I contradict myself

I contradict myself

In Brief

"God, we'll simply have to dress the character. I want puce gloves and green boots. Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself." Mulligan's perpetual spray of quotations from his favorite writers (Swinburne, Russell, Homer, Xenophon, Nietzsche, Yeats, Wilde) continues as he rummages through his clothing trunk, applying Walt Whitman's famous declaration of personal immensity to the superficial business of accessorizing a yellow waistcoat with green boots and dark red gloves.

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In Song of Myself, Whitman wrote:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Gifford notes the relevant fact that Whitman’s reputation was high in England at the end of the nineteenth century, citing “Swinburne’s praise of him as the poet of the ‘earth-god freedom’ in To Walt Whitman in America (1871).” Mulligan's determination to dress in the outrageous fashion of the fin de siècle avant-garde ("we'll simply have to dress the character") coheres, then, with the quotation that accessorizes the accessories.

Stephen thinks of these lines in Proteus, and in Scylla and Charybdis he too mentions Whitman in the course of his Shakespeare talk.

JH 2011
Steel engraving of Walt Whitman by Samuel Hollyer from a lost daguerrotype by Gabriel Harrison, published in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. Source: Wikimedia Commons.