And do the brave deserve the fair?

U 15.4631-4:


They’re going to fight. For me!


The brave and the fair.

The annotators rightly link Joyce’s expression “The brave and the fair” to John Dryden, one of the most influential English poets and stylists of the late seventeenth and early eighteen century. Sam Slote, for example, writes:

The brave and the fair After John Dryden’s 'Alexander’s Feast' (1697): 'None but the brave deserves the fair' (l. 15).

It is, however, worth looking at the expression in slightly more detail, as reference to Dryden’s celebrated line masks the independent life enjoyed by Joyce’s phrase.

This use of “the fair” (as a collective noun taking a singular or plural verb and preceded by the definite article) can be dated back to the Middle Ages. But “the brave” is first cited by the (unrevised) OED from Dryden, and in fact from his line in “Alexander’s Feast” (1697): “None but the brave deserves the fair”.

It seems reasonable to accept that Dryden was associated with linking “the brave” and “the fair”. Before “Alexander’s Feast” he had done just this is his Annus Mirabilis (1666):

Thus Beauty ravish'd the rewards of Fame,

And the Fair triumph'd when the Brave o'rcame. (page sig. a3)

The expression was particularly used to counterpoint Mars (“the brave”) and Venus (“the fair”), and similar contrasting couples. That Dryden remained connected in the public mind with the linkage is apparent from John Glanvill’s “Song, Occasioned by a Manuscript, one of Mr. Dryden 's, since printed in the fifth Miscellany, by the Name of The Lady's Song” published in his Poems of 1725, and celebrating the marriage and co-regency of William and Mary:

With Ease they distinguish’d so well known a Pair; Scarce the God was so brave, or the Goddess so fair. (ed. 2, 1726: p. 17)

Dryden’s “Lady’s Song”, on which this is said to be based, refers neither to the brave nor the fair.1

In the eighteenth century we find “the brave” and “the fair” in songs. Scene 6 of Charles Coffey’s Boarding-school (1733) contains the popular air “Come Boys fill around”, which includes the verse:

Like Sons of the Vine,

Let's tipple and shine,

In spite of dull Thinking and Care:

With Hearts full of Glee,

Let each on his Knee

Drink Health to the Brave and the Fair (p. 29)

Perhaps the most often-cited eighteenth century reference to the expression comes from Lord Chesterfield’s short essay on duelling, first published in The World on 27 February, 1755:

This heroic gallantry in defence of the fair, I presume, occasioned that association of ideas (otherwise seemingly unrelative to each other) of the brave and the fair. (p. 679)

The piece was published and anthologised widely into the nineteenth century.

“The brave and the fair” maintained its musical existence in song at the end of the eighteenth century. The Wit of the Day, published in 1784, offers “Fox, Freedom, and the Fair For Ever. A New Election Song”, which includes the verse:

A friend to the fair, to the brave he’s inclin'd,

No traitor to either in him you will find;

In him then support the support of our cause,

The brave and the fair, our rights and our laws.

Derry down, &c. (p. 111)

and the chorus of Mrs Rowson’s New Song, Sung by Mr. Darley, jun. in the Pantomimical Dance, called The Sailor's Landlady of 1794 preserves the expression in a medium particularly enjoyed by the Joyces:

Then drink round, my boys: 'tis the first of our joys

To relieve the distress'd, clothe, and feed 'em;

'Tis a duty we share, with the brave and the fair,

In this land of commerce and freedom. (p. 1)

At this point a new factor comes into play. Matthew Gregory (“Monk”) Lewis published by much-copied ballad Alonzo the brave and the fair Imogene (later also Imogine): a moral and sentimental tale in 1796. This was frequently cited (and parodied) throughout the nineteenth century, and was adapted for the stage, where it proved enormously popular, especially in the burlesque developed in 1836 by F. C. Burnand:

Alonzo the brave, or, Faust and the fair Imogene: a tragical, comical, demoniacal, and whatever-you-like-to-call-it Burlesque, uniting in its construction the romantic pathos of the well-known ballad 'Alonzo and Imogene' with the thrilling horrors of Goethe’s 'Faust'.

Although the syntax of “the brave and the fair” differs here from that used in the earlier songs, the lexical reinforcement provided by this acclaimed light drama must have been considerable. At much the same time Walter Scott found room for the expression in his Peveril of the Peak (1823):

And so I tripped on, shewing a bold heedlessness of his displeasure, Which few dared to have done at that time, albeit countenanced to the utmost like me by the smiles of the brave and the fair. (vol. 3, p. 214)

and a new song, recorded from time to time in the mid ninenteenth century, turned the expression into something of an Irish anthem, the opening verse of which follows:

The Green for Ever!

O! the green for ever! The Irish green!'

Tis a dress for the brave and the fair;

'Tis sweet, 'tis lovely, in shade or sheen

For a maid or a minstrel to wear; [etc.].

Morning Chronicle (Sydney) (1845), 2 April p. 4,

cited the Wexford Independent

By now “the brave and the fair” (like its converse the fair and the brave) was dissolving into cliché. It was often used by authors and subeditors to introduce their stories. Punch of 11 December 1858 (p. 241) includes, for example, a poem entitled “The Brave and the Fair. Or the Girls from the Garrison”, still associating love and soldiery.2 The popular magazine Judy (1 February 1888, p. 58) uses the same device as a title:

The Brave and the Fair.

From the days of Damon and Pythias, no two individuals – not even Paul and Virginia – were more inseparable than Mr. Thomas Lalboys and Miss Turvey (commonly known as Miss Topsy Turvey).

Just before the publication of Ulysses the common reference is cited as the title of a play being staged at the Kingsway Theatre in London, “a comedy or war and after-war”, “in aid of Earl Haig’s Officers’ Association”.3

Although Dryden was doubtless initially responsible for the popularity of the association of “the brave” and “the fair” in English, his quotation from “Alexander’s Feast” was not the direct inspiration for Joyce’s reference, which arose from a long tradition of military/amorous dalliance which used the precise phrase “the brave and the fair” in popular song, popular literature, and in journalistic cliché which existed separately from but in parallel with Dryden’s famous quotation.

John Simpson


1 John Dryden’s posthumously published Fifth Part of Miscellany poems (London: 1716), p. 51.

2 See also The Pantalons Blancs and the Culottes Rouges elsewhere in Joyce’s Allusions, for further examples of the same theme.

3 Observer (1920), 24 October p. 16.

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