Only one skin

Only one skin

In Brief

Pondering the wonderful effect that the Sweny's lotion has on Molly's skin, Bloom thinks, "Skinfood. One of the old queen's sons, duke of Albany was it? had only one skin. Leopold, yes. Three we have. Warts, bunions and pimples to make it worse." This unfortunate son of Queen Victoria who shared Bloom's given name died prematurely of hemophilia, a genetic bleeding disorder which popular lore attributed to having "only one skin."

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A significant number of Hanovers suffered from hemophilia, perhaps as a result of inbreeding among the royal families of Europe. The disorder interferes with the formation of blood clots, exposing people to the risk of catastrophic uncontrolled bleeding. Leopold died in 1884 at the age of 30 when he slipped, fell, and hit his head, probably suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.

Although scientific understanding of the condition had been increasing throughout the 19th century, folk wisdom apparently clung to the explanation that people who bleed easily must be missing some layers of skin. Gifford calls this an "old wives' diagnosis." I have not found any published discussions of such a folk belief, but Joyce seems to have been familiar with some very precise version of it. Of unafflicted human beings Bloom thinks, "Three we have."

JH 2022
Photograph of Leopold, Duke of Albany, date unknown. Source: Wikimedia Commons.