Camille Flammarion’s Astronomy for Amateurs (1904) in Ulysses

U 4.84–6: Somewhere in the east: early morning: set off at dawn. Travel round in front of the sun, steal a day’s march on him. Keep it up for ever never grow a day older technically.

Bloom’s quick run “round the corner” (U 4.53) to Dlugacz’s pork butcher’s on the morning of 16 June prefigures in miniature his day’s wanderings around Dublin over the course of Bloomsday. As he walks down Eccles Street, the warmth of the morning sun puts him in mind of the Near East and he begins to daydream, constructing an Orientalist fantasy of moving through an Arabian-night cityscape.

He has overshot his mark. Readers of Ulysses know to place Bloom on the Aegean coastline and not in Arabia, but they have also been diligent in tracking the “Scheherazadean correspondences” of his reverie to some likely sources.1 For Vincent Cheng, Bloom’s mental journeying eastwards can be “discursively traced” to the portrayal of Harun al-Rashid’s caliphate in One Thousand and One Nights; Brad Bannon pinpoints a more recent remediation of the Nights, connecting Bloom’s “girl playing one of those instruments what do you call them: dulcimers” (U 4.97–98) to the “damsel with a dulcimer” in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”.2

Bloom checks his flight of idle fancy himself – “Probably not a bit like it really” – before proffering a textual correspondence of his own: “Kind of stuff you read: in the track of the sun” (U4.99–100). We know from “Ithaca” that In the Track of the Sun is one of the titles that make up Bloom’s modest home library, where the volume is described as “yellow cloth, titlepage missing, recurrent title intestation” (U 17.1395–96). Weldon Thornton was the first to link this entry with the historical travelogue of the same name by Frederick Diodati Thompson and published by William Heinemann in 1893.3 Now that mass digitisation has made such works widely accessible once again, John Hunt of the online Joyce Project has carefully adduced its numerous points of overlap with “Calypso”. He notes: “However much Thompson’s book may or may not have contributed to Bloom’s picture of the Middle East, its title has certainly engaged his imagination. His daydream begins with a fantasy of keeping one step ahead of the sun.”4 Certainly this is true of any published edition of Ulysses; not so the “Calypso” typescript, however, or the version of the episode serialised in the Little Review in June 1918:

His eyelids sank quietly often as he walked in happy warmth. Makes you feel young. Somewhere in the east: early morning: set off at dawn. Walk along a strand, strange land, come to a city gate, sentry there, old ranker too, old Tweedy’s big moustaches, leaning on a long kind of spear. Wander through awned streets. Turbaned faces going by. Dark caves of carpet shops, big man, Turk, seated crosslegged smoking a coiled pipe.5

The opening conceit of staying “in front of the sun” (U 4.84–85) only became part of the passage three years later when, in July 1921, Joyce was nominally correcting proof for “Calypso”. On the first set of page proofs for the episode, he augmented Bloom’s Orientalist fantasy with the scheme of purposeful globetrotting.6 The source for this material was not Thompson’s travelogue, however, but a work whose focus was altogether more extraterrestrial. In the summer of 1921, Joyce was reading and taking notes from Camille Flammarion’s Astronomy for Amateurs (1904), presumably with “Ithaca” foremost in his mind, when he came across the following gloss on the Earth’s planetary rotation:

If we could make the tour of the world in twenty-four hours, starting at midday from some place to go round the globe, and traveling westward with the Sun, we should have him always over our heads. In traveling round the world from West to East, one goes in front of the Sun, and gains by one day; in taking the opposite direction, from East to West, one loses a day.7

Laura Pelaschiar has usefully linked Bloom’s “mental transnational mobility” in “Calypso” with the “interstellar extension” of “Ithaca”.8 Curiously enough, it was while Joyce was reading around for the astronomical questions and answers in the penultimate episode that he found the basis for Bloom’s age-defying scheme. One side of one of the “Ithaca” notesheets derives almost entirely from the English translation of Flammarion’s work; phrases and single words from Astronomy for Amateurs form a long central column of notes on notesheet “Ithaca” 9 (in Phillip F. Herring’s numbering).9 Figure 1 represents the layout of this notesheet but reproduces only the entries that derive from or take impetus from Flammarion’s text. Comparing it with Herring’s transcript or with the James Joyce Archive’s facsimile reproduction, one can see immediately how few of the notes on the sheet are unaccounted for. The unit highlighted in yellow, “travel round earth in front of sun, gain 1 / day, steal a march on him” (“Ithaca” 9:68–69), formed the basis for Bloom’s further musings in “Calypso”.

