That Wonder Worker

As Bloom wanders from the Ormond, cidery gases wending their way through his internal plumbing, he thinks “Wish I could. Wait. That wonderworker if I had” (11.1224-5).

In ‘Ithaca’ (17.1819-23) we learn that he has received a:

prospectus of The Wonderworker, the world’s greatest remedy for rectal complaints, direct from Wonderworker, Coventry House, South Place, London E C, addressed (erroneously) to Mrs L. Bloom with brief accompanying note commencing (erroneously): Dear Madam.

Molly later recalls the prospectus (18.715-16):

and no visitors or post ever except his cheques or some advertisement like that wonderworker they sent him addressed dear Madam.

Wonder Worker is listed in the London Gazette, 4 May 1928 as available from “Frederick Adolph Werner; Patent Medical Appliance; Coventry House, South Place, London, E.C. 2.”

It was also available as far afield as New Zealand, according to this advertisement in the NZ Truth, 10 March 1923, p. 2.

This device was apparently quite popular in days gone by, judging from a description provided by Roland McHugh from Norman Lewis's autobiography Jackdaw Cake:

More extraordinary even was the addiction to the use of the Wonder Worker. This was a small spade-shaped Bakelite contraption designed for insertion in the rectum, intended originally as a cure for haemorrhoids but later accepted for its talismanic properties in the treatment of all human ills. Innumerable intelligent people, including the cream of local society such as the Bowlses, Orr-Lewis – who had survived the Titanic disaster – the fearful virago Lady Meux – once a Gaiety Girl – probably General French who had presided over the massacres at Ypres, possibly even Miss Tupperton herself, were walking around with these things stuck up their bottoms. (1985, p. 53)

The earliest description of Wonder Worker that I have been able to locate is the July 1917 patent application, GB114378, approved April 1918:

I, Frederick Adolph Werner, of Coventry House, South Place, Finsbury London, E.C., Boot and Shoe Manufacturer, do hereby declare the nature of this invention and in what manner the same is to be performed, to be particularly described and ascertained in and by the following statement:--

This my invention relates to that type of insoluble rectal suppositories in which two bulbous portions are united by a narrow neck and in some of which the outer bulb is flattened to form a saddle or handle for pressing back haemorrhoids or for preventing turning of the device, and again others that have like or somewhat like heads or knobs united by a rod or neck and proposed for use in pressing back or massaging both inner and outer hemmorhoids.

My invention consists broadly in the combination of an insoluble rectal suppository having two bulbous portions connected by a narrow neck and a bore extending lengthwise through the instrument.

The patent application continues with more detailed description, suggesting that the invention be made of “celluloid, vulcanite, casein or other non-conducting material, but suitable metals may advantageously employed particularly such as have curative or alleviative properties, as zinc for example”. It concludes with an illustration:

Click here to see the full patent

In a later patent, 1924-5, GB233980, Werner describes himself as “a citizen of the United States of America”. His improved version “consists in dispensing with the lengthwise bore […] and shaping the several parts of such an appliance that its dimensions correspond, or approximately correspond, and comfortably adapt themselves to the anatomical dimensions of the affected parts of the human body”.

Bloom’s wishing for the Wonder Worker is, then, another anachronistic Bloomsday detail. The device was not patented until 1917 and the ad for Wonder Worker was copied into the "Ithaca" notesheets (12.10-23) between February and October 1921 in Paris. The line in "Sirens" is based on the "Ithaca" note and follows as a typescript overlay from the same year.

Robert Janusko

For further information on the Wonderworker see Ronan Crowley's article "That English invention: The Wonder Worker in nighttown" on this web site.

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