Take me to your subleader!

In the newspaper office, in the Aeolus episode of Ulysses, Bloom spies Ned Lambert and reflects:

He has influence they say. Old Chatterton, the vicechancellor, is his granduncle or his greatgranduncle. Close on ninety they say. Subleader for his death written this long time perhaps. (U. 7.261-4)

Don Gifford and Robert Seidman gloss “subleader” as follows:

In newspaper practice the account of a well-known person’s life and accomplishments is kept on file. For the obituary it would be updated and added to the "leader", the paragraph announcing the death, its time, place, and, if relevant, cause.1

The most recent annotator of Ulysses, Sam Slote, essentially repeats the same explanation.2

A subleader is in fact a short editorial which would appear underneath the main editorial (leader) in a newspaper. Newspapers now tend to carry just two leaders, the main one and one other (normally called the “second leader”). In Bloom’s time, however, there could be more than one subsidiary leader. A subleader would be the exact place to carry a combined obituary and appreciation of a prominent person such as Chatterton, and Bloom is correct in his surmise that such items were often prepared well in advance of the demise of the person concerned. (They would of course be updated with such details as the date of death.)

The OED, quite accurately, defines sub-leader as “a secondary leader (LEADER n.1 12) in a newspaper or other periodical”. One of the examples it gives of “sub-leader” comes, appropriately, from a letter of Sean O’Casey, of 1913:

The Editor recently, in a sub-leader, advised all his readers to go and see pictures exhibited in the Central Branch of the Gaelic League.

O’Casey’s use of “sub-leader” here is identical with Bloom’s (except, of course, that Bloom’s is spelled as one word).

From sub-leader to sub-editorial…

Ironically, this word, or rather its close relative “sub-editorial”, became the source of confusion in another Joycean context that led to a long-lasting error in attribution. This was to do with an editorial called “Politics and Cattle Disease”, dealing with the political implications of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, which appeared in the Freeman’s Journal of 10 September, 1912.3

As Matthews (in the article cited below) shows, the source of this confusion was a letter of 6 September, 1912 from Charles Joyce to his brother Stanislaus, who was in Trieste, informing him among other things that “Jim wrote a sub-editorial today for the Freeman about the Styrian cure for the foot and mouth disease”. Richard Ellmann, when researching material for the edition of Joyce’s Critical Writings which he produced with Ellsworth Mason,4 wrote to his Dublin contact Patrick Henchy to enquire if he could find for him “a sub-editorial in the Freeman’s Journal about the foot-and-mouth disease” around “6 or 7 September 1912 or shortly after”.

The combination of Ellmann’s omission of Charles Joyce’s reference to “the Styrian cure” and of Henchy’s apparent lack of familiarity with the term “sub-editorial” meant that the wrong item was forwarded to Ellmann for inclusion in the Critical Writings. The piece that appeared was an editorial, not a sub-editorial, and it was not about the “Styrian cure” that Charles had specified.

The article that Charles was actually referring to appeared on the day he specified – 6 September, 1912 – and it is indeed about the Styrian cure for foot and mouth disease. And it is indeed a sub-editorial, appearing as it does after the main editorial of the day:

Our readers will remember a question recently asked in the House of Commons by Mr. William Field, M.P., and a letter sent by him last week to the Press in connection with the pyoktanin cure which is largely used in Styria, a province of Austria, for the treatment of cases of foot-and-mouth disease…

Freeman’s Journal (1912) 6 September, p. 6, col. 6

Although Matthews doubts that this piece is actually by Joyce, it seems very likely that it is, given that its content, though not its style, very closely echoes the content of Mr Deasy’s letter to the newspapers in Ulysses. So this little item may well be the last piece written by Joyce for publication that has yet to appear under his name. It was published in full in the course of Matthews’s article, for the first time since 1912, but was still not attributed to Joyce.

If any proof were needed of the importance of lexicography, given that the meaning of the term “sub-editorial” was crucial to the original mix-up, this must be it.


When Hedges Eyre Chatterton did die, in 1910, at the age of 90, the Freeman's Journal ran a fairly straight obituary article (1 September). The Irish Times, however, which gave his passing more attention, carried both an obituary, (31 August, page 7) and an appreciation (page 4), which very clearly, given its placing in the paper, is a subleader. And since this appeared the day after Chatterton's death, it is very likely that it had indeed been "written this long time" (U.7.263-4). Thus are the scriptures fulfilled.

Terence Killeen


1 Don Gifford with Robert J. Seidman, ‘Ulysses’ Annotated (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988) p. 133

2 James Joyce, Ulysses, with annotations by Sam Slote (Surrey: Alma Classics, 2012) pp. 609-10

3 The discovery of this misattribution was announced in T. Matthews, ‘An Emendation to the Joycean Canon: The Last Hurrah for “Politics and Cattle Disease”’, James Joyce Quarterly, 44: 3 (2007), pp. 441–55.

4 James Joyce, The Critical Writings of James Joyce, ed. Richard Ellmann and Ellsworth Mason. (New York: Viking Press, 1959)

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