Figure 1. Flammarion-derived material on British Library Add. MS 49,975, f. [26r] (notesheet “Ithaca” 9)

Hereunder I reproduce an illustrative sample of Joyce’s gleanings, paired with their corresponding passages in Flammarion’s work. For fuller correlation with Astronomy for Amateurs, see the James Joyce Digital Archive “Ithaca” notesheet sector 27(b) onward. Material that Joyce lifted verbatim from Flammarion’s pages I have highlighted in yellow; material he reworked for the notesheet appears in blue. Superscript italicised letters denote the colour of Joyce’s crayon cancellation, either blue or red:

b Lake of Dreams / Sea of Fecundity / Swamp of Mists / Gulf of Dews / Sea of Rains

Herring 9:20–24; JJDA sector 27(b)

The Moon became the favorite object of astronomers, and the numerous observations made of it authorized the delineation of very interesting selenographic charts. In order to find one’s way among the seas, plains, and mountains that make up the lunar territory, it was necessary to name them. The seas were the first to be baptized, in accordance with their reputed astrological influences. Accordingly, we find on the Moon, the Sea of Fecundity, the Lake of Death, the Sea of Humors, the Ocean of Tempests, the Sea of Tranquility, the Marsh of Mists, the Lake of Dreams, the Sea of Putrefaction, the Peninsula of Reverie, the Sea of Rains, etc. (245–46)

This material is present in the copybook draft of “Ithaca” as “Yet the lunar influence he admitted, the lake of dreams, the seas of rains and mists, the gulf of dews, and on women chiefly, the sea of fecundity” (now U 17.1155–6).10


b Alps, Pyrennees [sic]

Herring 9:25; JJDA sector 27(c)

With regard to the luminous parts and the mountains, it was at first proposed to call them after the most illustrious astronomers, but the fear of giving offense acted as a check on Hevelius and Riccioli, authors of the first lunar maps (1647, 1651), and they judged it more prudent to transfer the names of the terrestrial mountains to the Moon. The Alps, the Apennines, the Pyrenees, the Carpathians, are all to be found up there; then, as the vocabulary of the mountains was not adequate, the scientists reasserted their rights, and we meet in the Moon, Aristotle, Plato, Hipparchus, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, as well as other more modern and even contemporaneous celebrities. (246)

Nli 13, p. 4[r]: “craters named after ours by false analogy”. Subsequently: “the nomenclature employed in its selenographical charts as attributable to verifiable intuition as to fallacious analogy” (now U 17.1153–5). Note that the word “selenographical” may also derive from Flammarion. It appears on p. 244; the related “selenographic” is on p. 245.


fire into sky frighten eclipse dragon, hide in perfumed cellar. / beating cans

Herring 9:42–43; JJDA sector 27(v–x)

In all times and among all people we find traces of popular superstitions connected with eclipses. Here, the abnormal absence of the Moon’s light is regarded as a sign of divine anger: the humble penitents betake themselves to prayer to ward off the divine anger. There, the cruelty of the dread dragon is to be averted: he must be chased away by cries and threats, and the sky is bombarded with shots to deliver the victim from his monstrous oppressor.

In France the announcement of a solar eclipse for August 21, 1560, so greatly disturbed our ancestors’ peace of mind as to make them idiotic. […] To preserve themselves from so many dangers, and in accordance with the physicians’ orders, numbers of frightened people shut themselves up in tightly closed and perfumed cellars, where they awaited the decrees of Fate. The approach of the phenomenon increased the panic, and it is said that one village curé, being unable to hear the confessions of all his flock, who wanted to discharge their souls of sin before taking flight for a better world, was fain to tell them "there was no hurry, because the eclipse had been put off a fortnight on account of the number of penitents"!


The lunar eclipse of December 16, 1880, was not unnoticed at Tackhent (Russian Turkestan), where it was received with a terrific din of saucepans, samovars and various implements struck together again and again by willing hands that sought to deliver the Moon from the demon Tchaitan who was devouring her. (267–8, 270)


r operaglass reveals stars of 7th. mag.

Herring 9:49; JJDA sector 27(ae)

Even opera-glasses disclose stars of the seventh magnitude. (60)

Added to a now-missing typescript as “their magnitudes revealed up to and including the 7th” (U 17.1105–6).


