Update from James Joyce Online Notes – March 2016

Earlier this week Harald Beck and I published the tenth issue of the James Joyce Online Notes bringing the total number of articles up to 274 – variously grouped under “Joyce’s People”, “Joyce’s Words”, “Joyce’s Allusions”, and “Joyce’s Environs”.

In the past, we have investigated how action sequences in Ulysses can be mapped against the reality of Dublin, and this issue contains three articles of this nature. Ian Gunn and Clive Hart follow Bloom’s crumpled throwaway down the Liffey; Harald Beck plots Bloom’s peregrinations through the old Ormond Hotel (leading on to questions about the crossblind on the front window), and then (with Eamonn Finn) tracks Father Conmee on his walk to Artane.

Joyce’s vocabulary is a topic of perennial interest, and I’ve had a look at yogibogeybox. It seems there were mystic yogibogeys before Ulysses.

For more about the biography of Joyce’s minor characters, see Terence Killeen’s further investigations of Alfred and Marion Hunter, and Harald Beck’s notes on Herr Hauptmann Hainau.


From time to time, new information arises relating to articles that we have already published. This time, the article on “washing possible” is augmented with a copy of a postcard (discovered by Aida Yared) which is contemporary with Joyce’s use and earlier than other printed evidence. Aida has also discovered a postcard relevant to Joyce’s “missing gent” advertisement.




David Bowie, Chicago, 2002 (photo by Adam Bielawski)
David Bowie, Chicago, 2002 (photo by Adam Bielawski)

Among all the media evaluations of David Bowie’s life, it was quietly gratifying to see a Time article by Katy Steinmetz (David Bowie and the Oxford Dictionary Had a Mutual Love Affair) highlighting the references to Bowie and his music that have found their way into the OED.

The article couldn’t have been written without all the work that began at the OED in the 1980s on digitising the dictionary, and including new words to capture new usage. Katy – who interviewed me a few years ago about the OED – rightly ties these references to the cultural changes of the period. And that’s what words do …

As the article says:

“Part of what makes the OED so unparalleled is that it is a historical dictionary. Its editors don’t just define words using their guts or brains. They use evidence. They are investigators who gather quotations from all spans of time to show what a word has meant to people, and from that they derive their definitions.

Like figures ranging from F. Scott Fitzgerald to the Fonz, Bowie shows up in words spanning the alphabet, the same one that he arranged so beautifully and artfully for so many years.”






Update from Pittville History Works – December 2015

The Pittville History Works group has a number of projects in train at the moment. As well as our big, ongoing census project, we have opened up several other fronts which are likely to produce fascinating results for the website.

Firstly, early in December members of the group visited Holy Trinity Church, Portland Street, to investigate and photograph the memorials to former Pittville residents. The photographs were taken by Terry Langhorn and are reproduced by kind permission of Trinity Cheltenham.

Juliana Wade memorial
Juliana Wade bought Pittville House, Wellington Road, in 1827 – while it was being built

We were working from a list produced by Julian Rawes in the 1980s, and – with the generous assistance of the vicar and his colleagues – we were allowed into the crypt, which contains rows of beautifully inscribed stone coffins.

A view down one of the aisles in the crypt
A view down one of the aisles in the crypt

We plan to write an illustrated article for the website linking the memorials with residents who appear on the Pittville History Works website, and also to add similar links if possible from other burial grounds and graveyards in the area which were used by Pittville residents.

Sue Dodson’s project to investigate the history of the Wellington door-knocker, of which many examples may be seen around Pittville, is starting to take shape. Sue is keen to obtain as much help as she can with this project, so please read her note at the foot of this message!

Recently James Hodsdon wrote a short article for the History Works on John Forbes, the architect of the Pittville Pump Room. We’re delighted that we’ve now been able to add to this article the only surviving image of the architect, from The Wilson’s collection.

On 18 February, Steven Blake is giving a talk entitled Who Built Pittville? This event is jointly hosted by the Friends of Pittville and the Holst Birthplace Museum – see here for more details. Steven is also busy investigating the architects, builders, and buyers of Pittville houses built between 1860 and 1890. Please help if you receive a request from him to view your house deeds, as these contain vital information.

The Pittville History Works database project is reaching the end of its work on Clarence Square (fifty houses, whose inhabitants we are recording using the ten-yearly censuses and annual street directories from the 1830s to the early twentieth century). At present all of the details from the street directories for the Square are available online, and almost all of the census data. As an example, see this page for No 11 Clarence Square. At present we are busy tying this all together by giving all of the 19th-century residents unique identifying numbers, so that we can plot their movements from year to year. Once this is all done, we’ll be adding more locations and links to the Old Town Survey map on the site. At the same time, work is also progressing on Wellington Square.

