Lapped

In Brief

Turning from Patrice Egan to himself, Stephen lapses into more French as he thinks of what a sorry figure he cut in his Paris days. This note translates the French phrases from the three paragraphs of text that culminate in his return to Dublin via Newhaven, England.

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"You were a student, weren't you? Of what in the other devil's name? Paysayenn. P. C. N., you know: physiques, chimiques et naturelles." (Physics, chemistry, and biology.) Stephen pronounces the initials as the French do, thinking wryly of his pretense of being a premedical student. Like Stephen, Joyce dabbled halfheartedly in these studies for a time. Ellmann comments, "Paris was Dublin's antithesis. The daydream of himself as Dr. Joyce, poet, epiphanist, and physician, surrounded by fair women, was not at all dampened by the small amount of money beyond his fare that his father could give him . . ." (111). In December 1902 "he prevailed upon Dr. Paul Brouardel, dean of the faculty at the École de Médecine, to grant him a provisional card of admission to the course for the certificate in physics, chemistry, and biology" (113). In actuality Stephen led a most unglamorous life in those days, "Eating your groatsworth of mou en civet, fleshpots of Egypt, elbowed by belching cabmen." Gifford identifies mou en civet as "a stew made of lungs, the cheapest of restaurant dishes." The "belching cabmen" jammed in beside Stephen on a cheap bench complete the picture.

Despite the dismal circumstances and the silly pretentions, Stephen has supposed that the glamor of the great city will rub off on him. He imagines alluding to it after he leaves, to impress people: "Just say in the most natural tone: when I was in Paris, boul' Mich', I used to." The Boulevard Saint-Michel, Gifford notes, is "a street on the left bank of the Seine in Paris and the café center of student and bohemian life at the turn of the century." He quotes Arthur Symons' The Decadent Movement in Literature (1893) on the "noisy, brainsick young people who haunt the brasseries of the Boulevard Saint-Michel and exhaust their ingenuities in theorizing over the works they cannot write." Stephen is purportedly so intimate an inhabitant of this hip scene that he abbreviates the name in the most "natural" way.

Recollections of his pretentiousness give way to other kinds of silliness. Fantasizing that some doppelgänger of his would commit a crime and he would be charged for it, Stephen prepared alibis in advance: "Yes, used to carry punched tickets to prove an alibi if they arrested you for murder somewhere. Justice. On the night of the seventeenth of February 1904 the prisoner was seen by two witnesses. Other fellow did it: other me. Hat, tie, overcoat, nose. Lui, c'est moi." The French phrase (I am he) parodies Louis XIV's famous saying L'état, c'est moi" (I am the state). From here, Stephen transits to a time when he wanted to commit murder. Desperate with hunger, rushing to the post office to cash his mother's money order for eight shillings, he found the door slammed in his face by the usher and protested: "Encore deux minutes. Look clock. Must get. Fermé. Hired dog!" He gestured for the doorman to look at the clock and see that there are were "still two minutes" to go till closing time, but the post office was definitively "closed."

The jagged, ungrammatical fragments he recalls speaking in his own language ("Look clock", "Must get") seem to be examples of "Pretending to speak broken English," which he mentions in the next paragraph in connection with returning to Ireland by way of England. Coming back from his continental adventure to "the slimy pier at Newhaven," the cosmopolitan Stephen is so pretentious (I'm really very français, don't you know?) that he affects not to understand something said to him in his own language: "Comment?" (What?). But all he really has to show for his misspent voyage are "Le Tutu, five tattered numbers of Pantalon Blanc et Culotte Rouge," and a French telegram from his father, announcing that his mother is dying and he must come home.

JH 2014
The relations among physical, chemical and biological explanations. Source: lumiere.ens.fr.
Oil painting of the Boulevard Saint-Michel by Jean-François Raffaëlli, 1890. Source: abeautifulbook.wordpress.com.
Cover of the first issue of Le Tutu, issued on 25 March 1901. It shows cancan dancers at the Moulin Rouge cabaret. Source: www.etsy.com.