That English invention: The Wonder Worker in nighttown

U 15.3272-7: Sleep reveals the worst side of everyone, children perhaps excepted. I know I fell out of bed or rather was pushed. Steel wine is said to cure snoring. For the rest there is that English invention, pamphlet of which I received some days ago, incorrectly addressed. It claims to afford a noiseless, inoffensive vent. (he sighs) ’Twas ever thus. Frailty, thy name is marriage.

The demonstrative adjective ‘that’ in Bloom’s self-defence before the Nymph might have alerted readers to the identity of the apparatus whose usage he advocates. As in ‘Sirens’ and ‘Penelope’—‘That wonderworker if I had’ (11.1224-25); ‘that wonderworker they sent him’ (18.716)—‘that English invention’ is a pejorative reference to the same medical device for relieving ills of the fundament.1 The adjectival distancing employed by both Bloom and Molly succeeds in ‘Circe’ to such an extent that an explicit mention of the patent device is pushed out of the drafts of the nighttown episode entirely. Nowhere in any published edition of ‘Circe’ is the Wonder Worker so named.

Yet the first of two drafts of ‘Circe’ now at the National Library of Ireland, MS 36,639/12 (hereafter the Paris copybook), contains the earliest reference to the device known to survive in the genetic dossier of Ulysses. The Paris copybook, which dates to the summer of 1920, consists largely of a revision of the first half of a draft now at Buffalo, MS V.A.19. The latter, which I have elsewhere labelled the Trieste copybook, is free from all mention of Bloom’s ‘thaumaturgic remedy’ (17.1825).2 The Paris copybook, however, builds on its parent by featuring the first draft of Bloom’s exchange with the Nymph; across one-and-a-half rectos and four versos Joyce develops the scene. Three hundred words sketch its broad contours. The Nymph appears suddenly, mentions her humble origins in the pages of Photo Bits and her revulsion for the deeds of ‘the chamber of love’ at 7 Eccles Street. Bloom catalogues those activities, by turns apologetically, by turns abjectly, but against the Nymph’s claims of idealized feminine beauty finally ‘starts violently to his feet’ and says, ‘You are no immortal. Begone.’3

In terms of word count, the Nymph scene triples in size across major interlinear, marginal, and verso additions and emendations to the Paris copybook. (Among these is the first mention of ‘La Amora and Karini’, now 15.3247.4) The verso of Page 21 contains Bloom’s impromptu disquisition on night-time relief, built up in several layers of content:

Sleep reveals the worst aspect of everybody, children perhaps excepted. Steel wine is said to cure snoring. For the rest there is that English invention The Wonder Worker ^the pamphlet of which^ which I received some days ^it claimed to afford a noiseless vent^. (he sighs) <Such> Perhaps ’twas ever thus. Frailty, thy name is marriage. (Paris copybook, NLI MS 36,639/12, p. [21v])

The word ‘ago’ is missing from the verso, indicative less of a slip in the white heat of composition so much as faulty transmission. For Joyce crafted Bloom’s speech not simply out of his head—or at least not immediately so—but from constituent elements recorded in his notesheets and notebooks. Two of these anterior fragments survive: ‘B <sleep—all show worst side of self>’ (BL ‘Circe’ 19:47) and ‘steel wine v snoring’ (BL ‘Nausicaa’ 1:3-4).5 The copybook witness is thus the site of their material combination and elaboration. Joyce peppered short phrasal additions over the amalgam and thereby introduced a pleonasm, ‘the pamphlet of which which I received’, not resolved until the entire passage was fair-copied. The next draft in the sequence of ‘Circe’s’ composition also survives and the clean-up effort is visible in this document, the loose-leaf Quinn draft now at the National Library of Ireland:

Sleep reveals the worst aspect of everybody, children perhaps excepted. Steel wine is said to cure snoring. For the rest there is that English invention The Wonderworker the pamphlet of which I received some days ago ^It claims to afford a noiseless and inoffensive vent^ (he sighs) ’Twas ever thus. Frailty, thy name is marriage. (Quinn draft, NLI MS 35,958, fol. [15r])

That the Paris copybook is the immediate ancestor of the Quinn draft at this juncture is evident from the recurrence of a verso addition to the former as an interlinear addition on the latter. While fair-copying the busy Paris copybook verso and making minor adjustments to its contents, Joyce overlooked the claim of the Wonder Worker, cast in coy advertisingese, ‘to afford a noiseless vent’. The words are jotted down on the Paris copybook verso at a slight remove from the main block of additional text and its satellite insertions, easily overlooked as they are tucked in beneath a patch of material intended for substantially later in the scene. Despite a connecting pencil line or ‘shoestring’ (FW 121.08) linking the addition to its point of insertion, Joyce missed the prompt on his first run-through of the copybook and was obliged to re-inscribe the advertising claim interlinearily on the Quinn draft, though not without altering it slightly.

