A crumpled throwaway: an arresting tale
U 10.752-4: North wall and sir John Rogerson’s quay, with hulls and anchorchains, sailing westward, sailed by a skiff, a crumpled throwaway, rocked on the ferrywash, Elijah is coming.
High tide that day was at 12.42, (Thom’s 15), and since then the tide had been continuously ebbing. If all these excerpts are pertaining to the same single ‘crumpled throwaway’ then it has spent about 2 hours and 20 minutes between O’Connell Bridge and Loopline Bridge. It was this long delay that prompted John C. Hannay in an 1980 essay to argue that the Lestrygonians and Wandering Rocks handbills were not the same items.1 Hannay believed that the handbill had been unlikely to be held up by bridges or other obstructions for so long. He therefore suggested that the copy seen in Wandering Rocks must not be Bloom’s handbill but another, discarded by another walker. He found that the later handbill was a surrogate of the earlier, itself a surrogate for Bloom, entirely consistent with the structural principles of the episode. In our 2004 publication James Joyce’s Dublin, A Topographical Guide to the Dublin of Ulysses we had accepted this ingenious argument but now, as more water has flowed under the bridgepiers, we believe that the explanation is simpler and we have revised our position. Although the tide is ebbing, the movement of the handbill, light and above the surface (a “skiff”), is more likely to be moved by the wind, by eddies on the river, and by river traffic.
Some field work observations in Dublin in 2014 at the same time after high tide showed a number of items such as a bottle and a polystyrene cup easily being more influenced by the eddies of the wind than the flow of the river (see Fig. 1). Butt Bridge is the only structure between O’Connell and Loopline bridges, but it clearly showed the ability to trap flotsam around its bridgepiers (see Fig. 2).2
Fig. 1 – A cup and bottle afloat on the Liffey (2014) Fig. 2 – Debris caught on Butt bridgepier (2014)
When it finally gets moving in Wandering Rocks the throwaway does not dawdle and speeds down the river from Loopline bridge to the Rosevean in an estimated five minutes. This is a distance of almost exactly a mile, meaning the handbill was travelling at about 12mph. This is a distinctly quicker flow rate than observed at the same time of the tide in 2014. There are many factors that can affect river flow at any one time, so we are maybe asking too much of the text to match modern observations here. The five-minute journey does raise the interesting question of Joyce’s deliberate use of ‘sailing westward’ in the middle interpolation at U 10:752-4. If the skiff is travelling so fast overall, why does it appear now to be going upstream? This, Hannay believes, is not a piece of tortuous syntax implying that under the influence of the wash the handbill is briefly sailing upstream. In keeping with the emphasis on mirror imagery in the Kernan passage (and indeed throughout Wandering Rocks), he believes that Joyce introduces the idea of relative motion: instead of stating that the throwaway moves eastward in relation to the quays, he looks at the motion in relation to the throwaway, noting that from its point of view the quays appear to move westward. We remain uncertain about this explanation. While it has attractions, it may simply be that the ferrywash is briefly the cause of a reversal of the skiff’s direction.3
Ian Gunn and Clive Hart
Map key: Elijah Throwaway
[1.00pm] A sombre Y. M. C. A. young man, watchful among the warm sweet fumes of Graham Lemon’s , placed a throwaway in a hand of Mr Bloom. [U 8.5-6]
[1.05pm] He threw down among them a crumpled paper ball … 
… The ball bobbed unheeded on the wake of swells, floated under by the bridgepiers. [U 8.57-9]
[3.26pm] A skiff, a crumpled throwaway, Elijah is coming, rode lightly down the Liffey, under Loopline bridge , shooting the rapids where water chafed around the bridgepiers, sailing eastward past hulls and anchorchains, between the Customhouse old dock  and George’s quay . [U 10.294-7]
[3.29pm] North wall  and sir John Rogerson’s quay , with hulls and anchorchains, sailing westward, sailed by a skiff, a crumpled throwaway, rocked on the ferrywash, Elijah is coming. [U 10.752-4]
[3.31pm] Elijah, skiff, light crumpled throwaway, sailed eastward by flanks of ships and trawlers, amid an archipelago of corks, beyond new Wapping street  past Benson’s ferry , and by the threemasted schooner Rosevean  from Bridgwater with bricks. [U 10.1096-9]
1 John C. Hannay, “The Throwaway of ‘Wandering Rocks’,” in JJQ 17.4 (Summer 1980), pp. 434-9.
2 In Zurich in 2014 at the Platzspitz where the Limmat and the Sihl meet it was noticed that there were two footballs trapped in the undertow of the weir (see Fig. 3). This was one of Joyce’s favourite spots in Zurich and while the Liffey has no weir in the area under discussion such trapped debris could still have introduced the notion of arrested travel in a fast flowing river.
3 The type of ferry in question, a large rowing boat, is illustrated in John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley, James Joyce’s Dubliners: An Illustrated Edition with Annotations (London: St Martin’s Press, 1993), p. 15.
Fig. 3 – Footballs trapped in Limmat weir (2014)
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