James Carey

James Carey

In Brief

In Lotus Eaters, as Bloom watches the pious worshipers in St. Andrew's church and imagines how women may confess some of their sins to a priest "and do the other thing all the same on the sly," he thinks of "That fellow that turned queen's evidence on the invincibles he used to receive the, Carey was his name, the communion every morning. This very church. Peter Carey. No, Peter Claver I am thinking of. Denis Carey. And just imagine that. Wife and six children at home. And plotting that murder all the time." In Lestrygonians he is still searching for the first name: "Like that Peter or Denis or James Carey that blew the gaff on the invincibles. Member of the corporation too." The man's name was James Carey, but Bloom remembers his story quite accurately.

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James Carey was the son of a bricklayer who became a builder and landlord. He lived on Denzille Street and owned properties also on Denzille Lane, Hamilton Row, South Cumberland Street, and South Gloucester Street. By virtue of his success in business he was elected to the Corporation, and some people spoke of him as possible Lord Mayor material. But since 1861 he had been a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Fenian group that mounted a violent rebellion in 1867. Carey left the IRB in 1881 and helped to found a new group calling itself the Invincibles. On 6 May 1882 nine of them wielding long knives killed the under-secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Thomas Henry Burke, along with Lord Frederick Cavendish, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who happened to be with him in Phoenix Park. The perpetrators were sought for a long time without success, but in January 1883 Carey and sixteen other men were arrested. He turned state's evidence, and his testimony was used to convict and hang five of his fellow conspirators. The government took him into protective custody and put him on a ship to South Africa. There, a fellow bricklayer who became friendly with Carey learned who he was and shot him dead on board the ship.

Although he cannot remember his given name, Bloom's knowledge of the man is remarkably full. Carey had a brother named Peter, likewise committed to violent action. He was elected a Councillor. He was known for attending services at the nearby St. Andrew's church every single day.  Igoe quotes a contemporary reporter, J. B. Hall, who remarked on his "reputation for ostentatious piety." Thornton describes Bloom's knowledge of Carey's family situation as "amazingly accurate: in a London Times interview of February 20, 1883, Mrs. Carey says that they have seven children, and that the youngest is a baby two months old" (85).

It is possible that Carey enters Bloom's thoughts because he has entered the church from the back door on South Cumberland Street. There, he was only a few steps away from one of Carey’s houses where the knives from the Phoenix Park murders were found—a discovery that was widely reported in the newspapers and caused a sensation. One of Carey's tenants in the house had seen him using a ladder to make secret trips to the attic and climbed up to see what was there. He found two long surgical amputation knives that fit the wounds inflicted in the park.

JH 2022
Portrait of James Carey by an unknown engraver, published in 1883 and held in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Source: Wikimedia Commons.