Buck Mulligan’s folkloric offering to Haines in “Telemachus” is one of his better-known comic bits:
–When I makes tea I makes tea, as old mother Grogan said. And when I makes water I makes water. . . .
–So I do, Mrs Cahill, says she. Begob, ma’am, says Mrs Cahill, God send you don’t make them in the one pot.(U 1.357–62)
When Mulligan says, very earnestly, “That’s folk . . . for your book, Haines” (U 1.365), I think most readers are inclined to disbelieve him; for that matter, so, in all probability, is Haines, who has gotten off a good line himself (“By Jove, it is tea”—U 1.359). But, in fact, it is folk-lore, or at least the first part appears as a story told in 1955 by a folk informant, Tadhg Kelly of County Clare:
Father Charlie’s Visit to Ryans
The Ryans behind in C. . . were always inviting the priests back for tea, and one time, they had a streel of a lassie as a servant girl. This lady’s name was Mollo Quinn and Mrs. Ryan drummed into her that morning that Father Charlie would be coming out for tea that evening, so everything was to be in order. ‘Twas the first time that since Mollo went in service to the Ryans that they were having such high company. Anyway things went great, and after the tea been all over, and Father Charlie was sitting down at the table Mollo came along to clear the things away.
“That was a very nice cup of tea, my good woman,” he says to her in all sincerity.
“Ah, Father,” she says, “there’s nothing like a good cup of tea, and when I makes tea I makes tea, and when I makes water I makes water.”1
Patricia Lysaght refers to the passage in Ulysses in her Ulster Folklife essay but seems to assume that Joyce and Kelly are both repeating a known story. Since the tale recorded in the manuscripts is dated 1955, it is, of course, possible that Joyce’s 1922 version was original with him (or with Mulligan or with Oliver Gogarty) and somehow worked its way into the folk imagination, just as W. B. Yeats always hoped to hear his poems sung by the peasantry.2 But, unfortunately, I doubt it. [End Page 361] We can still speculate as to whether Mulligan’s capper line is original with him, or, as is the case with so many of his witty comments, it is also plagiarized.
R. Brandon Kershner is Alumni Professor of English at the University of Florida. He is the author of Joyce, Bakhtin, and Popular Literature and The Twentieth-Century Novel: An Introduction. He is also the editor of the Bedford Books edition of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce and Popular Culture, and Cultural Studies of James Joyce. He has published some forty articles and book chapters on various aspects of modern literature and culture and a similar number of reviews and poems. Joyce, Bakhtin, and Popular Literature won the 1990 award from the American Conference for Irish Studies as the best work of literary criticism in the field. He is a member of the Board of Advisory Editors of the James Joyce Quarterly and has been elected to the Board of Trustees of the International James Joyce Foundation.
1. This anecdote is quoted in Patricia Lysaght’s article, “‘When I makes Tea, I makes Tea ...’: Innovation in Food—The Case of Tea in Ireland,” Ulster Folklife, 33 (1987), 62, and was found in the Main Manuscript Collection, Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin, folder 1392, item 125.
2. See Dorothy Wellesley, ed., Letters on Poetry from W. B. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1940), p. 122.