In Brief

At the end of Lotus Eaters Bloom sees that the southeastern gate of Trinity College is manned by an attendant in a gatehouse: "There's Hornblower standing at the porter's lodge." At the end of Wandering Rocks this man is seen again in the same spot, saluting the viceregal cavalcade as it passes by: "Deep in Leinster street by Trinity's postern a loyal king's man, Hornblower, touched his tallyho cap." The Trinity porters were, as the word suggests, gatekeepers, but they also maintained order and decorum throughout the campus. They dressed in a strangely distinctive style that made them look like country gentlemen on a fox hunt—hence "tallyho."

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In a short article titled "Images of College: An Afterword," Hermathena (1992): 151-53, Englishman Gerald Morgan describes his 1968 arrival at TCD: "I entered Front Gate [the one in the west] at about seven o'clock in a sickly and exhausted state, having just survived three and a half hours on a choppy Irish Sea, two pints of Guinness (I have drunk no more from that day to this), and an exposition of the rules of Gaelic football. I stared uncertainly through the drizzle and mist, and my gaze fixed upon an imposing figure in a riding hat and a frock-coat. I surmised that he must be a gentleman scholar or country squire, but I could see no sign of a stables and there were no hounds pawing the cobbled stones in Parliament Square. Like most Englishmen my ignorance of Ireland was extensive, and here it was complete, for the country squire turned out to be a porter. Moreover the porters were less impressed by their uniforms than I had been, and considered themselves to be an object of ridicule, no less indeed than flunkeys. In the next few years they mounted a vigorous campaign to change both the uniform and the accompanying terminology of porter, and have long since established themselves as security guards wearing flat-peaked hats like gendarmes."

Bloom's familiarity with the gatekeeper is the closest the reader of Ulysses ever gets to entering the walled confines of this distinguished university, an immensely important part of Irish culture that was largely off limits to the Catholic populace on whom Joyce centered his story. The novel merely glances at the porter's "tallyho cap," declining to mock the outlandish getup that porters were finding so humiliating in 1968. (In Circe the fox-hunting connection does rise to the level of ridicule: "A pack of bloodhounds, led by Hornblower of Trinity brandishing a dogwhip in tallyho cap and an old pair of grey trousers, follows from far, picking up the scent, nearer, baying, panting.") The simple detail of the cap does manage to signify, however, that the people behind those walls are culled from the landed gentry, the fox-hunting set once called the Ascendancy. The porter, like Trinity's Protestant students and faculty, is "a loyal king's man," proudly saluting Ireland's viceregal rulers as they pass by.

Slote argues that "Hornblower is not the porter's name but, rather, a reference to the uniform" and to the "black peak cap like those worn by fox-hunters." It does seem likely that Joyce chose this name to evoke fox hunting, since no one to my knowledge has ever identified a real Hornblower who worked as a Trinity porter. The sentence in Wandering Rocks—"a loyal king's man, Hornblower, touched his tallyho cap"—could be read as a flight of authorial fancy linking unionism to a man characterized as the horn-blowing leader of a hunt.

But the capital H does not fit this reading very well. Apart from the Bunyanesque prose in Oxen of the Sun, Joyce does not normally personify his symbolic abstractions in this way. In Lotus Eaters, moreover, Bloom does not seem to be performing any such flight of fancy: "There's Hornblower standing at the porter's lodge. Keep him on hands: might take a turn in there on the nod. How do you do, Mr Hornblower? How do you do, sir?" This sounds like one of Bloom's realistic thoughts about respectfully hitting someone up for a favor. Mr. Hornblower appears as a character in Circe, and Molly thinks of him in Penelope: "I was with him with Milly at the College races that Hornblower with the childs bonnet on the top of his nob let us into by the back way."

The name Hornblower seems to be rare in Ireland but it is fairly common in England, and many English people have studied or worked at Trinity College. Joyce could very plausibly have made it the "real" name of a fictive porter while still loading it with strong imaginative suggestions, as he does, for instance, with.....Bloom.

JH 2022
Illustration from Randolph Caldecott's The Fox Jumps over the Parson's Gate. Source: www.istockphoto.com.