M'Coy

In Brief

The first of many people from the stories in Dubliners to reappear in Ulysses is "C. P. M'Coy." Bloom thinks of him in Calypso, shortly before he thinks of Gretta Conroy, and then he runs into him on the street in Lotus Eaters. In the novel Joyce considerably deepens his earlier portrait, offering one of many contrasts between Bloom and run-of-the-mill Dubliners.

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In the story "Grace," Mr. M'Coy is one of three men who undertake to rescue their friend Tom Kernan from his alcoholism. He "had been at one time a tenor of some reputation. His wife, who had been a soprano, still taught young children to play the piano at low terms. His line of life had not been the shortest distance between two points and for short periods he had been driven to live by his wits. He had been a clerk in the Midland Railway, a canvasser for advertisements for The Irish Times and for The Freeman's Journal, a town traveller for a coal firm on commission, a private inquiry agent, a clerk in the office of the Sub-Sheriff and he had recently become secretary to the City Coroner."

This varied work history allies M'Coy with Bloom, as of course does the particular employment of securing ads for The Freeman's Journal, which the reader of Aeolus learns is Bloom's current job. The history with the Midland Railway is what makes Bloom think of M'Coy in Calypso, as he ponders how to travel cheaply to Mullingar to visit Milly: "Might work a press pass. Or through M'Coy." After talking with M'Coy at some length in Lotus Eaters, and agreeing to do him the favor of adding his name to the list of funeral attendees, he realizes that he has forgotten to ask him for the free ticket: "Damn it. I might have tried to work M'Coy for a pass to Mullingar."

The conversation in Lotus Eaters indicates that M'Coy is still working for the city coroner, since his excuse for not being able to attend Dignam's funeral is that "There's a drowning case at Sandycove may turn up and then the coroner and myself would have to go down if the body is found." The conversation also develops the portrait of M'Coy's marriage to a singer. He mentions his wife's career ("Grace" says that she "had been a soprano") in a way that compares unfavorably with the concert tour planned for Molly Bloom: "My missus has just got an engagement. At least it's not settled yet." The quality of the two women's singing no doubt has something to do with their relative success, as Bloom thinks in Sirens, "My wife and your wife. Squealing cat. Like tearing silk. Tongue when she talks like the clapper of a bellows."

In addition to his excessive, but harmless, desire to talk about his wife's moribund singing career, M'Coy apparently has a nasty habit of using her supposed upcoming engagements as an excuse to borrow acquaintances' suitcases, and then pawning them. Bloom thinks in Lotus Eaters that he is on the "Valise tack again," and shortly later, "Didn't catch me napping that wheeze. The quick touch. Soft mark. I'd like my job. Valise I have a particular fancy for. Leather. Capped corners, rivetted edges, double action lever lock. Bob Cowley lent him his for the Wicklow regatta concert last year and never heard tidings of it from that good day to this." This con, which surfaces in Bloom's thoughts three more times during the course of the day, marks M'Coy as a dishonest human being, and clearly he is not one of Bloom's favorite people: "Curse your noisy pugnose," "that M'Coy fellow," "that gouger M'Coy stopping me to say nothing." In one of the novel's most brilliant phrases, Bloom regards him as he would a bothersome object: "He moved a little to the side of M'Coy's talking head."

M'Coy was based on an actual Dubliner named Charles Chance, whose wife, Ellmann notes, "sang soprano at concerts in the 'nineties under the name of Madame Marie Tallon" (375). Vivien Igoe notes that he was a friend of John Joyce, and it seems that the two men's careers followed a similar trajectory: "Charles Chance and his family later moved to live with his mother, Mrs Ellen Chance . . . In 1911, he is listed as an unemployed clerk."

JH 2017
Some late 19th century leather trunks and suitcases with capped corners and riveted edges. Source: www.achome.co.uk.