Captain Marshall’s horse

U 16:1242-4: Victory of outsider Throwaway recalls Derby of ’92 when Capt. Marshall’s dark horse Sir Hugo captured the blue ribband at long odds.

As Joyce well knew, the Evening Telegraph’s report of the 1904 Gold Cup Stakes had no mention of the Epsom Derby of 1892, which was won by a 40-to-1 long shot, Sir Hugo.[1] Furthermore, Sir Hugo was not owned by a Captain Marshall, but by Orlando George Charles Bridgeman (3rd Earl of Bradford).[2] There is, however, a striking connection between the Scottish playwright, Captain Robert Marshall, and Sir Hugo’s improbable win of the Epsom Derby.

Robert Marshall was born in Edinburgh in 1863, the son of a lawyer and magistrate. As a youngster, Marshall was interested in theatre, and at boarding school and university he wrote plays and participated in amateur dramatics. Marshall abandoned his studies at Edinburgh University for an articled clerkship with his solicitor uncle. That too did not suit him and in 1883 he enlisted, as a private, in the Highland Light Infantry. He served in Scotland, rose to the rank of sergeant, and in September 1886 was commissioned first lieutenant in the Duke of Wellington’s (West Yorkshire) Regiment.[3] Marshall joined the regiment’s 2nd Battalion, then stationed in Bermuda. In 1888, the War Office sent his battalion to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Marshall continued his theatrical avocation in the army, and while in Halifax, he convinced an American touring company to perform one of his plays.[4]

In 1891, Lieutenant Marshall was assigned to the West Yorkshire’s recruit depot in Halifax, Yorkshire, while his battalion was sent to the West Indies.[5] One night, about a week before the Epsom Derby of 1 June 1892, Marshall was reading a Victor Hugo novel before retiring. The next morning, he recalled he dreamt of the upcoming Derby with the crowd chanting “Hugo, Victor”. At breakfast, he told his messmates of the dream and they informed him of a long-shot entry for that upcoming race: Sir Hugo. Out of “curious certainty” Marshall placed a small wager on Sir Hugo.[6] Lieutenant Marshall remained at the Halifax depot until 1893, when he rejoined his regiment, now in South Africa.

On 5 September 1895, Marshall was promoted to captain and the following year was appointed an aide-de-camp to the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Natal.[7] While in South Africa, Marshall engaged his passion for writing plays. There, he wrote a one-act ghost story, Shades of Night, which opened at the Lyceum Theatre in London on 14 March 1986.[8] It was reasonably successful and led to a London staging of another of his plays, His Excellency the Governor. That comedy opened on 11 June 1898 at the Court Theatre, to mixed reviews; however, it became a commercial success.[9] Marshall left the army four days later to pursue a writing career, full-time. The War Office placed Captain Marshall on the reserve list but did not recall him during the Boer War.

In 1903, after Captain Marshall had become an established author of popular plays and novels, a former colleague at the West Yorkshire Regiment’s Halifax depot wrote to the London magazine M.A.P. (“Mainly About People”) of Marshall’s 1892 Derby dream.[10] Joyce was familiar with this periodical and includes it in “Aeolus”, when Bloom thinks of M.A.P. as “mainly all pictures”.[11] Additionally, in April 1900, when Joyce and his father, John, were in London, they met with T. P. O’Connor, who at the time published and edited M.A.P. John tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain employment for his 18-year old son.[12] The story of Marshall’s dream appeared first in that publication’s 6 June 1903 issue and also in the Halifax Evening Courier on 4 June 1903, which attributed the story to M.A.P. Marshall’s prophetic dream most likely became common knowledge among London’s theatre set, as he was a sociable and financially successful playwright.

Masthead of M.A.P as Known to Joyce

It remains unknown how Joyce learned of Marshall’s derby dream. He added the reference to the text very late in its composition, in early 1921.[13] One feasible source is Claud Sykes, with whom Joyce formed the English Players theatrical company in wartime Switzerland. Sykes was a professional actor in Great Britain prior to the First World War, as was his wife, Daisy Race. Both became good friends of the Joyces and one of them may have told Joyce this interesting bit of theatrical trivia. As a playwright and lifelong devotee of theatre, Joyce undoubtedly met London stage actors in Paris, giving him opportunities to learn of the prescient Captain. Finally, the story of Marshall and his prophetic dream appeared occasionally in the press years after it was first disclosed in M.A.P. For example, on 29 May 1920 the mass circulation Daily Mirror published a one-paragraph item on the Halifax “ghostly tipster” who favored Captain Robert Marshall with Sir Hugo.

In 1910, Marshall died in a London nursing home at the age of forty-seven. Death notices stated he had succumbed to an incurable disease. American journalist George W. Smalley, in his New York Daily Tribune column of 24 July 1910, posthumously praised Marshall but noted “His pieces had perhaps no higher object than to amuse; a high object, but not the highest.”

Peter Fishback


[1] Joyce hand-copied the race results in the Telegraph onto one of his notesheets for “Eumaeus”: Phillip F. Herring, Joyce’s Ulysses Notesheets in the British Museum (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 1972), 394. For more on the 1904 Gold Cup and Throwaway, see Vivien Igoe, “Spot the Winner,” Dublin James Joyce Journal 4 (2011): 72-86.

[2] The Times, 1 June 1892

[3] London Gazette, 24 September 1986

[4] M.A.P., 30 August 1902; Daily Telegraph (London), 2 July 1910

[5] Hart’s Annual Army List, 1892

[6] Cases, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 11 (November 1903): 141-5

[7] London Gazette: 5 September 1895, 7 April 1896

[8] The Times, 16 March 1896

[9] The Times, 13 June 1898

[10] M.A.P. was a weekly, penny magazine that advertised itself as a “society paper.” It was owned and edited by the Irish-born T. P. O’Connor, publisher and Irish Nationalist MP for Liverpool: Willing’s Press Guide, 1904; Dictionary of Irish Biography, s.v. Thomas Power O’Connor.

[11] U 7:97-99. Gifford claims that Bloom knew M.A.P. was a periodical that featured people, not events, but playfully applied those initials to the photo supplements in Sunday newspapers: Don Gifford with Robert J. Seidman, Ulysses Annotated (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1988), 131.

[12] Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1982), 77; Gordon Bowker, “Joyce in England”, James Joyce Quarterly 48, no. 4 (Summer 2011): 667-81. “M.A.P Mainly about People,” is an entry in one of Joyce’s notebooks for Ulysses. Joyce Manuscripts, National Library of Ireland, 5.A, p. 36.

[13] Eumaeus Typescripts, James Joyce Collection, SUNY (Buffalo), V.B.14.