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. Furthermore, Sir Hugo was not owned by a Captain Marshall, but by Orlando George Charles Bridgeman (3rd Earl of Bradford). 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Joyce was familiar with this periodical and includes it in “Aeolus”, when Bloom thinks of M.A.P. as “mainly all pictures”. 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. 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.