Notes from Joyce's Dubliners

Very recently I made the decision to start reading more short story collections and this is the first one I decided to pick up. These notes are unlikely to be anything particularly interesting, they're simply for my own future reference.

The Sisters

There was no hope for him this time, it was his third stroke.

...I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse.

Paralysis, frightful demon.

Simony, originates from Simon Magus.

It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Worm - spiral condensing tube.

He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory.

Father Flynn is dead.

They're worried of the father's interest in that Rosicrucian there. Let a young lad run about with young lads.

Inefficacious - not producing the desired effect.

Debates over Latin pronounciation are mentioned in the notes.

Mortal vs Venial sins.

Flynn was a rather interesting and open mentor.

Tawny, of orange or yellowish brown color.

...I declined because I thought I would make too much noise eating them. She seemed disappointed.

Flynn received his last rites from another father. He was from slightly lower class origins but studied at the Irish College in Rome.

Breviary - collection in book form of prescribed prayers and readings. Daily use item.

Malapropism - mistaken use of a word. Solecism - breach of grammar.

It began when he spilled nothing from the chalice.

He laughed alone in the dark of the confession box.

An Encounter

The Halfpenny Marvel - 'to replace sensational trash with good clean instructive stories of adventure for boys.'

Joe Dillon, brother of fat Leo.

A spirit of unruliness diffused itself among us and, under its influence, differences of culture and constitution were waived.

These books were traded secretly in school.

What is this rubbish, is this what you read instead of studying your Roman history?

The man who wrote it, I suppose, was some wretched scribbler that writes these things for a drink.

National School, national school system set up in Ireland by the British. Blamed by Irish nationalists for the near extermination of the Irish language.

When I first read this passage I thought of my own childhood and my mother trying to teach me the Odyssey after we moved. Unfortunately when you're a kid you're most likely not terribly enthralled by the Greek and Roman classics, something I regret later in life.

They're planning to play a bit of hooky.

Punishment at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the hour of Jesus' death.

Ringsend - working class district.

Liffey - river that separates North and South Dublin.

I find it significant that the previous story showed characters with a sentiment that young lads should be out with young lads, and next we get a story of just that. Shooting rocks at lasses and lads and all.

Raspberry lemonade.

...chewed on one of those green stems on which girls tell fortunes. What are these?

He began to speak to us about girls... Oh no.

Magnetized by words of his own speech, his mind was slowly circling round and round in the same orbit.

A pair of bottle-green eyes.

How my heart beat as he came running across the field to me! He ran as if to bring me aid. And I was penitent; for in my heart I had always despised him a little.


So far I think this is my favorite of his short stories.

Brown bricks manufactured in-city.

James Clarence Mangan - poet of doomed loved and despair.

Idylls of the King

'This night of our lord.'

North Richmond Street - blind cul-de-sac, you end up where you started.

I don't think this story mentions Flynn explicitly but talk of a dead priest does provide a connecting thread. Save for later.

The space of sky above us was the color of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns.

I recognized a silence like that which pervades a church after a service.

Mangan's sister - nice allusion. ...yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.

My body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.

Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the sodden beds.

I notice as he's waiting for his uncle the prose slows down and takes stock a little bit.

I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real.

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.


Thomas Moore's Eveleen's Bower. Eveline, also the name of a Victorian pornographic novel.

Down somewhere in the country, capital indifference to rural sections.

The first big paragraph establishes her home, tells a little of its history and how its changed, a little of her family and childhood and establishes that she wants to leave.

It was hard work - a hard life - but now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly undesirable life.

The previous paragraph establishes her fear of her father.

Her father forbid Frank's courtship of her.

As she mused the pitiful vision of her mother's life laid its spell on the very quick of her being - that life of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness.

The boat blew a long mournful whistle into the mist.

She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.

After the Race

...through this channel of poverty and inaction the Continent sped its wealth and industry.

'The cars of their friends, the French'

Villona. Merchant prince. Within the limits of reasonable recklessness.

The journey laid a magical finger on the genuine pulse of life and gallantly the machinery of human nerves strove to answer the bounding courses of the swift blue animal.

Goes from race to dinner.

He admired the dexterity with which their host directed the conversation.

They migrated to an American's yacht and played cards until daybreak.

Two Gallants

Racing tissues - cheap publications of horse racing.

Pennybrook Fair - time of riotous excess.

'Joyce himself was obsessed with the theme of betrayal and treachery.'

Lothario - rake and seducer.

Harp - symbolic of Ireland because of Thomas Moore.

In Irish tradition poetry or ballads are often portrayed as a wronged or abused woman.

Like illuminated pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture before which, chaning shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging unceasing murmur.

The harpist plays mournful music before our lad's attempt to pick up a slavey girl.

His bulk, his easy pace and the solid sound of his boots had something of the conqueror in them.

He found trivial all that was meant to charm him and did not answer the glances that invited him to be bold.

This vision made him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit.

He suffered all the pangs and thrills of his friend's situation as well as those of his own.

Then with a grave gesture he extended a hand towards the light and, smiling, opened it slowly to the gaze of his disciple. A small gold coin shone in the palm.

The Boarding House

'Handy with the mits.'

Low Mass - shortest mass of the day at noon, favored by those with hangovers.

Screw - salary.

One night he went for his wife with a cleaver and she had to stay in a neighbor's home.

Her eyes, which were grey with a shade of green through them, had a habit of glancing upwards when she spoke with anyone, which made her look like a little perverse Madonna.

Polly, of course, flirted with the young men but Mrs. Mooney, who was a shrewd judge, knew that the young men were only passing the time away: none of them meant business.

Mr. Doran was a man of 34, so youth couldn't be blamed for his taking advantage of Polly.

Dublin is a small city: everyone knows everyone else's business.

It was not altogether his fault that it had happened. He remembered well, with the curious patient memory of the celibate, the first casual caresses her dress, her breath, her fingers had given him.

She regarded the pillows for a long time and the sight of them awakened in her mind secret amiable memories.

Then she remembered what she had been waiting for.

A Little Cloud

'That was Ignatius Gallaher all out.' A grudging admiration despite manifest faults.

East, direction associated with escape from Dublin.

Lithia - mineral water.

A good sit, good situation or employment.

Deoc an doruis. Irish: a door drink, or drink on the way out.

George Gordon Byron.

He began to invent sentences and phrases from the notices which his book would get.

-Beautiful? said Ignatius Gallaher, pausing on the word and on the flavour of his drink. It's not so beautiful, you know. Of course it is beautiful... But it's the life of Paris, that's the thing. Oh, there's no city like Paris for gaiety, movement, and excitement...

...and may you never die until I shoot you.

He looked coldly into the eyes of the photograph and they answered coldly.

Little Chandler sustained for one moment the gaze of her eyes and his heart closed together as he met the hatred in them.

Little Chandler felt his cheeks suffused with shame and he stood back out of the lamplight. He listened while the paroxysm of the child's sobbing grew less and less; and tears of remorse started in his eyes.


Typewritten documents at the time of this story were not legally binding.

Snug - small enclosed space in a pub for privacy.

Curate - underbarmen, same as a religious term for the curate who attends a priest at mass.

Different law firms for different religious groups.

My nabs - jocular prejorative.

Chapel - what we'd call churches where I live are commonly called chapels in colloquial Irish.