Homer saw same stars

Herring 9:100; JJDA sector 28(r)

To whatever quarter of the Heavens we look, the splendors of the night are revealed to our astonished gaze. These celestial eyes seem in their turn to gaze at, and to question us. Thus indeed have they questioned every thinking soul, so long as Humanity has existed on our Earth. Homer saw and sung these self-same stars. (11–12)


comet July 1903

Herring 9:70; JJDA sector 27(bf)

These eccentric visitors do not resemble the planets, for they have no opaque body like the Earth, Venus, Mars, or any of the rest. They are transparent nebulosities, of extreme lightness, without mass nor density. We have just photographed the comet of the moment, July, 1903: the smallest stars are visible through its tail, and even through the nucleus. (183)


r Aug. 10 – S Lawrence’ tears

Herring 9:71; JJDA sector 27(bg)

Every one knows the shooting stars of August 10th, because they arrive in the fine warm summer evenings so favorable to general contemplation of the Heavens. The phenomenon lasts till the 12th, and even beyond, but the maximum is on the 10th. When the sky is very clear, and there is no moon, hundreds of shooting stars can be counted on those three nights, sometimes thousands. They all seem to come from the same quarter of the Heavens, which is called the radiant, and is situated for the August swarm in the constellation of Perseus, whence they have received the name of Perseids. Our forefathers also called them the tears of St. Lawrence, because the feast of that saint is on the same date. (194–5)

Added to a now-missing typescript as “the annual recurrence of meteoric showers about the period of the feast of S. Lawrence”; the further specification “(martyr, 10 August)” was added on the first setting of Placard III-9 in late December 1921 (now U 17.1115–17).


r insects under stone, bacteria midge.

Herring 9:72; JJDA sector 27(bh–bi)

A drop of water contains thousands of curious and agile creatures. A grain of dust from the streets of Paris is the home of 130,000 bacteria. If we turn over the soil of a garden, field, or meadow, we find the earthworms working to produce assimilable slime. If we lift a stone in the path, we discover a crawling population. If we gather a flower, detach a leaf, we everywhere find little insects living a parasitic existence. Swarms of midges in the sun, the trees of the wood are peopled with nests, the birds sing, and chase each other at play, the lizards dart away at our approach, we trample down the ant-heaps and the molehills. Life enwraps us an inexorable encroachment of which we are at once the heroes and the victims, perpetuating itself to its own detriment, as imposed upon an eternal reproduction. (318–19)

Added to a now-missing typescript as “the myriad minute entomological existences concealed in cavities of the earth, beneath removable stones, in hives and mounds, of microbes, germs, bacteria, bacilli, spermatozoa” (now U 17.1059–61).


b parallax

Herring 9:78; JJDA sector 27(bp)

Venus is thus at the apex of two equal triangles, the bases of which rest, respectively, upon the Earth and on the Sun. The measurement of this angle gives what is called the parallax of the Sun – that is, the angular dimension at which the Earth would be seen at the distance of the Sun. (297; and passim.)

Present in the Rosenbach Manuscript of “Ithaca” as “the parallax or parallactic drift of socalled fixed stars” (now U 17.1052–3).


The Flammarion material proved especially useful for a question and answer on the “Ithaca” copybook draft that begins “How did he [Bloom] speak of the moon?” (nli 13, p. 4[r]). By the time Joyce was finished with the episode, this had split into three separate questions and answers:

Which various features of the constellations were in turn considered? (U 17.1103)

Did he then accept as an article of belief the theory of astrological influences upon sublunary disasters? (U 17.1151–2)

What special affinities appeared to him to exist between the moon and woman? (U 17.1157–8)

The last of the three (and its hundred-odd word answer) exists in the copybook draft in nascent form. Joyce’s employment of the conventional association of the moon with femininity is noteworthy because the French original of Astronomy for Amateurs, published the previous year, was a work entitled Astronomie des dames or “Astronomy for Women”.11 An unimpressed review of the translation in the Dial quipped that “had the American title been ‘Astronomy for French Women’, it would have described the book more accurately” as the reviewer found several passages that, while they might pass in a French novel, were inexcusable in a book on astronomy. The general tone of the work was held to be “sentimental, fanciful, rhetorically exuberant, at times inexact, and always readable by people who enjoy reading of that sort”. This imprecision the reviewer put down to the “average feminine intellect” of Flammarion’s target audience: “Educated American women will resent the estimate”.12 Whatever the claims of gender and nationality on intelligence level, the larger takeaway is that it was a work of popular science by an astronomer and psychicist – Flammarion devoted decades to investigating paranormal phenomena – and not, say, any especially keen awareness of the new physics that formed the basis for the astronomical and cosmological correspondences Joyce wove into “Ithaca”. To be sure, there may be grace notes in the episode that derive from the new physics, but the burden is borne by the more throwaway Astronomy for Amateurs.