When we have finished Clarence Square, we plan to notify its present-day residents and request photos, reminiscences, documents, etc. So please do help if you live in the square or know someone who does.

Some members of the group have also been involved in another significant Cheltenham history venture. The only known surviving portrait of one of the founders of Cheltenham’s first spa, Captain Henry Skillicorne, was recently put up for auction in Cheltenham. It has now been acquired for The Wilson, and should be on show there in the New Year.

One last thing: you don’t have to be a member of the Friends of Pittville to receive these updates, but even an online project like ours has hidden costs and we have no other sources of funding apart from a small budget from the Friends. If you aren’t a member, and would like to support the Friends of Pittville and the History Works group, please consider joining. You can download a membership form from the Friends of Pittville website here.

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Wellington Door Knockers – Sue Dodson

A number of houses in Pittville have one of these distinctive Wellington door knockers.
Wellington door knocker

I decided to commence my (low-key) research by seeking out ironmongers and manufacturers of door furniture who have been in business since the late 18th century.

For example W. Boulton and Co. (later, and more familiarly, known as Boulton & Paul) commenced trading in Norwich in 1797, while Archibald Kenrick started to trade in the 1760s. Manufacturers of cast-iron products since 1791, Kenrick continue to trade from their original site in West Bromwich.

Fortunately Kenrick’s archives have been preserved: the ‘Kenrick Collection’ is now held in Dudley by the Black Country Living Museum. Their Senior Curator confirms that while the ‘trend’ did not start with Kenrick it is also thought possible that Wellington door knockers (which were not uncommon throughout Europe) “may” have first emerged on the Continent rather than in Britain.

I continue investigations into manufacturers in England, Ireland – and abroad, mindful that the ‘trend’ for possessing a Wellington door knocker may initially have had a ‘novelty’ market appeal alongside a wish to celebrate the achievements of a man many regarded as a national hero.

Please get in touch if you have one of these door knockers or can help with this research.


The Captain comes to visit


Portrait of Captain Henry Skillicorne

For the past week we have been playing host to Captain Henry Skillicorne (1678–1763).

It’s all thanks to Jenny Ogle, the Queen of the Friends of The Wilson (Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum). Jenny heard on the grapevine that a Cheltenham hotel was selling off some of its pictures, including a forgotten three-quarter length portrait of the Captain, one of Cheltenham’s founding fathers, which had graced a bar there for many years. Jenny was stung into action, and she and Hilary went off to the auction with a view to securing the portrait for the public to own and see at The Wilson.

2015-12-16 22.17.34The dashing sea-captain Henry Skillicorne (1678–1763) came from the Isle of Man and spent his career in Bristol running merchant ships for Mr Jacob Elton to and from Zante (Zakynthos) and the “Currant Islands” in the Ionian Sea – and further afield – in the early eighteenth century. When he retired from a life on the ocean wave, Henry met and married Elizabeth Mason in Bristol (his second wife) and through her inherited property in Cheltenham, at the spot where the first mineral springs were found. He moved to Cheltenham in 1838 and set about marketing the town as a spa, building a pump to regulate the flow of spring water, and generally contributing to the development of Cheltenham’s elegant central walkways.

And the painting? Jenny and Hilary secured it for The Wilson, and after lodging with us for a week it’s now undergoing some minor restoration before it graces the walls of Cheltenham’s art gallery…

Update from James Joyce Online Notes – December 2015

The JJON web site (jjon.org) has just been updated with several new articles.

Terence Killeen extends his investigations into the lives of Alfred and Marion Hunter with more information on Alfred Hunter’s predilection for retailing patent medicines and patent inventions: ‘Fitz-Epsykure’: The further adventures of Alfred and Marion Hunter.

The Ormond Hotel has been in the news recently, as developers sought to demolish the present building. But just how much of Joyce’s Ormond remains today?

Upper Ormond Quay in 1850
Upper Ormond Quay in 1850, from Henry Shaw’s Dublin Pictorial Guide & Directory

In Joyce’s Ormond Hotel Harald Beck looks at the history of the building in order to recreate the floor-plan and hence the movements of Bloom around the building, as described in detail in Ulysses. Elsewhere, he also explains the meaning and construction of the crossblind.

John Simpson follows the life of Joyce’s Professor MacHugh (Hugh McNeill) from his early promise and the shadow of a professorship to his death in the 1930s in the Dublin workhouse, in The reluctant professor MacHugh.

