Noting that his witticism about piers has gone unappreciated
by the boys, in Nestor Stephen considers
contributing it to "Haines's chapbook,"
recalling what Haines told him in Telemachus: "I
intend to make a collection of your sayings if you will let
me." But the prospect of becoming one more entertaining
colonial writer read by snooty English overlords contributes
to Stephen's depressive sense of historical futility.
If he aided the tourist by contributing to his literary
work (call it, say, Collected Utterances of an Authentic
Irishman), Stephen would be doing so primarily with the
aggressive intent of breaking through Haines' smug
insensibility ("Tonight deftly amid wild drink and talk, to
pierce the polished mail of his mind"), but the effect
would be only to prostitute his artistic gifts to the English
people's appropriating acceptance ("A jester at the court
of his master, indulged and disesteemed, winning a clement
master's praise"). Stephen reflects that many Irish
writers have been willing to adopt the role of entertaining
eccentric: "Why had they chosen all that part? Not
wholly for the smooth caress. For them too history was a
tale like any other too often heard, their land a pawnshop."
Declan Kiberd writes perceptively about this "general
tradition of Anglo-Irish comedy in England from Congreve to
Shaw (who described himself jokingly as 'a faithful servant
of the English people'). Joyce cast Wilde as 'court
jester to the English,' who had a fatal propensity to
turn any Irish artist into a mere entertainer. Haines's
notebook represents a worrying reimportation of that tradition
back into the colony, the 'pawn-shop' where everything
is owned by someone living elsewhere and where all ideas come
second-hand. Joyce sees the Irish reputation for wit and
eloquence as an attempt to compensate for colonial oppression
and material failure."
In Proteus, Stephen will return once more to this question, comparing his literary co-optation to the schemes of various noble "pretenders" to occupy the throne of England: "For that are you pining, the bark of their applause? Pretenders: live their lives."