Blackwood Price

In Brief

Deasy's letter mentions a "Mr Henry Blackwood Price" in connection with foot-and-mouth disease. Soon after Stephen reads this detail in the letter, Deasy explains its significance to him: "My cousin, Blackwood Price, writes to me it is regularly treated and cured in Austria by cattledoctors there. They offer to come over here." Joyce got Deasy's interest in the health of cattle not from Francis Irwin, but from an Irishman whom he met in Italy, and apparently liked—a man named Henry Blackwood Price. Moreover, when Deasy, acting on behalf of his cousin HBP, writes a letter about the disease to Irish newspapers he is playing a role that Joyce, acting on behalf of his friend HBP, himself performed. The novel also includes an M.P. named "William Field" whom the real Blackwood Price, with Joyce's help, contacted for assistance in the matter.

Read More

In 1912, when he was in Trieste, Joyce met Henry Nicholas Blackwood Price. Blackwood Price was proud of his Ulster ancestry (hence Deasy's boast about being "descended from Sir John Blackwood who voted for the union"), and he was concerned about the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, which at that time was wasting cattle herds in the Austro-Hungarian empire. He asked Joyce to find the address of an Irish M.P., William Field, who feared that the disease might spread to Ireland, because he wanted to tell Field of a cure that Austrian scientists had developed. Joyce got the address, Blackwood Price sent a letter to Field, and Field saw that the letter was published in the Evening Telegraph on 19 August 1912 (CW 238).

In Ulysses the action develops slightly differently. Blackwood Price is now the cousin of Mr. Deasy, and interests him in the problem. Deasy asks Stephen for help getting his letter in the papers, and turns to William Field for another kind of assistance. "I wrote last night to Mr Field, M.P. There is a meeting of the cattletraders' association today at the City Arms hotel. I asked him to lay my letter before the meeting." In Cyclops Joe Hynes mentions that he has just seen a local politician, Joseph Patrick Nannetti, in the company of Field: "I saw him up at that meeting now with William Field, M. P., the cattle traders." Apparently some position on foot-and-mouth was decided at the meeting, because Hynes adds that "Field and Nannetti are going over tonight to London to ask about it on the floor of the house of commons." Despite his weak grasp of the science involved, then, Deasy's proposal appears to be making some progress toward political enactment.

Joyce's assistance to Blackwood Price did not end with finding an address for Mr. Field. A letter from his brother Charles to his brother Stanislaus dated 6 September 1912 indicates that Joyce wrote his own editorial letter for the Freeman's Journal, which appeared unsigned in the paper on 10 September 1912. That short article, included in Joyce's Critical Writings under the title "Politics and Cattle Disease," argues for active and transparent monitoring of Irish herds to fight against a destructive English embargo on Irish cattle.

It is interesting, to say the least, that Joyce modeled the pompous and prejudiced old man who makes life difficult for his proud young persona partly on a man whom he liked, and partly on himself. At the end of Nestor, as Stephen trudges off with Deasy's letter in his pocket (he will place the letter in the Evening Telegraph, the same newspaper that published Blackwood Price's letter, and sister publication of the Freeman's Journal in which Joyce published his), he thinks, "Still I will help him in his fight. Mulligan will dub me a new name: the bullockbefriending bard." The same could be said of Joyce. It might also be supposed that, by including a tiny sliver of himself in Deasy, he sympathized with the old man's wish to give paternal advice to the wayward young poet.

JH 2016
Statue of James Joyce in Trieste. Source: www.openlettersmonthly.com.
Man with walking stick in the streets of Trieste, date unknown. Source: www.museojoycetrieste.it.