Hugh McNeill
Hugh MacNeill by Aaron (Harry) Kernoff from the Irish Times (28 October, 1935) : UCD Digital Collection, Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (cropped)

Talking at the Athenaeum


Just back from the Athenaeum in London where, at the kind invitation of my friend John Wilson, I gave a talk about – wait for it – the Oxford English Dictionary. None of the OED’s original editors were members of the Club, though it turns out that my predecessor Robert Burchfield was. Like the OED, the Athenaeum is often thought of as a refuge for the literary: Dickens and Thackeray were members, for example, and it is said that their famous handshake at the doors of the Club in 1863 may have indicated their reconciliation after Thackeray had objected so strongly to Dickens’s public separation from his wife. But that had all been brushed under the carpet this week, and they were the friendliest audience I have encountered for a while. I often find this a helpful thing to say about audiences. Both the OED and the Athenaeum are in fact full of scientific, philosophical, and even military content. My prime example of the importance of non-literary sources for the English language was that the British hero and Athenaeum founder, the gallant Duke of Wellington, was the first person (according to the OED) to introduce the British public to the word ganja.

The Dictionary Society of North America

Sometimes the cart comes before the horse. I was working away at something the other day when the email pinged. Could the Dictionary Society of North America please have a photo of me for their newsletter? I’m always delighted – of course – to oblige any such request, but I was puzzled, as I thought I’d been fairly quiet on the dictionary front recently. It turned out, as I read on, that I’d been elected a Fellow of the Society. That’s terrific, and I’m both honoured and honored. Their original letter informing me of my nomination and election must have gone adrift, which makes you wonder what else you miss …

EFNIL Conference in Helsinki

Just back from Helsinki where (alongside Tony Jones of the British Council) I represented the UK at the annual conference of EFNIL, the European Federation for National Institutions for Language. I’d like to say we reached the semi-finals, but that’s not how it’s organised.

John with Johan Van Hoorde - EFNIL conference dinner Oct 2012
With Johan Van Hoorde at the 2012 Conference

The conference theme was “plain language” (as opposed to gobbledegook). What is fascinating about these conferences is hearing how each of the member states of the EU is addressing these linguistic – and political – questions. We were all pulling together, for once.

Roll on next year’s meeting.

Update from Pittville History Works – October 2015

Mapping Pittville
The Cheltenham Old Town Survey (1855-7) is a detailed large-scale map of Cheltenham, and we’ve now integrated the Pittville section into the History Works data. This means that you can find the location on the map of any house included in the database and, in addition, you have the option of seeing plotted on the map the results of any database search you run. This is exciting new functionality for the site, and we would like to thank Cheltenham Local History Society, Gloucestershire Archives, and Cheltenham Borough Council for allowing us to use these maps.
Read more about the Pittville map and to try your own searches under the Advanced Search tab (not optimised for tablets). Here are the results of searching for clergy families at the time of the 1861 census

New icons to look out for on the web site
We’ve introduced three new icons on the web site. When you click on them you’ll be taken through to further relevant information.
The house icon leads you through to more information about the Pittville house it relates to.
The map icon shows you the location of your house etc on the large-scale Cheltenham Old Town Survey of 1855-7.
The manuscript icon shows you census returns without the standardised data sometimes used in searches.
There are several of these new icons on the Pittville Lives page.

Transcribing Clarence Square
We’ve almost finished transcribing the census booklets for Clarence Square (1841-1901). Numbers 1-25 are already on the web site, and we have about six more houses on the north side to complete. No 19 was home in 1851 to the family of Charles Gardener, a banker’s cashier (a senior post in the bank), born in Cainscross near Stroud.

Links to the Pittville entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The ODNB has kindly permitted us to link through to their entries for Pittville people. So you can read the biographies of, for example, Sir James Agg-Gardner (brewer and politician), George Cameron (East India Company army), Sybil ‘Queenie’ Newall (champion archer and Olympic medallist), and about ten other people. The links can be found on our Pittville Lives page.

Update from James Joyce Online Notes – September 2015

The JJON web site has been updated with the text of the latest issue, which contains seventeen articles as well as links to many of the (pre-Ulysses) texts in Joyce’s Paris library.

Harald Beck publishes details of a previously unknown correspondence between Joyce and the sculptor August Suter, to which access has been generously granted by the sculptor’s grandsons.

In the Ithaca episode Joyce describes Bloom in the style of a Dublin lost-dog advert. But the text was actually based on a curious and real advertisement run in the Dublin papers in 1902 – see A missing gent answering to the name of Bloom for the details. A comparable article identifies the source of Joyce’s horror headline A child bit by a bellows in Aeolus.

Bob Janusko examines the origins of Hamlet’s sledded poleaxe, and further articles explore brown-paper suits, a death at the Queen’s Hotel, Ennis (“where Rudolph Bloom … died”), and the variable price of Abram coal.