazarillo:1

Refused admittance at the door, the window was the only way. Egad! A man needs a stout courage to storm a fortress under such a brisk cannonade! (Shaking a bullet from his hat.) It is but to shew the tip of one’s feather above yon corridor, and whizz comes a bullet at your head. Spirit of Hospitality, how are thy rights abused!

Far more intriguing is the fact that the phrase “the former’s ball passed through the latter’s hat” - slightly reminiscent of an Irish bull - is taken verbatim from a newspaper report published in the Freeman’s Journal of 26 September 1821 under the heading “Affair of Honour”:

Early on Saturday morning a meeting took place in a field beyond Portobello, Dublin, between J. M-n and J. H-t, Esqrs., both students of College; after an exchange of shots, in which the former's ball passed through the latter's hat, the seconds interfered, and the business was amicably terminated.

The answer to the question how this ephemeral news item survived 100 years before it found its way into a late Paris note sheet for Eumaeus and Penelope2 and into the proofs of Eumaeus in December 1921 lies in the issue of the Freeman’s Journal of 1 October 1921. Here it can be found under the heading “100 years ago in the Freeman’s Journal”. Aunt Josephine, whom Joyce thanks on 14 October 1921 for her prompt reply to a letter asking for information, seems to be the most likely source for a newspaper that would hardly have been available in Paris.

Harald Beck


1 Edward Fitzball, Maritana (1845), act. 3, scene 1, p. 29. Music by W. V. Wallace.

2 Phillip Herring, Joyce’s Notes and Drafts for Ulysses. Selections from the Buffalo Collection, Charlottesville 1977, p. 77.

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