Richie Goulding

In Brief

Joyce modeled Stephen's "uncle Richie" and "aunt Sara" Goulding on his mother's brother William Murray and William's wife Josephine Giltrap Murray. Richie Goulding works as a "costdrawer" or cost accountant (a position that involves scrutinizing the costs of a business to improve its management) in a firm of Dublin solicitors called "Collis and Ward." In Proteus Stephen thinks of him doing his paperwork at home in the morning. Wandering Rocks shows Goulding moving about town with his "costbag" of work papers. In Sirens he joins Bloom for an early supper in the Ormond hotel dining room.

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Josephine Murray was Joyce's favorite aunt, and the fact that Stephen thinks of his aunt as the reason for visiting Strasburg Terrace—"Am I going to aunt Sara's or not?"—suggests that he may hold a similar affection. Richie Goulding is another matter. In addition to his domineering manner with his children and wife, the novel glances several times at his alcoholism. Simon Dedalus' penchant for calling him "the drunken little costdrawer" may be hypocritical, but Bloom's thoughts about how Richie used to be the life of the party and now is "Paying the piper" support the inference that he is a chronic abuser. Richie also suffers from the more comical vice of pretension. In Hades Bloom thinks of how he likes to add his own name to the legal firm's moniker: "Goulding, Collis and Ward he calls the firm." This is surely a fabrication, as Goulding is not an attorney and lives in a shabby part of town.

One other detail might be taken as implying criticism: Stephen's "nuncle Richie."As Thornton notes, this obsolete form of "uncle" appears many times in King Lear and nowhere else in Shakespeare. Thornton does not draw any inferences from the possible allusion, but all seventeen appearances of the word are addresses of the Fool to King Lear. Given the relationship of these two characters—an irreverent comedian speaking unflattering truths to a violently egomanical old man—it is reasonable to suppose that Stephen's unspoken form of address (when he speaks he calls him "uncle Richie") may carry a sting in its tail.

Yet one more possible joke about Richie Goulding lurks in the book's textures. In Lestrygonians Bloom wonders if this well-known practical joker may have been responsible for the postcard sent to Denis Breen: "U.P.: up. I'll take my oath that's Alf Bergan or Richie Goulding. Wrote it for a lark in the Scotch house I bet anything." If Bloom is right, then it is hugely ironic that, as Breen stomps around town looking for legal help in taking out an action of libel against the perpetrators, he settles on the very solicitors who employ Goulding: "Denis Breen with his tomes, weary of having waited an hour in John Henry Menton's office, led his wife over O'Connell bridge, bound for the office of Messrs Collis and Ward."

Joyce did not alter his uncle's employment much in turning him into Richie Goulding. M. C. Rintoul's Dictionary of Real People and Places in Fiction (Routledge, 1993) notes that William Murray "was employed as a billing clerk in a well-known firm of Dublin solicitors" (696).

JH 2016
Mrs. William Murray with her daughters, in a photograph reproduced by Richard Ellmann courtesy of the Cornell University Library. Source: Ellmann, James Joyce.
The Fool and King Lear, in a 2009 performance at Wake Forest University. Source: users.wfu.edu.