SHAUN AND HIS POST: LA POSTE ET LES MOYENS DE COMMUNICATION IN VI.B.16.

Ingeborg Landuyt

Originally published in Papers on Joyce 3 (1997): 21-48.

By the beginning of 1924, Joyce had already written out most of the first part of Finnegans Wake and he was forging on, gradually conceptualising a structure. In earlier chapters, he had introduced his main character Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, discussed his crime and reactions of the Dublin man in the street. He was now making the logical step from Mrs Earwicker's letter of defense and its writer to the delivery. On the sixteenth of January 1924, Joyce still envisaged this delivery as one of three pieces following (the present) chapter I.5:
Between the words 'penman' and 'Revered' are three further passages, a description of Shem-Ham-Cain-Esau etc and his penmanship, Anna Livia's visits and collaboration and delivery of the memorial by Shawn the post (British Library catalogue # 57347-SCH 51430, 133. A slightly distorted version of this passage can be found in Letters I: 208).
The word "penman" is the last word of the addition to I.5 that he was sending with that letter (I.5§4), and "Revered" refers to "The Revered Letter", Anna Livia's defense of her husband (I.5§2, which was incorporated into book IV in the late thirties).

Joyce was still a long way from a complete and fixed conception. He did compose the Shem(-Ham-Cain-Esau etc.) chapter soon afterwards however, and then went on to the Anna Livia Plurabelle passage. Where Joyce's letter seems to imply that he would describe in this chapter mother Anna visiting Shem and helping him with the letter, the actual episode would not mention the letter and hardly its writer. In the first delivery passage "Shaun the Post", the mailman on duty, seems to be distinct from Shem's brother, who is named "Johannes Epistolophorus". At the bottom of this fragment are four notes, the last one of which could already be planning a more prominent place for the Shaun character in his role as a mailman: "postman & style of narrative symbolical of our time" (FDV 91). David Hayman indicates in The Wake in Transit that "Shaun and his function are seen [in this note] as aspects of a period characterized by rapid communication and communicators" (Hayman, 182). This idea was not new to Joyce. Already in the "Aeolus" chapter of Ulysses, contemporary Dublin was evocated by clanging trams and other traffic, the post office and newspaper offices bustling with activity. In the Evening Telegraph headquarters, postal elements crop up again. Newspaper vendor Davy Stephens is described as a king's courier and another character is labeled "Messenger" (U-G 7.762). Even the "Naussicaa" chapter had a remotely Shaunlike postman with "the glowworm's lamp at his belt gleaming". For the chapter that would later on correspond with Vico's modern age, Joyce must have had something similar in mind. From the first draft onwards, the eventual book III starts off as an almost apocalyptic vision, abounding with christian elements. The saviour who is revealed in this modern landscape is christlike Shaun, with choirs resonating in the background: "Shaun ! Shaun ! Post the post !" (JJA 57:8) Joyce couldn't have given more prominence to his symbolical postman.

The brief delivery section was abandoned after two revisions and transformed into "Shaun the Post" because "[t]his would make the second part of the book fairly complete with the letter" (Letters III: 90). In March, Joyce started drafting the first Shaun chapters (III.1-2). This evolution of "Shaun the Post" is reflected in the Finnegans Wake notebooks, Joyce's filter between the outside world and his Work in Progress. Until VI.B.16 (dated April-May 1924 by Danis Rose), none of the notebooks explicitly connects Shaun with mailing. There are some references to "post", but they are very few and not systematic at all. Besides, most of the time a doorpost is intended. In notebook VI.B.01 (dated late February-April 1924 by Rose), which preceded VI.B.16, Shaun takes center stage. Especially his opposition with his brother is worked out, and there are several references to his journey backward. From the third scribble onwards, VI.B.16 is the notebook in which the post-note gathering for Shaun really started.

Consequently, the (contemporaneous) first drafts of book III (1-2) partly were based upon notes from VI.B.01 and the beginning of VI.B.16. In the fair copy, later mail-related VI.B.16 material was used to elaborate on this text. Shaun had to be present as a mailman throughout his chapters. An important source for these entries is La Poste et les Moyens de Communication des peuples à travers les siècles. Messageries, Chemins de fer, Télégraphes, Téléphones, written by Eugène Gallois and published in Paris in 1894. Gallois was a publicist, painter and especially a traveller. Following his interest in geography and later on charged with missions by the ministries of Education and for the Colonies, he became one of the most widely-travelled Frenchmen of his time. As a result of his voyages, he wrote quite a lot of books on the countries he had visited, such as Une promenade en Russie (1896), En Birmanie, au pays des pagodes et des monastères (1898) and many others. He wrote for many periodicals as well and gave lectures. His publications circulated in both university and commercial milieus. In a contemporary biography, he is described as "un vulgarisateur dans toute l'acception du terme" (Archives Biographiques Contemporaines, 105).

