adelite - a delightful colour word?

U 6.307-8: Cure for a red nose. Drink like the devil till it turns adelite.

In the cab on the way to the cemetery, Bloom thinks of Dignam:

Blazing face: redhot. Too much John Barleycorn. Cure for a red nose. Drink like the devil till it turns adelite. A lot of money he spent colouring it.

Although the word adelite is so rare that it hasn’t made it into the OED,1 it has been around since 1891 when the mineral so named was first discovered by the Swedish mineralogist Hjalmar Sjögren (1856-1922). The system of mineralogy of James Dwight Dana of 1892 describes it as:

A basic arsenate of calcium and magnesium from Nordmark and Langban, Sweden. In masses of a gray color.

Commentators like Prescott2 and Gifford, who suggest accordingly that Dignam's nose had turned grey, fail to explain how anyone in the Dublin of 1904 but a professional geologist could have been expected to make (and understand) that recherché comparison. More than a hundred years later still no one would dream of using this little-known and totally inconspicuous mineral as a colour term.

In 1919 Joyce entered "P.D. spent good money colouring. Cure for red nose. Drink like - till it turns adelaide"3 on to a note sheet. In September 1921 he altered the last bit in the second set of proofs from "[...] till it turns puce" via "[...] till it turns adelaide" to "adelite". Both 'puce' and 'adelaide' describe variations of purple. Adelaide turned up fairly regularly then in fashion catalogues and advertisements for clothes. James Napier’s A manual of dyeing and dyeing receipts of 1875 has an entry ‘Light Purple of Adelaide’ (p. 373). The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Friday, May 13 1831 uses the word in an article about Ladies’ dresses:

A rich crape aerophane, embroidered with floss silk, mantille and sabots of rich blond; train of Adelaide-coloured satin ...

And in Letitia Mary Bell's The Secret of a Life of 1858 we read:

But Louisa's soul was bound up in her new Adelaide-coloured riding-habit ... (p. 51)

Whatever Joyce’s reason was for eventually turning ‘adelaide’ into ‘adelite’ (it would not be be the first instance in Ulysses when his hero is verbally accident-prone) it seems rather unlikely that he meant us to believe that Bloom uses the name of a rare mineral only recently discovered in Sweden in his interior monologue to put across that Dignam’s nose was coloured grey through drink. The genesis of this passage indicates that the change intended was from red(hot) to purple.

Harald Beck


1 Note: entries for the words Adelaide and adelite were added to the OED online in December 2011 and March 2012 respectively.

2 James Prescott, Exploring James Joyce (1964), p. 109.

3 As the manuscript (JJA 12, p. 38 ) unmistakably shows when properly enlarged, Joyce wrote 'adelaide', not 'adelite'.

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