From Meredith to Mulligan via Moore
U 14.1486: Mummer's wire. Cribbed out of Meredith.
The epigrammatic choice of words suggests that this is a quotation, supposed to remind Mulligan of his offensive remark on the occasion of Stephen’s mother’s death, but neither Mulligan nor Haines seem to recognize its source, and when the Buck reads it out to the assembled scholars in the librarian’s office of the National Library in the early afternoon obviously none of them can identify it either.
Late at night in Burke’s pub, however, Mulligan is suddenly able to tell his audience of fellow medicals and Stephen Dedalus that it is “Cribbed out of Meredith” - in fact from The Ordeal of Richard Feverel.
An attentive reader of Ulysses may well speculate that as Mulligan has just arrived from George Moore’s literary soirée, to which he, but not Stephen, has been invited, he found the necessary enlightenment there. This is all the more plausible as George Moore was an avid reader and commentator of Meredith’s work. A long passage in his Confessions of a Young Man deals with Meredith’s style, and at one instance he even paid a visit to the celebrated writer.2
which hints at Moore through the title of his novel A Mummer’s Wife (1885).3
1 For a discussion of Meredith’s changes to the passage in different editions see Hugh Kenner, Ulysses, London 1980, p. 42, footnote 2.
2 Confessions of a Young Man (London 1916), p. 159-62.
3 James Joyce Archive, vol. 14, p. 136.
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