A missing gent answering to the name of Bloom
U 17.2000-5: What public advertisement would divulge the occultation of the departed?
£5 reward lost, stolen or strayed from his residence 7 Eccles street, missing gent about 40, answering to the name of Bloom, Leopold (Poldy), height 5 ft 9 1/2 inches, full build, olive complexion, may have since grown a beard, when last seen was wearing a black suit. Above sum will be paid for information leading to his discovery.
In the “Ithaca” episode of Ulysses Bloom ponders many things. He wonders what form of “public advertisement” might flush him out if he became occulted or hidden from view, or – more simply – if he departed. The advertisement Joyce (or the advertising agent Bloom) provides in answer to this question is on the one hand fanciful in its construction, and yet on the other is locked firmly into reality. It begins in the style of thousands of “lost dog” advertisements common to the Dublin papers since the eighteenth century, and melds imperceptibly with a very real missing-person notice that appeared in the Dublin newspapers of May and June 1902.
The lost, stolen, or strayed dogs of Dublin
Joyce’s pseudo-advertisement poses as a traditional posting for a lost dog: a reward is offered, followed by the words “lost, stolen or strayed”. Then the advertisement offers a description of the dog and, typically, the name that the dog answers to, as well as further information which might lead to its discovery.
In the absence of better information, even this chance advert of 1868 might stand as a potential source for Joyce’s advertisement. The Irish Times, the Freeman’s Journal, and other newspapers regularly carried about five such advertisements on their front or second page each issue. Although the ads continued into the twentieth century, their popularity waned in the 1890s, explaining why the Irish Times article of 1932 can refer to them in a historical context.
And it was not unknown for postcards to play on the same theme of a man "lost, stolen or strayed", as this example from a postcard of around 1915 demonstrates:
The notesheets date from 1921, and so if Joyce is transcribing (and perhaps adapting) his source, we might expect that the source too dates from 1921. However, adjacent extracts in the notesheets show that he was in fact transcribing text from Irish newspapers dating from the very early years of the twentieth century.4
The missing gentleman
It seems to be a genuine advertisement. The notice ran for almost a month in various forms and in several newspapers. It is not known whether the advertisement was successful in tracking down the missing gentleman. The contact address is that of a Dublin solicitors’ practice.
The following day the same advertisement was repeated in the paper, and it also appeared, in a rather more prominent place – at the head of the second column of the front page – in the Irish Times. The Irish Times ran the ad until 4 June 1902. The Freeman ran it over the same period, but surprisingly with a gap on 12-16 May.6
The form of the notice changed on several occasions. After about a week, on 13 May, the Irish Times version introduced a specific reward of £10. Perhaps some new information had been received, as the reference to “shoes” is changed to “boots”, the time of the last sighting (4 o’clock on the 2nd of the month) disappears, and the reward is offered not solely for the missing gentleman’s recovery, but also simply for information leading to a knowledge of the gentleman’s whereabouts. When the Freeman picked up the advertisement again on 17 May it included this new text, and highlights the reward in block capitals.
The advertisement underwent one further minor change as May passed into June, when the date of the original sighting was updated from “2nd inst.” to “2nd June”, but apart from that there were no changes until publication ceased on 4 June.
Adapting the advertisement to Bloom
The main changes in these versions are that Joyce changes “gent.” to “gent” (arguably a different word rather than a punctuated shortening). Bloom’s height changes to 5ft 9½ inches (as in Ulysses) and then back to 5ft 8½ inches, and Joyce changes Bloom’s complexion from “dark” to “olive” (i.e. yellowish-brown). Although his notesheet extract omits the original newspaper comment that the missing gentleman was wearing a “grey tweed suit”, the Rosenbach MS reveals that Bloom was wearing a “black suit” (for the funeral he has just attended). Also reintroduced is the passage that a reward will be paid for “information leading to” Bloom’s discovery. This phrase did appear in the original advertisement, several weeks before the version Joyce saw – so it may just be a coincidence that Joyce happened to add back the same (conventional) wording.
By the time of this final version Bloom has grown another inch, but most spectacularly we see the whole missing-person notice placed within the context of a lost-dog advertisement, as the path of Bloom’s further humiliation gradually reaches its culmination.
In summary, it is possible to trace the emergence of this section of Ulysses text quite closely. The traditional lost-dog notices of the Dublin newspapers of Joyce’s youth were formulaic, and easily merged with the later, more exceptional, missing-person notice which Joyce saw (presumably) in a copy of the Irish Times dating from late May or early June 1902. The changes made over the four versions show Joyce’s description of Bloom changing subtlely as he approaches the completion of Ulysses.
revised February 2016
1 Irish Times (1868), 3 September p. 1.
2 Weekly Irish Times (1900), 28 July p. 3.
3 Phillip Herring, Joyce’s Ulysses Notesheets in the British Museum (University Press of Virginia: 1972), p. 424, ll. 24-7. For commentary on the advertisement text in both versions (including Bloom's height), see for instance, Richard Madtes, The “Ithaca” chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses (UMI Research Press: 1983), p. 21.
4 See "Joyce and the dating of Flower & M‘Donald’s advertisement " at “The cost of coal from Flower & M‘Donald”.
5 Freeman’s Journal (1902), 8 May p. 1.
6 The Freeman’s Journal runs a similar advertisement for a missing eighty-year-old man, William Bell, from another firm of solicitors on 15 May.
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