Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I've been a bit too busy to think much less post about our last meeting and Wake discussion. But I thought I'd at least mention a felicitous moment. In another book discussion I was involved in this past month or so, we undertook to read The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, by Tobias Smollett. An expedition I actually only got halfway through, but never mind. I happened to be with a couple of my fellow Wakers directly after the discussion, and it was only then that I realized--or it was realized for me, I forget which--that the very title of the book was a good old HCE find, given that Joyce never seems to care much about letter order here.

Given this, I of course began to wonder if Smollett might show up in Joyce in other ways. A quick web search reveals that the answer comes as early as page 29, lines 4-8:

“(Ivoeh!) the breezy side (for showm!), the height of Brewster’s chimpney and as broad below as Phineas Barnum; humph — ing his share of the showthers is senken on him he’s such a grandfallar, with a pocked wife in pickle that’s a flyfire and three lice nittle clinkers, two twilling bugs and one midgit pucelle.”

Finnegans Wiki expands upon that phrase "lice nittle clinkers" HERE . It mentions Humphry Clinker, and also tells us that Smollett=smolt, or salmon, which is nice.

So Joyce certainly knew Smollett's work (who is surprised?) and even had a copy of Roderick Random in his Trieste library. And it was interesting in the portion of Clinker I read to see some early forms of the word play that would later show up in Joyce, although Joyce of course takes this to the nth degree.

In fact...I just came across this interview with the poet Michael Graves (Happy National Poetry Month, by the way) in which he quotes his mentor James Wright:

He said Tobias Smollet wrote as if he had an erection and all the blood in his body had rushed to it. He also said Smollet's epistolary novel Humphrey Clinker was an influence on the deliberate mispellings of Finnegans Wake.

So you don't have to take my word for it.

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