A portrait of the artist as a young angler? 

P II. 1148: that Peter Pickackafox beside him was his eldest son

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Joyce makes use of an excursion to Cork with his father in 1893 to wind up the sale of his remaining property there. On that nostalgic occasion Simon Dedalus “told the same tale” to everyone he met in his birthplace, referring to his son as “Peter Pickackafax”, or "Pickackafox" as the Gabler edition interprets Joyce's handwriting in the fair copy of the manuscript.

   Whatever the intended spelling was, the source for this seemingly embarrassing parental joke was hidden for more than a century because of an unintended spelling or pronunciation error. We are reminded of “My excellent friend Bombados".1

Pickackafax: illustration preceding title-page

      In 1854 Francis Francis (1822–86) published a 192-page "humorous tale written in heroic couplets" that "won considerable acclaim”, according to an article about Francis in the Salmon and Trout Magazine (1985), p. 28.2 

  The title of this versified novel was Pickackifax: a novel, in rhyme. Little could Simon Dedalus have foreseen that the starveling poet’s name he used in jest was to be a prophesy of his son’s fate in Paris about ten years later.

  The name “Pickackifax” was most likely inspired by the pseudonym Zoilus Pickackifax, Esq., used by the author of an 1828 satirical poem or “cyclographic ode” entitled The Precursor Council, or The expulsion of the self-elected (which includes a poem “Portrait of Daniel O’Connell, Esq. MP). Judging from remarks in his Sporting Sketches with Pen and Pencil (1878, p. 30),  Francis knew O’Connell and as “fair classical scholar” would have been able to appreciate the sophisticated satire.3 

      As the forename of Francis’s hero is not “Peter”, John Stanislaus or Simon Dedalus may have just enjoyed the alliteration (as in “Peter Parley”).


Harald Beck


1 P, III. 127 “My excellent friend Bombados”. The quotation is from Pepita,  a comic opera in three acts, by Charles Lecocq. The character's name should read "Bombardos".  See: Harald Beck, "My Excellent Friend Bombados", in James Joyce Broadsheet 83, June 2009, p. 3.

2 Francis (born Francis Morgan) was an enthusiastic angler who wrote extensively on the sport (see his article in ODNB). He served as angling editor of the Field for twenty-five years from 1856. His best-known publication was A book of angling: being a complete treatise on the art of angling in every branch (1867). It is only thanks to the fact that the article in the Salmon and Trout Magazine of 1985 made the same spelling mistake with “Pickackafax” it was possible to solve this crux. See also W. Senior (“The Red Spinner”), “The Work of Francis Francis”, in The Piscatorial Society’s Papers (1890) , vol. I, p. 70ff.

3 "Francis Francis”, in Leslie Stephen (ed.,) Dictionary of National Biography, vol.  XX, p. 165.