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A Quaker Librarian in James Joyce's Ulysses
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Notes and Documents35 A QUAKER LIBRARIAN IN JAMES JOYCE'S ULYSSES By Gerhard Friedrich* It is little known that James Joyce, in his novel Ulysses, added to the long list of Quaker characters in non-Quaker literature the striking dual caricature of a Quaker and a librarian named Lyster, who is attributed to theNational Library in Dublin in 1904. "Quakerlyster" plays an interesting minor role in the book.1 As the hero, Stephen Dedalus, and some literary friends are theorizing during a library visit about Shakespeare and his plays, he listens to them and enters into the discussion, but is repeatedly called away by an attendant to assist various patrons. The figure he cuts is humorously memorable: his meek auk's egg head is almost bald, and perhaps largely for that reason endowed with a benign forehead; appropriately large-eared, low-voiced, and "softcreakfooted ," he tiptoes, corantoes, or proceeds in a galliard rather than walks. That he is felicitous, friendly and earnest, dutiful, zealous and assiduous, seems to be to his credit both as a Quaker and a librarian, but one is made to feel that leading the way—however briskly and volubly—to all the provincial papers, is not a very vital and meaningful occupation. There is indeed something fatuous in the Quaker librarian's smiling on all sides equally (Joyce suggests a distinction between courtesy and the Inner Light). Moreover, this "most fair, most kind, most honest broadbrim" wears a blushing mask of primness. In his innocent idealism he is alarmed at the notion that Shakespeare's wife may have been unfaithful to her poet-husband, though he finds this view too illuminating and instructive. His hunger for human perfection is such that he resists historical facts and interpretations which simply "ought not to have been," and ponders instead what might have been but actually was not. Thus his analysis of life creaks; his comforting of others appears to be little more than an urbane * Gerhard Friedrich is Assistant Professor of English at Haverford College. 1 See James Joyce, Ulysses (New York, 1934), pp. 182-212, on which the following summary is based, except where otherwise indicated. 36Bulletin of Friends Historical Association purring or a plastering of blisters.2 Certainly, "tiptoeing up nearer heaven by the altitude of a chopine," he breathes too readily the spirit of reconciliation. And yet, despite all his Quakergray limitations, and in the midst of burlesque, the following brief statement put into the Quaker's mouth has an authentic, profound, genuine ring: "He is our friend. I need not mention names. Seek thou the light."3 It may then be doubted that he is himself intended only as a "beautiful ineffectual dreamer who comes to grief against hard facts." Incidentally, in connection with Quaker librarian Lyster, George Fox is introduced as "Christfox in leather trews," and there is a brief, somewhat speculative reference concerning his relation to women—in terms, on the one hand, of fox and vixen, and on the other, of fox and geese.4 2 Ibid., p. 583. 3 Ibid., p. 498. 4 Ibid., p. 191. ...