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  • Myths and Monuments:The Case of Alfred H. Hunter
  • Terence Killeen (bio)

The first intimation of the book we now know as Ulysses is contained in a postcard from James Joyce to his brother Stanislaus from Rome postmarked 30 September 1906: `I have a new story for Dubliners in my head. It deals with Mr Hunter'.1 The story was to be called 'Ulysses'.2 On 13 November Joyce asked Stanislaus how he liked the title and on 3 December he requested him to write what he remembered of Hunter.3 But the pressures of Joyce's life in Rome meant the story was never written: on 6 February 1907 he wrote to Stanislaus that '"Ulysses" never got any forrader than the title'.4 The idea then lay dormant until 1915, when Joyce informed Stanislaus in a postcard in German from Trieste, dated 16 June, that Ulysses (the novel) was begun.5

There has been much debate about the identity of 'Mr Hunter' and the nature of his involvement with Joyce. Richard Ellmann, who talked to Stanislaus Joyce about this, says in the first edition of his biography that Hunter was 'a dark-complexioned Dublin Jew [...] who was rumoured to be a cuckold'.6 In the second edition, he declares 'Hunter was rumoured to be Jewish and to have an unfaithful wife.'7 Some of the certainty of the first edition has wavered (Hunter is now only 'rumoured to be Jewish' and no statement as to his complexion is ventured). Again, in a later reference in the second edition, Hunter is described as a `putatively Jewish Dubliner'.8 In fact, these are not the only differences between Ellmann's account of Hunter in the first and second editions of his biography: some of the other disparities are even more significant and occasioned critical comment from another leading Joycean of Ellmann's generation, Hugh Kenner. What happened between the two versions of Ellmann's text was outlined by Kenner in his review of the second edition of the biography.9

The first edition of Ellmann's biography appeared in 1959. In 1968, the first paperback edition of Ulysses was published.10 It contained at the end of the volume an afterword by Richard Ellmann in which he sets out some of the background to the book.11 It includes an account of a fracas in June 1904 after which, Ellmann states, Joyce 'was dusted off and taken home by a man named [End Page 47] Alfred Hunter.'12 As Kenner points out, unwary readers might imagine that this declaration, which is unsourced, has the authority of the great biography behind it, but in fact, this episode is not mentioned at all in the first edition.13 It does appear in the second edition of the biography, but in a far more qualified fashion than in the Penguin afterword.14 Here we read 'If Dublin report can be trusted [...] Joyce was said to have been dusted off and taken home by a man named Alfred H. Hunter'. This sentence is accompanied by a footnote which states: 'W.P. D'Arcy, a friend of Joyce's father, heard the story from John Joyce; letter to me from D'Arcy. Other confirmation is lacking'.15

In his article in Mazes, (and earlier in A Colder Eye), Kenner outlines his own experiences with W.P. D'Arcy.16 He met D'Arcy in Dublin in November 1956 who imparted a good deal of information to him, none of it very well substantiated. Kenner says that D'Arcy told him that the original of Blazes Boylan was a man named Creech, and produced a photograph of this individual, but was unable to provide any further evidence to back up this claim.17

In view of the fact that Kenner wishes to highlight the unreliability of this source of Dublin lore, and thereby to tarnish Ellmann's account of Joyce's alleged 'rescue' it comes as something of a surprise to learn that his own account of this meeting is not without its inconsistencies. In a letter to Adaline Glasheen, 2 January 1957, Kenner tells her that the name of the original of Blazes Boylan given him...


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