La Poste et les Moyens de Communication was Gallois' first important work. Although not exactly a traveller's report, it is closely related to his interests. In the introduction, his passion for travelling is revealed: "il n'y a rien de plus instructif que de voyager en pays étrangers pour former un homme et lui ouvrir le coeur et les yeux" (Gallois, 6). But at the same time, he reacts against the whim of exoticism which systematically rejects the local. Gallois stresses his intention of writing a demonstrative study based on facts. In order to acquire these, he wandered through the halls of the Postal Museum in Berlin. His book is almost a catalogue of this museum, in each chapter he visits another department. La Poste et les Moyens de Communication gives a historical and geographical outline of postal history and all that it involves, before and after the advent of the railways, including the invention of the telegraph and the telephone. In this very readable book, information, anecdotes and illustrations are mixed with dates and numbers. It also contains a lot of descriptions: facts about engravings, documents, devices and curiosities on display in the Berlin museum are conscientiously recorded.

All in all, the book is a popular scientific work, like many others Joyce used. It seems akin to the editor's series "bibliothèque scientifique contemporaine," which lists books about such disparate topics as hypnotism, photography, birds, earthquakes, pygmees and much more. Joyce read through the book from beginning to end, jotting down or translating words and bits of sentences in his notebook, taking a bit from everything, but more from the first chapters. In his notes Joyce was really focusing on postal elements in all their historical and geographic variations, which he no doubt intended to use shortly afterwards in his Shaun chapters. Related to these are references to writing itself, for instance the three types of letters the Egyptians possessed (B16:29) or secret ways in conveying messages (B16:30). But he was likewise interested in the more modern means of communication such as newspapers(B16:64f), "hilltop semaphores"(B16:68), which were signalling towers, and the telegraph (B16:71). Elements related to transport itself also attracted his attention. He wrote down accurately all kinds of details about Roman roads and vehicles (B16:32f), and even the forging of horses (B16:47) gave him a full page of notes! Yet these notes are not as disparate as indexes in other notebooks. Joyce was obviously collecting as much information as possible, taking the postman as a starting point and zooming out towards a more general communication context. And also passages written earlier had not been forgotten. One of the letters in the whole postal context was the "Boston post card" the hen finds on a dunghill in (the present) chapter 5 of Finnegans Wake. The scraps the hen unearths seem to come from the epistle Anna Livia has written in defense of her husband. On page 64 of notebook B.16, Joyce copied the title of a Boston newspaper, the "Boston Newsletter", with the date of its foundation. More significantly even, the longest day on the North Pole which Joyce recorded on the next notebook page, does not start on the 16th of May as in the original, but on the exact date the postcard still had, the 11th of May this date was still present on the fair copy of 1.*2 of December 1923 [JJA 46: 252]; it was later changed to the "last of the first" on the first typescript [JJA 46: 327]). As usual Joyce was adapting what he found to his own project. This information however was only used about ten years later, when the date had been dropped for quite some time.

More than forty of the notes from Gallois were crossed out and added to the Finnegans Wake drafts not long afterwards, some of them unfortunately in a cancelled fragment (JJA 57:107). A few others were deleted in further drafts. Most of the notes have been inserted into the fair copy of the second draft of book III (III1A.*2/1D.*2//2A.*2/2C.*2), dated May 1924 by David Hayman. Almost all entries that ended up in book III were crossed out in red pencil. Most of the entries that were used later on for other chapters, were cancelled in other colours. But these are very rare. VI.B.16 is very much a book III-notebook.

