Jaunting car

In Brief

When a "car" is mentioned in Ulysses, it is usually a "jaunting car," a.k.a. "outside car" or "outsider," the horse-drawn equivalent of an automotive taxicab. Uniquely Irish, these two-wheeled vehicles were used throughout the country for most of the 19th century, and well into the 20th.

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In 1904 they thronged the streets of Dublin, where they were licensed and numbered. Along with the fairly new urban tram system, and walking, they represented one of three major ways of getting around town, as represented by Tom Kiernan's thoughts in Wandering Rocks, "undecided whether he should arrive at Phibsborough more quickly by a triple change of tram or by hailing a car or on foot through Smithfield, Constitution hill and Broadstone terminus."

Jaunting cars carried as many as four passengers, facing outward in two seats set high above the wheels. A metal step afforded access to the high seats. Between the seats lay a shallow well, running from front to back, which could hold parcels and luggage. Passengers sat with their backs against the walls of the well, resting their feet on footboards which could be folded up when not in use to shield the seats from bad weather. Nothing but blankets protected the passengers from bad weather, and fast driving around corners threatened to toss them from their precarious perches. Metal handholds at the four corners of the seats guarded against such accidents.

In Lotus Eaters Bloom tries to take advantage of the high step up to the seat of the jaunting car to catch a glimpse of an elegant woman's undergarments. A couple is leaving the Grosvenor Hotel across the street, probably (he thinks) "Off to the country." The man takes his time, fiddling in his pockets for the right change: "Mr Bloom gazed across the road at the outsider drawn up before the door of the Grosvenor. The porter hoisted the valise up on the well. She stood still, waiting, while the man, husband, brother, like her, searched his pockets for change." "Which side will she get up?" wonders Bloom. Working his way to "the side of M'Coy's talking head" to get a clear line of sight, he thinks that surely the woman will be "Getting up in a minute." Catlike, he waits intently for his moment: "Watch! Watch! Silk flash rich stockings white. Watch!" But "A heavy tramcar," the second most commonly mentioned kind of "car" in Ulysses, invades his field of vision, interrupting his vision of paradise. This episode recurs in Circe, when The Honourable Mrs Mervyn Talboys accuses Bloom of having "observed me from behind a hackney car and sent me in double envelopes an obscene photograph."

The sexual possibilities of the jaunting car surface also in Wandering Rocks, when Lenehan tells M'Coy about a trip back from Glencree to Dublin late at night, over the Featherbed Mountain. Bloom and Chris Callinan took one side of the cart, and Lenehan and Molly the other. Lenehan relished at the time, and still relishes in the retelling, the way the bouncy car threw him against Molly's breasts: "Every jolt the bloody car gave I had her bumping up against me. Hell's delights! She has a fine pair, God bless her."

A jaunting car figures prominently again in Sirens, when one carries Blazes Boylan first to his appointment with Lenehan at the Ormond hotel, and then to his appointment with Molly in Eccles Street. Bloom spots the car moving toward the Ormond: "He eyed and saw afar on Essex bridge a gay hat riding on a jaunting car. It is. Third time. Coincidence. / Jingling on supple rubbers it jaunted from the bridge to Ormond quay. Follow. Risk it. Go quick. At four." The "jingle" sound comes from harness bells that were mandated as a safety measure after Dublin's jaunting cars were fitted with rubber tires. Throughout Sirens Boylan's progress is marked by this sound. The overture sounds the motif "Jingle jingle jaunted jingling," and the text works numerous variations on the theme: "Jingle jaunty jingle"; "Jingle jaunted by the curb and stopped"; "Jingle a tinkle jaunted. Bloom heard a jing, a little sound. He's off. Light sob of breath Bloom sighed on the silent bluehued flowers. Jingling. He's gone. Jingle"; "Jingle jaunted down the quays. Blazes sprawled on bounding tyres."

Bloom follows the car from the Essex Bridge to the Ormond Hotel, and after Boylan descends from his car and enters the bar to Lenehan's greeting, he walks gingerly past the cab: "Between the car and window, warily walking, went Bloom, unconquered hero. See me he might. The seat he sat on: warm." He thinks that Boylan has kept the "Car waiting." Sure enough, Boylan leaves before long, and the narrative follows his journey to 7 Eccles in car no. 324: "A hackney car, number three hundred and twentyfour, driver Barton James of number one Harmony avenue, Donnybrook, on which sat a fare, a young gentleman, stylishly dressed in an indigoblue serge suit made by George Robert Mesias, tailor and cutter, of number five Eden quay, and wearing a straw hat very dressy, bought of John Plasto of number one Great Brunswick street, hatter. Eh? This is the jingle that joggled and jingled. By Dlugacz' porkshop bright tubes of Agendath trotted a gallantbuttocked mare." In one of the hallucinations of Circe, Lenehan joins Boylan on the car: "A hackneycar, number three hundred and twentyfour, with a gallantbuttocked mare, driven by James Barton, Harmony Avenue, Donnybrook, trots past. Blazes Boylan and Lenehan sprawl swaying on the sideseats. The Ormond boots crouches behind on the axle."

In Cyclops "the castle car" (a jaunting car leased by Dublin Castle?) brings Martin Cunningham and two companions (Jack Power and Crofton) to Barney Kiernan's pub, and at the end of the chapter these three men rescue Bloom by taking him away from the pub in the same car, with "Martin telling the jarvey to drive ahead" and "Jack Power trying to get him to sit down on the car and hold his bloody jaw." The horse takes fright when the Citizen pitches his biscuit tin, the dog Garryowen lights out after the car, "And the last we saw was the bloody car rounding the corner and old sheepsface on it gesticulating and the bloody mongrel after it with his lugs back for all he was bloody well worth to tear him limb from limb."

The last major appearance of a jaunting car comes at the end of Circe, when Bloom is leaving Bella Cohen's: "From the left arrives a jingling hackney car. It slows to in front of the house. Bloom at the halldoor perceives Corny Kelleher who is about to dismount from the car with two silent lechers." After the assault on Stephen, Bloom, "Peering over the crowd," says, "I just see a car there." Kelleher appears among the bystanders, responds to Bloom's plea for help, and calms the constables, assuring them that "I've a car round there." Bloom seems interested in using the car to get Stephen away, and Kelleher offers to "give him a lift home," thinking that he lives in the near NW suburb of Cabra. When he learns that Stephen lives far out in Sandycove, however, the offer is tacitly withdrawn.

JH 2015
Jaunting cars outside a railway station, in a 1911 photograph held by the National Library of Ireland. Source: www.joycesdublin.ie.
Jaunting in the countryside, on a postcard sent in 1901 from Irishman A. Brown to an acquaintance in Hungary. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Jaunting cars in front of the Museum of Science and Art, in The Queen's Empire, vol. 1 (London: Cassell & Co., 1899). Source: Wikimedia Commons.
A well-upholstered jaunting car (no doubt restored), with rubber tires, built by Johnson Mfg. in Cork in 1905. Source: www.troyerauctions.com.
Another of the countless postcards of "The Irish Jaunting Car," this one sent in 1906, touristically jaunty, set in front of the Bank of Ireland. Source: www.amazon.com.
Another postcard of the same scene, from 1912, this one showing a constable talking to the jarvey. Source: dispatchesfromdublin.com.