The centre sheet of the Quinn draft draws on Joyce’s reading in Bits of Fun for 7 August through 9 October 1920.6 The Paris copybook was drafted several weeks earlier, which supplies a broad terminus ad quem of summer 1920 for Joyce’s first encounter with the Wonder Worker. John Simpson has traced an advertisement for the product to the London Daily Express for 4 July 1922 (right). It mentions a ‘booklet’, presumably the original of Bloom’s pamphlet—or more pointedly his ‘prospectus’ (17.1819)—but in the absence of the precise source, the issue of where exactly Joyce found his Wonder Worker is confined to speculation. Pierre-Marc de Biasi terms the exploration of such archival grey areas ‘hypothetical exogenetics’ after Raymonde Debray-Genette.7

Equally uncertain is the manner in which explicit mention of the device fell out of ‘Circe’. Following a process of endogenetic absorption, the Rosenbach Manuscript version of the passage, drafted towards the end of 1920, resembles much more closely the first edition text:

Sleep reveals the worst side of everyone, children perhaps excepted. I know I fell out of bed or rather was pushed. Steel wine is said to cure snoring. For the rest there is that English invention, pamphlet of which I received some days ago. It claims to afford a noiseless, inoffensive vent. (he sighs) ’Twas ever thus. Frailty, thy name is marriage. (Rosenbach Manuscript ‘Circe’, fol. 53)8

The disappearance of ‘The Wonderworker’ from the episode is unlikely to have been a mistake or simply oversight, since the device is named in the main text of the Quinn draft. Rather, and as de Biasi proposes, ‘the exogenetic procedure contains within itself the principle of its own effacement by writing’.9 The very pith of the newspaper advertisement—the name of the product—which, once encountered, spurred Joyce to the integration of a real-world particular into Ulysses, was written out of ‘Circe’ as the graft between foreign body and draft content became progressively neater. De Biasi writes, ‘As it meshes better and better with its context, the detail sometimes ends up becoming utterly unrealistic, if it doesn’t simply run aground’.10 But this erosion is limited to Bloom’s final adventure. Why Joyce wrote the name out of ‘Circe’ when he would retain it in ‘Ithaca’ and ‘Penelope’, and, moreover, add it to the typescript of ‘Sirens’, is not clear. But one surprising context for this genetic ephemera from late 1920 is Ezra Pound, Joyce’s tireless advocate in his new Paris home.

In September 1916 Joyce wrote to W. B. Yeats, ‘I can never thank you enough for having brought me into relations with your friend Ezra Pound who is indeed a wonder worker’.11 Pound must certainly have seemed like a thaumaturge or saintly miracle worker. By 1916 he had scouted funds and puffed Joyce in the right circles, he had placed A Portrait of the Artist in the Egoist, and he was log-rolling energetically for Dubliners and Exiles. But Nathan Halper has argued intriguingly that the epithet took on an altogether more scatological bent in the latter years of Ulysses’s composition.12 Pound’s asparaginous objections to Bloom at stool in ‘Calypso’ and to the fart that rounds out ‘Sirens’ are well documented; by way of the Wonder Worker, Joyce comments obliquely on his helpmeet’s blue-pencilling treatment of the novel for Little Review serialization.13 Whether through deletions or counselled alterations—‘I dont arsk you to erase’, ‘fahrt yes, but not as climax of chapter’—Pound seemed determined to afford Ulysses an ‘inoffensive vent’ (15.3276).14 As Halper notes, significantly Joyce makes his ‘mischievous addition’ to the typescript of ‘Sirens’.15 But the private joke not only illustrates the seamless weld between exogenetics and endogenetics; it also shows how a new exogenetic element such as the Wonder Worker booklet can alloy with previously elaborated endogenetic material.16 One incorrect address for Bloom’s pamphlet, then, is Thoor Ballylee.

The Wonder Worker is not the only nod to Pound’s squeamishness in the genetic dossier of ‘Circe’. Building on the addition to the Paris copybook, for the Quinn draft Joyce draws on the poet’s March 1918 objection to ‘Calypso’:

Section 4. has excellent things in it; but you overdo the matter. Leave the stool to Geo. Robey. He has been doing ‘down where the asparagus grows[’], for some time.

I think certain things simply bad writing, in this section. Bad because you waste the violence. You use a stronger word than you need, and this is bad art, just as any needless superlative is bad art.17

In the midst of Philip Beaufoy’s evidence before the court, a verso addition to Folio 4 of the Quinn draft has Bloom, who ‘clears his throat, bravely’, say, ‘It is bad art, not true to life’.18 Subsequently, the allusion would be blunted, though Pound is still discernable, however ‘indistinctly’, in Bloom’s ‘University of life. Bad art’ familiar from the published editions (15.840).