The discovery of the source of these entries may elucidate several Finnegans Wake passages which until now have escaped identification by the annotators and also restrict much-too-farreaching interpretations. The verb "obliterate" from FW 445.20 for instance (VI.B.16: 56), would not really be clarified by an elaborate etymological explanation or a Derridian argumentation on the litter/letter in this word. Joyce read in Gallois that this word denotes the cancellation of postage stamps in postal terms. Protagonist "Rural Haun" (FW 471.35) from VI.16: 57 is the "facteur rural" from Gallois p. 197-8. This unfortunate postman has to earn "his board in the swealth of his fate" (FW 408.1). The Annotations already indicate the biblical background of this fragment -"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (Gen 3:19)- but this is only the indirect source. The postal administration had appropriated the biblical verse and turned it into: "La Terre ne produira pour toi que de la boue et des bornes kilométriques, et tu gagneras ton pain quotidien à la sueur de tes pieds." (La Poste et les Moyens de Communication 197), a saying which Joyce transcribed in VI.16: 57 as "earn bread sweat feet". The "extraprofessional postages" which Shaun will try and collect on FW 456.29 were originally derived from the "extra fee" (VI.B. 16: 66) which senders of unfranked letters have to pay, and not as Shaun claims for "nondesirable printed matter".

The Gallois notebook entries may even date back to a slightly earlier period. First of all, "$/\ asleep at's post", which occurs one notebook page before the Gallois index, is (possibly) echoed in a letter of 12.04.24: "I have now ceased to work altogether [...] Shaun is asleep at his post" (unpublished; British Library catalogue # 57347-SCH 51430, 144). Moreover, some of the insertions into the first draft dating from March-April 1924 may already have been taken from the Gallois notes. The "rural $/\" entry was an addition to the first draft of book III. The same is true for "the 1st Humphrey", which may have been modelled upon "Clovis Ier" or "Dagobert Ier", who are mentioned on p 42 in Gallois.

Joyce did not lose interest in his notebooks after he had compiled and used them for a while. In his Finnegans Wake patchwork, he made use of both his recent and earlier notebooks. Some isolated entries weren't used until later on, and for different chapters. The "tournintaxes" (FW 005.32) or "Thurn und Taxis" (VI.B. 16: 49) family ran a postal service for a couple of centuries. Two entries ended up in I.4 in 1927: the (at the time) recent shift to counting twentyfour hours in a day, instead of twice twelve ("24 o'clock" on VI.B.16: 53) and "New South Ireland" (VI.B.16: 65), formed in analogy with New South Wales. Some of the notes were inserted into III.3, which Joyce started writing some months after the first two "Watches of the night" (FDV 220). Among other things, the manyfold "Fourfold my witness / Triple my trust / A twicer my sire" were joined in the second draft (JJA 58:19) by the horse-related "yoke", "tandem" and quadriga from VI.B.16: 33. At the end of 1928, Joyce also inserted "Fluctuat nec mergitur" into this chapter (FW 496.26). This is the motto of Paris, as the Annotations explain, but only so via the "Marchands de l'eau", who were given by Philip-August the monopoly on all transports by water. Their seal has become the coat of arms of Paris.

When Joyce was reworking the transition proofs of book III in the thirties, he returned to the corresponding notebook VI.C.01 and extracted many remaining (but somewhat deformed) entries (between 1933 and 1937, France Raphael transcribed most of Joyce's earliier notebooks that had become illegible for their author; this notebbok was dated 1933 by Rose). This did not happen straight from the notebook to the text, but via separate sheets on which he collected the notes per chapter (this happened in extradraft sheets 47486a-4, 11, 11v, 29v, 41, 41v, 59 and 60 [JJA 61: 119, 127-28, 151, 166-67, 186-87]). Some of these notes had already been mutilated in the transcription by France Raphael and they became unrecognisable deformations in Finnegans Wake. "Not -- glory" (VI.B. 16: 36), a translation of the French "non sans gloire" for instance, suddenly transformed into "net -- glory" (VI.C. 01: 14), and ended up in FW 444.32, causing Shaun to warn his sister that he will know when she is "dreaming of net glory". All relevance to the origin of the expression seems to have disappeared. Also because of Joyce's impossible handwriting, "Bridgetoll" (VI.B. 16: 37) became "bridgecloth" (VI.C. 01: 15; FW 569.01). And the "Turk courier" from VI.B.16: 63 underwent a whole series of transformations. He was transcribed by France Raphael as "Trick conner" (VI.C.01: 30) and taken over by Joyce in his notes as "Tuck conner" or "Tuck corier" (JJA 61:167,187) but he does not seem to have made it into the pages of Finnegans Wake. The same holds for Mme Raphael's "Curse evil of war / and admire welsh virtue" (VI.C.01: 21), originally "warlike virtues" on page 48 of VI.B.16. "Fieldpost clusor" however, was restored to the original "Fieldpost censor" from VI.B.16: 56 and "vorapper" (VI.C.01: 35) reappeared as "wrapper" (FW 511.36).

