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Posts Tagged ‘James Joyce’

James Joyce was an astute observer of both male and female fashions. Within Ulysses he repeatedly mentions the uncomfortable nature of the stiff collars worn by men and also notes how various styles of necktie signified class and status. I’ve gathered together some contemporaneous Irish images from Dublin, Belfast and Kilkenny photographic studios illustrating the type of attire that Joyce was referring to.

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“Always know a fellow courting: collars and cuffs. Well cocks and lions do the same and stags. Same time might prefer a tie undone or something.” Nausicaa

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“Bloom stood behind the boy with the wreath looking down at his sleek combed hair and at the slender furrowed neck inside his brand new collar.” Hades

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“What caused him irritation in his sitting posture? Inhibitory pressure of collar (size 17) and waistcoat (5 buttons), two articles of clothing superfluous in the costume of mature males and inelastic to alterations of mass by expansion. How was the irritation allayed? He removed his collar, with contained black necktie and collapsible stud, from his neck to a position on the left of the table.” Ithaca

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“He rustled the pleated pages, jerking his chin on his high collar. Barber’s itch. Tight collar he’ll lose his hair. Better leave him the paper and get shut of him.” Lotus-Eaters

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“Master Dignam walked along Nassau street, shifted the pork steaks to his other hand. His collar sprang up again and he tugged it down. The blooming stud was too small for the buttonhole of the shirt, blooming end to it.” Wandering Rocks

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“Dull eye: collar tight on his neck, pressing on a blood vessel or something.” Hades

 

 

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Phoenix-Park-Racing

The Phoenix Park’s association with motorsport started as early as 1903. The Gordon Bennett Cup Race which took place in Ireland in that year is cited as the background for James Joyce’s short story After the Race. Joyce used motor racing to lampoon the aspirations of Dublin’s social climbing nouveau riche. It was one of fifteen stories that appeared in Dubliners and this month marks the 100th anniversary of its publication. A reimagining and rewriting of these stories, Dubliners 100, will be launched today.

This lady was photographed in the Phoenix Park sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Due to petrol rationing racing was suspended during the Second World War and did not re-commence until the late 1940s. On the subject of rationing, I was delighted to have my article ‘Coupons, Clothing and Class: The Rationing of Dress in Ireland, 1942-1948’ published in the latest issue of Costume.

The fashions worn by this women indicate that the photo was taken towards the end of the 1940s or in the early 1950s. Her loose fitting, midi length shift dress and matching jacket were typical of the post-war period. Her stylish outfit reflects the comparative wealth of those involved in motor sport and mirrors the glamour and allure alluded to by Joyce in After the Race.

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I’ve written a few blog posts on the photographic references within Joyce’s Ulysses including one on Milly Bloom’s photographic apprenticeship. This Bloomsday, I thought I’d focus on two celebrity portraits which were referenced within the book. Part II, Episode Thirteen, Nausicaä, takes place on Sandymount Strand. The young woman Gerty MacDowell notices that Leopold Bloom is looking at her and his appearance reminds her favourably of Martin Harvey, an actor, who was known for his exotic looks: “She could see at once by his dark eyes and his pale intellectual face that he was a foreigner, the image of the photo she had of Martin Harvey, the matinée idol.”

English actor Martin Harvey (1863-1944) appeared on stage in Ireland on many occasions and according to The Irish Times of the 26th November 1904, crowds thronged to see him in the Theatre Royal where he performed Hamlet. His photograph was taken in the same month by Chancellor’s of Dublin and doubtless it sold well.

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The actress and beauty Maud Branscombe (active 1870s-1880s) is referenced by Joyce in Episode 17, Ithaca. A faded copy of her portrait is included in a mental inventory that Bloom makes of the contents of a cabinet at his home 7 Eccles Street. She belongs to a previous generation, her heyday being the 1880s, when she made more money from photographic sales than from acting. 65 photographic portraits of her can be found in the collection of the New York Public Library and the following quotation, dating from 1887, elaborates upon her fame:

“Maud Branscombe, the actress, has been the best photographed individual the world has probably ever known. She has four or five years been playing in England, whence she had come to this country, where copies of her face were most numerous and their sales heaviest. In private she is not of attractive appearance, but her features are such that above the shoulders she ‘takes well’ in almost every one of the numberless positions in which she has been placed before the camera. One of her cartes has so saintly an aspect that it has often been taken for that of a nun, which is perhaps the highest compliment that can possibly be paid to a burlesque actress.”

I really like the way Joyce uses these popular cultural references and how they demonstrate the ubiquity of celebrity culture and its interaction with photography.

