Green stone

Green stone

In Brief

The "smooth silver case" in which Haines carries his cigarettes befits a man who “comes from Oxford,” and the "green stone" that sparkles amid the grey metal, like Ireland in the sea, symbolically suits the Englishman's status as "the seas’ ruler." Haines graciously offers Stephen a cigarette from the case, his noblesse obliging him to share his wealth with the impoverished Irishman next to him, even as he apologizes for the injustices of history.

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Joyce's choice of this image as a symbol for British imperial domination of Ireland was probably inspired by a notorious gift that King Henry II of England received in 1155 from Pope Adrian IV, a.k.a. Nicholas Breakspear, the only Englishman ever elevated to the papacy. In the work called Metalogicus, the English cleric and scholar John of Salisbury writes that he delivered to Henry the infamous bull that begins Laudabiliter, giving him temporal rule over Ireland, along with a gold ring containing an emerald stone to signify the overlordship. The history of this exchange (as well as the authenticity of Laudabiliter) is murky and contested, but Joyce scathingly recalls it in Oxen of the Sun: "It is that same bull that was sent to our island by farmer Nicholas, the bravest cattle breeder of them all, with an emerald ring in his nose."

In "Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages," an important lecture delivered in April 1907 to an Italian audience in Trieste, Joyce remarked on the imperial whims of the Holy See and the slavish submission of the Irish: "First, by means of a papal bull and a ring, it gave Ireland to Henry II of England, and later, in the papacy of Gregory XIII, when the Protestant heresy raised its head, it repented having given faithful Ireland to the English heretics, and to redeem the error, it named a bastard of the papal court as supreme ruler of Ireland. He naturally remained a king in partibus infidelium, but the pope's intention was none the less courteous because of this. On the other hand, Ireland's compliance is so complete that it would hardly murmur if tomorrow the pope, having already turned it over to an Englishman and an Italian, were to turn their island over to some hidalgo of the court of Alphonso who found himself momentarily unemployed, because of some unforseen complication in Europe" (170). 

The green stone from Stephen's first chapter makes an interesting return in Bloom's first chapter, reappearing in the face of Bloom's cat: "He watched the dark eyeslits narrowing with greed till her eyes were green stones." Perhaps the most important word here is "greed": the cat's hunger seems to draw the English lust for conquest and colonial exploitation back into the narrative.

JH 2011
Interior of English silver cigarette case from 1924. Source: www.leopardantiques.com.
Exterior of Russian silver cigarette case from mid-1910s. Source: www.romanovrussia.com