Ronan Crowley

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 665501 with the Research Foundation–Flanders (FWO).


1 We owe that critical bromide “Homeric correspondence” to Edmund Wilson, seemingly. See its appearance (as “Homeric correspondences”) in “An Introduction to Joyce”, Wilson’s review of Herbert Gorman’s James Joyce: His First Forty Years for the Dial, LXXVII.5 (November 1924): 430–5, at 434.

2 Vincent Cheng, Joyce, Race, and Empire (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 171; Brad Bannon, “Joyce, Coleridge, and the Eastern Aesthetic”, James Joyce Quarterly, 48.3 (Spring 2011): 495–510, at 498.

3 Weldon Thornton, “An Allusion List for James Joyce’s Ulysses: Part 4: ‘Calypso’”, James Joyce Quarterly, 1.4 (Summer 1964): 7–13, at 7–8. See Frederick Diodati Thompson, In the Track of the Sun; Readings from the Diary of a Globe Trotter (London: Heinemann, 1893).

4 JH [John Hunt], “Track of the Sun”, The Joyce Project (2017).

5 Joyce, “Ulysses, Episode IV”, Little Review, VI.2 [for V.2] (June 1918): 39–52, at 41. The serialized “Calypso” is identical to the typescript, save for having dropped some punctuation and a missing indefinite article on the word “spear”. See University at Buffalo TS V.B.3.a, f. 3 (for a reproduction, see JJA 12.263).

6 University at Buffalo MS V.C.2.A.1.4.a, p. 57 (for a reproduction, see JJA 22.175).

7 Camille Flammarion, Astronomy for Amateurs. Trans. Frances A. Welby (New York: D. Appleton, 1904), 223. Hereafter cited in the text. A digitised copy of this edition is available on the Internet Archive. It is not clear which edition or printing of Astronomy for Amateurs Joyce consulted. The New York edition was a success and frequently reprinted: I have seen reprints dated 1910, 1915, 1918, and 1921. Welby’s translation was also issued in the Nelson Library of Notable Books (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, n.d. [1909]), a series that we know Joyce drew on while living on the Continent. See items 17, 270, 274, 354, and 369 in Michael Patrick Gillespie with Erik Bradford Stocker, James Joyce’s Trieste Library: A Catalogue of Materials at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin (Austin: The Center, 1986).

8 Laura Pelaschiar, “‘In all habitable lands and islands explored and unexplored’: Politics and Poetics of Space in Joyce’s Ulysses”, in Transits: The Nomadic Geographies of Anglo-American Modernism, ed. Giovanni Cianci, Caroline Patey, and Sara Sullam (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010), 123–41, at 138.

9 Joyce, Joyce’s “Ulysses” Notesheets in the British Museum, ed. Phillip F. Herring (Charlottesville: Published for the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia by the University Press of Virginia 1972), 453–56. Herring’s designation of “Ithaca” 9 corresponds to the physical document catalogued as London, British Library Add. MS 49,975, f. [26r] (right portion). A facsimile of this notesheet appears on JJA 12.81. In Herring’s transcript, the notes “Ithaca” 9:20–79 are designated as “left column horizontal”. In the James Joyce Digital Archive, they are “Ithaca” sector 27(b)–(br). Sourcing indicates that several notes included on Herring’s “right column horizontal” also derive from Flammarion – for example, the uncrossed note “Homer saw same stars” at “Ithaca” 9:100.

10 The copybook draft of “Ithaca” is Dublin, National Library of Ireland, Joyce Papers 2002, MS 36,639/13, p. 4[r]. Hereafter cited in the text.

11 Flammarion, Astronomie des dames (Paris: Ernest Flammarion, Éditeur, 1903). The publishing house was founded by Flammarion’s younger brother.

12 “Briefs on New Books: Astronomy of the Sentimental Sort”, Dial, XXXVII (16 November 1904): 316.

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