Freeman's Journal

In Brief

The Freeman's Journal, often referred to simply as the "Freeman" in the novel, was one of Dublin's daily newspapers. This nationalist publication (a designation better deserved at some times than at others) was Ireland's first truly national paper during the 19th century, and in 1904 its circulation was so large that it could claim (in weekly ads) to be "the leading Irish newspaper." In Joyce's fiction Leopold Bloom works for the paper as an ad canvasser, and it figures in most of his chapters from Calypso onwards.

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The Freeman's Journal was founded in 1763 by Charles Lucas as a voice for the ecumenical Protestant nationalism that produced leaders like Henry Grattan and Henry Flood and, later, Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet. The paper regressed to more pro-British views from 1784 to 1802 under the editorship of Francis Higgins, the "Sham Squire," but it regained its moral footing in the 19th century, especially under the ownership of Sir John Gray from the 1840s to the early 70s, when it advocated for land reform, disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, and Catholic civil rights. Gray's son, Edmund Dwyer Gray, took over management of the paper in 1875 and involved it in the nationalist campaign for Home Rule, which made it hated and feared in England.

Ambivalent attitudes toward Charles Stewart Parnell that originated with John Gray kept the paper loyal to the great Irish parliamentary leader in the immediate aftermath of the O'Shea divorce scandal that tore apart his party, but finally caused it to renounce him in September 1891. In March 1892 the Freeman merged with a paper called the National Press, resulting in the full name used twice in Ulysses, the "Freeman's Journal and National Press." In 1924 the paper was acquired by the Irish Independent, a paper that had been launched in late 1891 to support the Parnellite cause. For many decades the masthead of the Independent proclaimed that it had swallowed up the Freeman.

Having thought in Calypso about his paper's logo of a homerule sun rising up in the northwest, Bloom walks around with a copy of the day's Freeman throughout Lotus Eaters. He carries it in a sidepocket of his jacket, rolls it up lengthwise into a "baton" and taps his leg with it, sticks it in his armpit, unfolds it to look at ads, uses it to shield Martha Clifford's letter from view, lends it to Bantam Lyons, and accepts its return after offering to let Lyons keep it. In a way, it is this paper that persuades Lyons to put down money on the horse Throwaway, because Bloom says, "I was just going to throw it away."

Ithaca looks back on the decisive impact that Bloom's newspaper had in Lotus Eaters "when, when Frederick M. (Bantam) Lyons had rapidly and successively requested, perused and restituted the copy of the current issue of the Freeman’s Journal and National Press which he had been about to throw away (subsequently thrown away), he had proceeded towards the oriental edifice of the Turkish and Warm Baths, 11 Leinster street, with the light of inspiration shining in his countenance and bearing in his arms the secret of the race, graven in the language of prediction."

If Bloom does throw away his morning's paper, as Ithaca asserts, then that action must take place much later in the day. In Hades he is still holding it as he steps out of the carriage, and in the mortuary chapel he unfolds it to kneel upon. Sirens shows it still to be in his hands in the Ormond dining room, still performing the same tricks of shielding clandestine correspondence: "Down the edge of his Freeman baton ranged Bloom’s, your other eye, scanning for where did I see that. Callan, Coleman, Dignam Patrick. Heigho! Heigho! Fawcett. Aha! Just I was looking... / Hope he’s not looking, cute as a rat. He held unfurled his Freeman. Can’t see now. Remember write Greek ees. Bloom dipped, Bloo mur: dear sir. Dear Henry wrote: dear Mady. Got your lett and flow."

JH 2018
Detail from page 1 of the Freeman's Journal for June 16, 1904. Source: liberateulysses.wordpress.com.