Again, the Gallois source may clarify some expressions in the Wake. There is for instance the mysterious "Let flee me fiacckles, says the grand old manoark" on page 468 of Finnegans Wake. The Annotations explain that a "fiacre" is a hackney coach. But that doesn't make everything transparant. Who is the monarch ? What is the original context ? The phrase is derived from an anecdote in La Poste et les Moyens de Communication. The young Louis XIV is reported to have ordered to one of his officers: "Faites avancer mon carrosse!", his illiterateness hereby causing a gender shift in the till then female "carrosse". Joyce noted this interesting anecdote under the word "fiacre" (VI.B.16: 50). Later transformations were to carry other overtones. "I will tie a knot in my stringamejip to letter you with my silky paper" on FW 458 combines two Chinese ways of communicating. Their first epistles consisted of knotted strings, later on they wrote their letters on silk. On p. 490, Yawn's questioners ask him whether he has a bull "with a whistle in his tail to scare other birds". The Chinese gave their carrier pigeons minuscule whistles in their tails in order to keep away birds of prey. Joyce transferred this note (via VI.B.16: 64, VI.C.01: 30 and his extradraft notesheet JJA 61:166) into Finnegans Wake. Yawn replies to his questioners that he was attending a funeral. On the same page of extradraft notes is added another pigeon-entry: "I hear from ^Homer's^ kerryer's [or carrier] pidgeons". These witnesses of the funeral games ended up twenty-five pages later, in FW 515.

With Joyce, things are never simple. Some of his notes were -accidentally ?- skipped from his go-between notes, or transformed in such a way that they have become unrecognisable. Heavily transformed passages are difficult to trace back to their origins. An interesting example is Joyce's "Hammerfest" notes. (Already slightly adapting,) he jotted down in VI.B.16: 65 the earlier mentioned long night on the North Pole, that begins on the 11th of November and ends the 23rd of January, and an equally long day that begins on the 11th of May and lasts as long as the 16th of July. He also noted that both last roughly 74 days. Gallois gave this information in the context of exceptional newspapers. Madame Raphael already adapted some of these notes in VI.C.01: 31: "Night line 11 Nov. / ends 23 Jan. 74 ds / day begins 11 May / [...] July 74 ds". In this version, the notes were cancelled, adapted and transferred to the notesheets: "night that rises with 11/11 sets with 23.i. & the day that sinks with 24.7 rise when May was 11." The notes have been turned upside down but the facts are the same. The only insertion into III that could refer to this riddle is "That rising day sinks rosing in a ^night of^ nine week's wonder" (JJA 61:77, FW 517.31f). Seventy-four days and nine weeks do not correspond, and not much of the rest has remained either. The Hammerfest phenomenon has receded into the background.

With the discovery of parts of Shaun's postal background, some additional information has been detected, which may complement the prime manual for all Finnegans Wake explorers, Roland McHugh's Annotations to Finnegans Wake. And although what I have found is a mixed (mail)bag, findings such as these are indispensable for the documentation of the genesis and a correct understanding of the whole of Finnegans Wake. These data may be a fraction of an accumulated mass of overtones but in the final text they are there all the same and in some instances they stand out clearly against this background. The source has introduced information that would not be accessible otherwise. Another piece of Joyce's "nice intricate Mah Jongg puzzle" (Letters III: 82) has been found.

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Index
Index Conventions


WORKS CONSULTED

Les Archives Biographiques Contemporaines: Revue Mensuelle Analytique et Critique des Hommes et des OEuvres, 1st series.

Eugène Gallois, La poste et les moyens de communication des peuples à travers les siècles: messageries, chemins de fer, télégraphes, téléphones, Paris: Librairie J.B. Ballière et fils,1894.

David Hayman, The "Wake" in Transit, Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1990.

Roland McHugh, Annotations to "Finnegans Wake," revised edition, Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1991.

Danis Rose, The Textual Diaries of James Joyce, Dublin: Lilliput, 1995.

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landuyt@uia.ua.ac.be