Saturday, February 2, 2013

1132, or Happy Birthday, James Joyce!

Thanks to an early email from fellow Santa Cruz Waker Ed, I was not too tardy in learning that February 2nd is James Joyce's birthday. Don't judge me too harshly, Joyce fanatics--Bloomsday tends to eclipse everything else in my mind when it comes to Joyce dates.

So I thought I'd get a post up tonight in his honor, but little did I know that the post would be more relevant than I thought. I thought that at the very least, I could delve in a bit to a question that came up at our last meeting, which involved the significance of the number 1132. Tom knew it was a scientific measurement, the famous one from Ulysses, and when John arrived he knew it was a measurement about the speed of sound. I knew that it had to relate to some historic Irish date, probably that of an invasion. That's as far as we got.

Well, 1132 is, as John told us, 1132 feet per second is the speed of sound in air. And, as Tom was remembering, the famous 32 feet per second per second is the acceleration due to gravity at the surface of earth, and being about falling bodies, is relevant to Finnegans fall, and symbolic of other kinds of falling as well. As we know it appears in Ulysses many times as well as in the Wake, even if some of us don't always remember what the formula refers to. In fact, the number is significant in many other ways, as listed HERE .

However, this was not the first reference I found, and that was the one I found most interesting. I'll give you the link in a minute, but let me just say first that the writer, one "Riverend" Clarence A. Sterling wants to interest us in 1132 as a year, and sees certain 1132 street addresses as telling us that 1132 may not only be a year, but a place. He says that the last mention of 1132 as a number is in the phrase January 31st, 1132 AD. And I'm sure you are waiting with bated breath to know its significance, as I was.

St. Brigid's Well, Kildare

The good Riverend goes on to talk about St. Brighid, one of the three patron saints of Ireland. St. Brighid's Saint's Day is February 1st, and is followed by Imbolc, or Lambing Day, one of the four Gaelic Holy Days. He says that Joyce was very proud to have been born on Lambing Day, and thought of Brighid as his muse. It's interesting in relation to a discussion we were having about PQ's recent blog post about the Tunc page, and his group's thoughts about puncturing time. St. Brighid, somewhat like the Chasidic rabbis we were talking about, is said to have the ability to be anywhere, at any time. She is herself, she is also Mary. She is pagan AND Christian, not one to be pinned down. Yes, a perfect muse for Mr. Joyce.

All right, so what was January 31st, 1132 according to Riverend Sterling? It was the day that the Abbess of Kildare was raped, reputedly at the behest of one Dermot of MacMurrogh for the sake of destroying her sanctity and ruining her order. And who was this abbess? A direct descendent, according to the lore, of St. Brighid herself. Sterling says that the ruin of the abbey was the inside treachery that weakened the country and led to the possibility of the Anglo Norman invasion of 1169. As he says:

St Brighid's house had been purposefully shattered because it bred harmony. We are still trying to fit together the broken shards.

Another thing to think about. The Celtic calendar apparently doesn't coincide precisely with ours. This is because the day starts at sunset. So, as you will find in the page shortly to be disclosed, this way of seeing things blurs the boundaries between February 1st and February 2nd in our way of thinking. Totally appropriate, I'd say, to we aspiring Joyceans.

And do check out Riverend Sterling's essay HERE . You will find much fascinating food for  thought, more than I could relate here.

Joyce, Pound, John Quinn, Ford Madox Ford--Paris, 1923



  1. Good stuff, the late Riverend Clarence Sterling had many great things to say about the Wake.

    And somehow I'd never come across that great photo of Joyce, Pound, etc before!

  2. Yes, and their mysterious stony friend.

    I don't think I've come across Sterling before, but will be on the look out for more.

  3. If you go here ( and scroll down a bit you can find all of Sterling's Wake writings.

    He only wrote two standard articles but was a major contributor on FW email lists for years and his contributions have been assembled there.

  4. Thank you. I'm happy to have that.