Shine on, Harvest Moon

U 8.600-3: Where Pat Kinsella had his Harp theatre before Whitbred ran the Queen's. Broth of a boy. Dion Boucicault business with his harvestmoon face in a poky bonnet. Three Purty Maids from School. How time flies eh? Showing long red pantaloons under his skirts.

Bloom's memory seems to take him back to the early 1880s, as J. W. Whitbread took over the Queen's Theatre in 1884. The specific reference may be to Henry Byron's burlesque Miss Eily O'Connor (founded on Boucicault's drama The Colleen Bawn), which was performed at the Queen's Theatre in Dublin in February 1882 “with the additional attraction of new local and topical songs, dances and dresses”1 and with Pat Kinsella in the title role. One of the stage directions in the play says that Miss Eily “[…] puts on her red cloak and bonnet”.2

The harvest moon often appears red, low down near the horizon. With “harvestmoon face” Bloom uses a jocular metaphor of this time. It first appears in print around 1860, had its heyday in the nineties, and then virtually disappeared again.3 Like poor Paddy Dignam Pat Kinsella obviously had a blazing red face:

And the arrangements answered well in a sanatory point of view also, for in less than a month, the then lately rising rubicund hue had been transferred from Mr. Jessop's nose to that of his guest, whose great harvest-moon face now waxed broader and redder, until it looked as if it had been put into a furnace and blown red-hot.

R. S. Surtees, Plain or Ringlets? (1860), ch. 65, p. 246

Captain Anson with his twin blue eyes twinkling in his harvest-moon face like two pansies in a bucket of blood [...]

Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois) (1891), 9 July

Harald Beck


1 Freeman’s Journal (1882), 27 February

2 Henry J. Byron, Miss Eily O'Connor (London, ?1861), scene 3, p. 24

3 The analogy itself is much older, though. See, for example, William Kennedy’s Siege of Antwerp (1838), act. 1, scene 1, p. 2: "Why thy face like a harvest moon, and thy girth as ample as a German abbot's, are the very types of high feasting!"

Search by keyword (within this site): Phrases Theatre