Hanged of a Tuesday

U 6.886-7: Good idea a postmortem for doctors. Find out what they imagine they know. He died of a Tuesday.

When Joyce inserted this sentence (“He died of a Tuesday”) into the page proofs of the Hades episode in August 1921 he put another old chestnut into Bloom's thoughts. The anecdote involved was first published as “Mental Reservation” in the “Varieties” section of numerous English newspapers in 1825 and reprinted for decades. Here is the version carried by Berrow’s Worcester Journal of 1 September 1825 (reformatted):

Mental Reservation.

Although the lower orders of the Irish are famous for a species of ready wit, mingling volatility and a rich vein of humour, they are no less marked by a quaintness of expression and a mental reservation, calculated to gain time and evade inquiry, or having that brought home which they wish to avoid: of this last complexion are Shelah's answers to a Country Magistrate:

— What's gone of your husband, Shelah?

— "What's gone of him, your honour's worship; faith, and he's gone dead."

— Aye, pray what did he die of?

— "Die of, your honour; he died of a Tuesday."

— I don't mean what day of the week, but what complaint."

­— "Oh! complaint, your honour; faith, and its himself did not get time to complain."

— Oh! ho, aye, he died suddenly.

— "Rather that way, your worship."

— Did he fall down in a fit?

[No answer from Shelah.]

— He fell down in a fit, perhaps?

— "A fit, your honour’s worship; why, no, not exactly that — he — he fell out of the window, or a door, I don’t know what they call it."

— Aye, aye, and he broke his neck.

— "No; not quite that, your worship."

— What then?

— "There was a bit of string, or cord, or that like, and — it throttled poor Mick."

— And pray for what did he suffer?

— "Suffer, your worship, (weeping), faith, only for embellishing (embezzling) a trifle that he taught was his own; but his master said it was not, and so they swore away his precious life, and that’s all; Mick’s as innocent as the babe unborn."

It is worthwhile to give the whole story as the context in Ulysses strangely echoes Mick's sin of embezzling a trifle. Bloom thinks of shady M'Coy to whom his thoughts immediately return after "He died of a Tuesday": "Got the run. Levanted with the cash of a few ads." Unlike poor Mick, C.P. M’Coy obviously emerged unscathed.

Harald Beck

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