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Dublin City Libraries have chosen James Joyce’s Dubliners to be the featured title in their initiative One City, One Book. I’ve mentioned the book before in earlier posts, however, the project brought to mind several images from my collection which remind me of Joyce’s references to photography within the short stories. I love Joyce’s descriptions of interiors, particularly in The Dead and the following photographs feature similar subjects and conjure up the same atmosphere as occurs in the stories.

From The Dead:  “Her photograph stood before the pierglass. She held an open book on her knees and was pointing out something in it to Constantine who, dressed in a man-o-war suit, lay at her feet.”

The man-o-war suit mentioned in the story was a version of the then popular sailor suits worn by little boys during the mid to late nineteenth-century. The trousers in this variety were long legged and were often worn with a wide-brimmed straw hat like the example below from the Werner studio of Grafton Street. Joyce himself was photographed as a young boy wearing a sailor suit.

From A Little Cloud: “It was Annie’s photograph. Little Chandler looked at it, pausing at the thin tight lips. She wore the pale blue summer blouse which he had brought her home as a present one Saturday … He looked coldly into the eyes of the photograph and they answered coldly. Certainly they were pretty and the face itself was pretty. But he found something mean in it. Why was it so unconscious and ladylike? The composure of the eyes irritated him. They repelled him and defied him: there was no passion in them, no rapture.”

I think the expression of the woman above matches that described by Joyce in the story ‘The Little Cloud’. Blouse and skirt combinations were very popular during the 1890s and 1900s – the period during which Joyce wrote Dubliners and when the story is set.
From Eveline: “And yet during all those years she had never found out the name of the priest whose yellowing photograph hung on the wall above the broken harmonium beside the coloured print of the promises made to Blessed Mary May Alacoque. He had been a school friend of her father. Whenever he showed the photograph to a visitor her father used to pass it with a casual word:
‘He is in Melbourne now.’ ”

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In my mind’s eye, I like to think that Leopold Bloom’s daughter, Milly, looked a little like this young girl who was photographed by Chancellor’s of Dublin. In Ulysses, fifteen year-old Milly is portrayed as a lively and headstrong girl who was sent from Dublin to the midlands town of Mullingar to serve her time as an apprentice photographer. She reports her progress to her father in a letter stating that she is ‘getting on swimming in the photo business now.’ Bloom appeared to think that her aptitude for photography might be hereditary citing a cousin in Hungary who ran a successful photographic studio.

The career of photographer was probably a good choice for a sociable young girl. The other duller option, which is mentioned in the novel, was to send her to a Skerry’s secretarial college to learn shorthand and typing. However, Bloom also hints that Milly was sent to Mullingar to keep her occupied and out of harm’s way. 

So what was the the probability of a young girl being apprenticed to a photographer in early 20th century Ireland?  The 1901 census reveals that 110 of the 485 photographers in Ireland were women. Of these, 91 were single women and 74% of the total were under the age of 31.

James Joyce was familiar with the town of Mullingar having spent a period there in 1900 and 1901 (see Leo Daly, James Joyce and the Mullingar Connection, Dolmen Press, 1975) . During this time there were several photographic studios operating in the town, the largest and best known was that of Philip Shaw. In the 1901 census, his 17 year-old niece Ethel was his apprentice. Could this studio and Ethel have been Joyce’s inspiration? 

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I took a stroll down to Park Place yesterday to see if I could locate the building from which Guthrie Brothers operated. I have always liked the row of two and three storey houses which are located on an otherwise bleak stretch beside the Phoenix Park. The walk between Conyngham Road and Islandbridge features in James Joyce’s short story ‘A painful case’ where it is described as lonely and desolate. According to the 1901 census the business was in No.7 Park Place, however, I think some of the houses must have been demolished as there is no number 7 on that row now.

The Guthrie Brothers were born in China and South Africa, however, their mother hailed from County Fermanagh. They describe themselves on the census as ‘Photographic Artists’. The business was ideally located beside several military barracks including Islandbridge (Clancy) Barracks and the Royal now Collins Barracks. I believe the man in the photograph served in a regiment called The Buffs otherwise known as the Royal East Kent Regiment. It was probably taken between the 1890s and 1910s and is in the Cabinet Card format. A finger print is visible on the image- perhaps it was one of the Guthrie Brothers or their assistants! This person’s face and demeanor does nothing to dispel the image of the dour and stern military man!  

Like the Guthrie Brothers, Mr Honey (great name) boasts royal patronage. I think the man in the photograph also served with the Buffs though it is a more humane portrait than that taken by the Guthries. The sitter is younger and is not as imposing. The photographer was born in Devizes, Wiltshire and moved to Cork in the 1890s. The 1901 census shows that daughters gave violin lessons. 

The design on the verso of the photograph has some nice little details including a bamboo fan featuring a seascape and some ‘oriental’ patterns and line drawings. I bought the two photographs separately but I think they really make a good pairing!

 

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