Nothing to sit down on – nowhere to put it
—Uncle Richie, really...
—Sit down or by the law Harry I'll knock you down.
Walter squints vainly for a chair.
—He has nothing to sit down on, sir.
—He has nowhere to put it, you mug. Bring in our chippendale chair.
“Nowhere to put it” became something of a favourite punch-line for jokes in the second half of the nineteenth century, and Joyce alludes to one which would only just have been in place in the drawing-rooms of the period. I am grateful to Harald Beck for his suggestion that Joyce’s “nowhere to put it” might refer to a traditional joke.
The joke turns, of course, on the fact that the speaker has a perfectly adequate “seat” (posterior, backside), but nowhere adequate to sit it down upon.
Picture courtesy of Aida Yared
The writer adds laconically: “But we’ve heard this before somewhere.”
The allusion is hidden away in Ulysses and does not seem to have attracted the notice of commentators. But it had an extended and colourful history before Joyce’s day.
1 Bristol Mercury (1851), 10 May p. 4. The joke is repeated, as in the magazine Boys of England (1882), 29 December p. 256: “Fun […] No dictionary can equal the child’s definition of chaos. “It is a great pile of nothing,” she said, “and nowhere to put it.”
2 Leicester Chronicle Supplement (1985), 5 December p. 1. Repeated (for example) in the comic magazine Fun (1900) 25 December p. 207: “Cabby. – “Hev a cab, sir?” Passenger. – “Awfully good of you, old man; But I’ve really nowhere to put it.” Cabby growls unprintably, and the episode is closed.
3 Pall Mall Gazette (1866), 11 April p. 11.
4 Speaker (1893), 11 February p. 153.
5 Fortnightly Review (1898), July p. 125. The Review is here paraphrasing a passage from Sir [Sir] Henry Taylor’s Autobiography (London: Chapman, Green & Co., 1885), vol. 2 ch. 20 p. 272.
6 Hampshire Telegraph (1895), 13 July Supplement p. 11.
7 Fun (1897), 6 July p. 3.
8 Horse and Hound (1898), 1 January p. 3.
9 London Journal (1904), 24 September p. 276.
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