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  • Will the Real Dr Hy Franks Please Stand Up?
  • John Simpson (bio)

Joyce refers twice in Ulysses to an unsavoury character called 'Dr Hy Franks', once in the 'Lestrygonians' episode:

All kinds of places are good for ads. That quack doctor for the clap used to be stuck up in all the greenhouses. Never see it now. Strictly confidential. Dr Hy Franks. Didn't cost him a red like Maginni the dancing master self advertisement. Got fellows to stick them up or stick them up himself for that matter on the q. t. running in to loosen a button. Flybynight. Just the place too. POST NO BILLS. POST 110 PILLS. Some chap with a dose burning him

(U 8.95-101)

And once in 'Circe':

The Flybill

K. 11. Post No bills. Strictly confidential. Dr Hy Franks.


All is lost now.

    (Virag unscrews his head in a trice and holds it under his arm.)

Virag's Head


    (Exeunt severally)

(U 15.2632-2638).

In 1972, Louis Hyman identified Franks as a Manchester-born English Jew, Henry Jacob Franks.1 This information is noted by Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman, though the authors clearly do not accept Hyman's identification uncritically:

8.97-98 (153:33). Dr Hy Franks - Franks is not listed under 'Registered Medical Practitioners in Ireland' in Thom's 1904. Hyman [End Page 114] (p. 168) identifies him as an 'English Jew ... Henry Jacob Franks, born in Manchester in 1852, arrived in Dublin in 1903 after deserting his Turkish-born wife Miriam (née Mandil) and their four children', and confirms, or at least accepts, Bloom's (Joyce's) assertion that Franks was a quack who advertised 'treatment for venereal diseases', as described in Ulysses.2

Gifford and Seidman are right to strike a note of caution in their account. Joyce places Franks in the past: 'That quack doctor for the clap used to be stuck up in all the greenhouses. Never see it now.' The true identity of 'Dr Hy Franks' was well known to Dubliners in the 1890s, but memories fade. The availability today of online, searchable texts from historical Irish newspapers allows us to clarify the picture.

In November and December 1893 the Irish newspapers regaled their readers with details of a sensational immorality case. This is how the Freeman's Journal headlined the denouement of the case on 9 December:3



Yesterday at the City Commission, before Mr Justice Harrison and a jury, Adam J. Farlow, alias Dr Hy Franks, was indicted...

Two weeks later, on 23 December, the British Medical Journal summed up the case as follows:

THE DUBLIN QUACK. - The quack, Farlow, otherwise 'Dr. Hy. Franks', whose arrest on a charge of endeavouring to procure a lady for immoral purposes has already been recorded, was tried at the late Commission of Oyer and Terminer in Dublin. The prisoner was convicted of having sent an obscene letter, and was accordingly sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment.4 [End Page 115]

Farlow operated under a number of pseudonyms (or a 'multiplicity of names', as the police evidence stated). He was known to Dubliners under his real name of John Farlow, and his story began many years earlier.

John Adam Farlow was the youngest son of Samuel Farlow and his wife Patti, well-to-do Dubliners who lived at 3 Blacquiere-bridge Road in Phibsborough. John had at least three brothers (Samuel, headteacher at the Dublin Central Model School for boys; Robert, also a teacher; William, a cattle importer), and a sister Mary, who was also trained as a teacher. When John's father Samuel died in January 1877 the lease of his house and those of his other properties were put up for sale,5 and it can be reasonably assumed that as a result John had access to enough money to start a business. He was also married on 21 June of that year, to Mary Anne Harding, and looked to start a young family.

We next hear of John two years later, in 1879, when he took over a chemist's shop at 14 (then 13) Berkeley Road, Dublin, just round...


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