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Marcella the Midget Queen

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 48, Number 1, Fall 2010
pp. 149-153 | 10.1353/jjq.2010.0032

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

She may be a mere marcella, this midget madgetcy, Misthress of Arths.

(FW 112.28–29)

She was, her card announced, “The Smallest Lady Vocalist in the World.” A lover of music and especially lady vocalists, Leopold Bloom likely saw her perform, since he refers to her place of business: “Marcella the midget queen. In those waxworks in Henry street” (U 16.850–51). Joyce, too, may have attended her show for she was as real as he was, and thoughts of her significantly recur in his work.

Her name was Miss Elizabeth Paddock (see the cover image). Born in 1875 (?), she lived in Liverpool and commuted to Dublin, where she worked just where Bloom precisely remembers in “Ithaca”: “world’s fancy fair and waxwork exhibition at 30 Henry street, admission 2d, children 1d” (U 17.579–80). The “royal” stage name (presumably accompanied by highly refined manners and carriage) was routine for such diminutive performers.1 Among her accoutrements were a “dinky little carriage and pony.”2

The year before she signed a contract with Charles Augustus James, whose success as an impresario Bloom admires, “Her Royal Highness Marcella, Queen of Midgets, the Smallest and Prettiest Little Vocalist” gave exhibition shows in Dublin with “Miss Louie Howard, the Human Telephone” (also called “Prof. Howard”).3 The contract, dated 9 July 1894 (see Figure 1), reads:

To Marcella Midget Queen

From C. A. James

I hereby agree to pay you providing you agree to abide by the rules and regulations of our establishment as to hours performances etc, heretofore explained at least seven hours a day and more if required. Hours of performance from 2 till 5 and 6 till 10 p.m. Saturday 1–30 till 5 and 6 till 10–30 p.m. one morning performance Bank holiday only, for the sum of £2.10.0. (two pounds ten shillings) per week for four weeks to commence on Monday Aug. 6th/94.

    Signed M. P. James and C. A. James

  One and a half third class fares will be paid from Liverpool

According to Paddock’s great-nephew, Victor W. Pitcher, she “was virtually adopted by the James family, living with them in their stately mansion Washington Hall on Merrion Strand and in later years with [the] James’ widowed daughter Phoebe Zorn in the select Donnybrook district of Dublin” (see Figure 2).4

Joyce’s interest in James, his family, and the World’s Fair Waxworks extends into Finnegans Wake. In I.5, Biddy Doran is introduced to us precisely as a kind of performing freak, with appropriate “socioscientific” jargon mixed with deference to her “ladylike” manners (FW 112.11, 16), just as we might expect Marcella and similar performers to have been ballyhooed. And it is notable that the sentence used as an epigraph above begins a paragraph ending with “Kate takes charge of the waxworks” (FW 113.21–22). To the list of houses that Jack has built—castle, pub, church, theater, and so on—we ought to add wax-works and therein see compelling metaphors for the Wake itself as a kind of tuppenny entertainment populated with abnormal-seeming words. Finnegans Wax!

Marcella is another variation of ALP, a midget wife to a giant husband: “In reverence to her midgetsy the lady of the comeallyous as madgestoo our own one’s goff stature. Prosim, prosit, to the krk n yr nck!” (FW 334.17–19). A marriage to give one a crick in the neck, indeed. Like James (who died in 1917), HCE is an important merchant-cum-pimp-cum-philanthropist:

on the breezy side (for showm!), the height of Brewster’s chimpney and as broad below as Phineas Barnum; humphing his share of the showthers is senken on him he’s such a grandfallar, with a pocked wife in pickle that’s a flyfire and three lice nittle clinkers, two twilling bugs and one midgit pucelle.

(FW 29.04–08)

Shameless Barnum too included little people in his shows, as Roland McHugh notes.5 Here the midget is HCE’s daughter, the miniature (and virginal) copy of her mother, and the performers are a flea circus, nice complements to an oversized earwig.6...

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