Two slight add-ons made to neighbouring drafts in the late summer and early autumn of 1920 deftly sketch Pound into ‘Circe’. Both are effaced by the time of the next surviving document, the Rosenbach Manuscript. If the question of why the Wonder Worker dropped out of nighttown remains unanswered, there is, nonetheless, a pleasing symmetry to the fact that just as the foreign editor of the Little Review was nearing the end of his usefulness to Ulysses he should flare briefly in the composition of the first episode that would not be serialized. John Nash argues that Joyce incorporated into his writing ‘variations of previous, actual responses to his work’.19 This welcome emphasis on the ‘writing of his [Joyce’s] reception’ is repurposed as a ‘writing of rejection’ in Finn Fordham’s reading of the genetic dossier of ‘Circe’.20 Fordham focuses on the February 1921 Little Review trial but, several months before that signal moment in the reception of high modernism, the episode was already alive to and smarting from the censure of a more well-meaning critique. Ultimately, however, ‘Circe’ would respond to Pound not by incorporating the letter of his opprobrium but by integrating the manner of his response—expurgation, erasure—into its wonder workings.

Ronan Crowley


1 The grammatical reinforcement was made clear from the opening of Robert Janusko’s ‘That Wonder Worker’ (JJON 2), in which he brings together the three mentions of the device by name in Ulysses. I am indebted to Bob for the suggestion of writing more fully on the Wonder Worker’s brief mention in ‘Circe’. Grammatical repetitions aside, that the pamphlet for the apparatus is ‘incorrectly addressed’ establishes a sharper resonance with both ‘Penelope’ and ‘Ithaca’ (17.1819-23).

2 For the interrelationships of the three drafts of ‘Circe’ that precede the Rosenbach Manuscript see my own ‘Fusing the Elements of “Circe”: From Compositional to Textual Repetition’, James Joyce Quarterly 47, iii (Spring 2010): 341-61.

3 MS 36,639/12, pp. [21r-22v, 23v, 24v]. The entire scene is now 15.3232-3478.

4 See John Simpson’s note on this longstanding transmissional departure in the next issue of the James Joyce Broadsheet [No. 94 (2013), February, p. 4].

5 Philip Herring, Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ Notesheets in the British Museum (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1972), pp. 125, 357. The ‘Nausicaa’ notesheet phrase is not cancelled in crayon.

6 ‘Fusing the Elements of “Circe”’, 352.

7 Pierre-Marc de Biasi and Ingrid Wassenaar, ‘What is a Literary Draft? Toward a Functional Typology of Genetic Documentation’, Yale French Studies 89 (1996): 45.

8 James Joyce, Ulysses: A Facsimile of the Manuscript (New York: Octagon Books; Philadelphia: The Philip H. & A.S.W. Rosenbach Foundation, 1975). The phrase ‘incorrectly addressed’ is substantially later—postdating the corresponding portions of ‘Ithaca’ and ‘Penelope’—and was added on the proofs of ‘Circe’ around New Year’s Day 1922 (see Placard 57 [JJA 20.167-174]).

9 ‘What is a Literary Draft?’, 46.

10 ‘What is a Literary Draft?’, 46.

11 James Joyce, Letters of James Joyce. Ed. Stuart Gilbert (New York: Viking Press, 1957), p. 95.

12 Nathan Halper, ‘How Simple: A Tale of Joyce and Pound’, Partisan Review 44, iii (1977): 438-39.

13 See the letters to Joyce of 29 March 1918 and 10 June 1919 in Pound/Joyce; The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce. Ed. Forrest Read (New York: New Directions, 1967), pp. 131, 157-58. For critical responses see Paul Vanderham, ‘Ezra Pound’s Censorship of Ulysses’, James Joyce Quarterly 32, iii/iv (Spring-Summer 1995): 583-595 and Frances Devlin-Glass, ‘“Going down where the asparagus grows”: Insight and Resistance as Ezra Pound Confronts Ulysses’, Journal of Irish Studies 19 (2004): 54-70.

14 Pound/Joyce, 157, 158.

15 ‘How Simple: A Tale of Joyce and Pound’, 39.

16 Apropos that weld, de Biasi writes, ‘Logically speaking, there is no such thing as a purely exogenetic element: every exogenetic fragment bears the primitive seal of endogenetics, and the opposition of the two concepts is only relative’. ‘What is a Literary Draft?’, 47.

17 Pound/Joyce, 131.

18 For the latter clause of Bloom’s response Joyce may be incorporating Samuel A. Tannenbaum’s contribution to the Little Review symposium on Exiles: ‘Exiles will in all probability prove to be cavaire to the general, not only because it is open to the obvious criticism that it is not true to life’. ‘Exiles: A Discussion of James Joyce’s Plays’, Little Review 5, ix (January 1919): 23.

19 John Nash, James Joyce and the Act of Reception: Reading, Ireland, Modernism. (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p.3.

20 James Joyce and the Act of Reception, 31. Finn Fordham, ‘“Circe” and the Genesis of Multiple Personality’, James Joyce Quarterly 45, iii-iv (Spring-Summer 2008): 511.

Search by keyword (within this site): Advertising Patent Rosenbach