Father Farley

Father Farley

In Brief

In Lotus Eaters Bloom wishes he had asked Father John Conmee for help getting Molly into a church choir "instead of that Father Farley." Here as almost everywhere in Ulysses, Joyce had a real person in mind. Charles Farley was a Jesuit priest at the church of St. Francis Xavier where Conmee was the superior. He comes up later in the novel as someone who is suspicious of Bloom's Catholic bona fides.

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Ellmann's biography does not mention Father Farley (neither does Bowker's), but Gifford finds him listed in the 1904 Thom's directory "at the Presbytery, Gardiner Street Upper (i.e., associated with St. Francis Xavier's Church and therefore with Father Conmee." Slote believes that "Joyce changed the surname to Farley; Thom's lists him as Farrelly," but Vivien Igoe confirms that Farley was the man's actual name. She supplies many biographical details: born in Dublin in 1859 to the "victualler" (i.e., spirit grocer) Joseph Farley and his wife, entered the Society of Jesus at age 18, served in County Offaly and in northern Wales, ordained a priest in 1888, returned to Ireland at an unspecified later date, died in 1938. One puzzling detail in Igoe's account is her observation that in Ireland Father Farley "moved around the various Jesuit houses. He spent 1911 to 1938 based at Gardiner Street, Dublin, his longest period in any one place." Did he live in the St. Xavier's presbytery two separate times?

A more interesting detail for novelistic purposes is Bloom's recollection that Father Farley "looked a fool but wasn't. They're taught that." He is no doubt thinking of the Jesuits' reputation for intellectual cunning. Gifford infers a connection between these sentences and the moment in Penelope when Molly remembers that the Jesuits quashed his efforts to get her a singing gig in church: "he got me on to sing in the Stabat Mater by going around saying he was putting Lead Kindly Light to music I put him up to that till the jesuits found out he was a freemason thumping the piano lead Thou me on." The connection may seem a bit loose, as Bloom is thinking in Lotus Eaters of getting Molly "into the choir" whereas she thinks of his getting her a solo part in Rossini's Stabat Mater. But the sense may well be that Bloom got her that part by playing up an interest in Cardinal Newman's Catholic song, and then ("till") the Jesuits learned of his Protestant connections and denied his choir request.

If this reading is correct, it coheres perfectly with Father Farley's one appearance in the novel. In Circe, as Bloom preaches various utopian plans for human happiness including the "Union of all, jew, moslem and gentile," a hallucinated version of the Jesuit priest rises up to condemn him:

                            FATHER FARLEY

     He is an episcopalian, an agnostic, an anythingarian seeking to overthrow our holy faith.

                               MRS RIORDAN

     (Tears up her will.) I’m disappointed in you! You bad man!

                           MOTHER GROGAN

     (Removes her boot to throw it at Bloom.) You beast! You abominable person!
JH 2022
Ca. 1910 photograph of the Reverend Charles Farley, SJ, held in the Irish Jesuit Archive. Source: Igoe, The Real People of Joyce's Ulysses.