Don Gifford (Ulysses Annotated, p. 137) asserts that Lenehan's pun confusing ‘Genesis’ with ‘Guinness's, the famous Dublin brewery’ was ‘a common pun in Dublin’. And the evidence shows that Gifford is quite right.
There were several Guinness’s/Genesis anecdotes doing the rounds of the newspapers in the late nineteenth century, thanks for heavy syndication on the leisure pages. Perhaps the most popular was this one, in which Guinness’s XXX (Guinness’s Triple XXX porter) is confused with Genesis xxx. (chapter thirty of the Book of Genesis):
‘A resident in Dublin informed me that at the time of the Great Exhibition in that city, he entertained a number of visitors, among whom was an old Presbyterian minister, who liked to prowl about the city by himself. On returning home one evening, his host found him reading the Bible, and the minister exclaimed: ‘I can’t make it out at all; I have read Genesis xxx. twice over, and am none the wiser!’ He then explained that a large proportion of the shops in Dublin had ‘Genesis xxx.’ inscribed on them. Owing to his short-sightedness, he had mistaken Guinness’s triple X, for Genesis xxx.
C. Tomlinson, Highgate, N.
Notes and Queries (1896) 16 May, p. 398/2
Those early series of Notes and Queries often contain much more rambling and anecdotal information than does today’s periodical. The story was picked up widely, across the world, from California to Queensland.
Another instance of the confusion between ‘Guinness’s’ and ‘Genesis’ appears in a second story syndicated across the globe in the closing years of the nineteenth century. A typical example comes from the New York Observer of 1895:
What’s in a name? That of Dr. Guinness Rogers, the eminent Congregational minister, is almost as well known in the United States as in Great Britain. He preached at Oban not long ago, and the town crier was sent around to give notice of the event. The inhabitants were told, in the usual bawling voice, that Dr. Genesis Rogers would preach next Sunday, until Dr. Roger’s son, hearing the distortion, stopped the crier and put him right as to the name. A little odd, perhaps, as the great brewing firm of Guinness & Co. is surely known all over Great Britain, and the names are similar. (17 October p. 599)
Closer to home, Ulick O’Connor quotes a rhymed epistle Gogarty sent to his Oxford friend G. K. A. Bell from the Sandycove tower in the summer of 1904, where we find:
And show the hair ‘to ashes turned’
The hair that Balliol almost burned
For knowing naught of Genesis
And, ah, too much of Guinnesis.
Oliver St. John Gogarty (1963), p. 103
Joyce’s reference to the ‘first chapter of Guinness’s’ is recalled in several sources just after the publication of Ulysses in 1922, but clearly representing an independent stream. In 1923 the Sunday Times of Perth, Western Australia offers, in its ‘Verse and Worse’ section:
During the recent hot spell a pub. tout who had sampled sherbet, selzer, limejuice, and bullseye beer imagined he was conducting a church service. The result was disastrous. ‘My dear (hic) brethren,’ he wheezed huskily, ‘we will now turn to the thirsty-first chapter of (hic) Guinnesses!’ (18 February)
The expression ‘thirsty-first’ had a brief vogue with reference to the so-called ‘Thirsty-First of June’, the day notionally interposed between the last day of June and I July 1919, the first day of Prohibition in America.
Later on, the theme continues, as in the Manchester Guardian of 2 June 1931:
A Revelation. There were several versions of a similar joke going about Manchester not so long ago, but a Liverpool correspondent now writes to say that the tribute of a Merseyside old lady who saw the Epstein statue of ‘Genesis’ was ‘Well if that’s what Guinness’s does for you I’m going back to beer. (p. 7)
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