Molly’s furbelow or fur below? 

U 18.14-16: her dog smelling my fur and always edging to get up under my petticoats especially then 

Farmer and Henley’s dictionary of Slang and its analogues past and present informs us that one meaning of the noun fur (in “venery” or sexual indulgence) is “the pubic hair”.1 To apply this definition to Molly Bloom’s memory of Mrs Riordan and her dog may at a first glance look like falling victim to pornographic fallacy. To avoid the double-entendre, we would look for unambiguously real fur among Molly’s clothes mentioned in Ulysses. The Blooms’ came to live in the City Arms hotel rather than their own home, so it should not really surprise us that there is no such item in her wardrobe. The only furry accessories mentioned in the text are a boa (U 8.192-3) and her muff, in which, inventive as ever, she considered it possible to slip out hallmarked silver cutlery when she attended a banquet at Glencree (18.434).

  But there is one more obstacle to keeping at bay the lectio obscenior. It is nor a furry item of clothing but the smell of fur that attracts the dog to edge up under Molly’s petticoats. Joyce introduced this precision on re-reading his emerging draft text. The process of writing Molly’s memory of Mrs Riordan’s dog’s behaviour removes any ambiguity:

The marginal text (a), correctly inserted at (b), was seemingly misplaced in later drafts such as the Rosenbach manuscript and continued in the printed text to this day:

“that old faggot Mrs Riordan that never left us a farthing with her dog smelling my fur and always edging under my petticoats”

The anatomical precision of Joyce’s description, reinforced by the sentence’s rhythmic ascendance, demands the more logical reading:

“that old faggot Mrs Riordan that never left us a farthing with her dog that was always edging under my petticoats smelling my fur”

  Only in 2002 did the draft resurface from which we now critically authenticate the placement of the marginal phrase. In spite of this it cannot be proved, of course, whether Joyce either in copying mis-placed the target, or else actively re-placed the insertion. An assessment that he misplaced it, and that hence the insertion should be set into the text where the draft by the shaky line from the margin indicates it should go, becomes a fresh feature critically established of the text of Ulysses.

Harald Beck and Hans Walter Gabler


1 John S. Farmer and W. E. Henley, Slang and its analogues past and present, vol. III, (1893), p. 90.