Dan Dawson's speech

In Brief

One of the three formal orations read or recited in Aeolus is said to be "the speech last night" of a actual Dublin merchant and politician, "Dan Dawson." Although no evidence has surfaced of his having composed the sentences and they certainly did not appear in the 16 June 1904 issue of the Freeman's Journal, they appear to be characteristic of other Dawson speeches published in the newspaper. The men in the newspaper office have a grand time mocking the overblown prose. In Hades some discomfort attends Bloom's offer to open up the day's Freeman and read the speech to the men in his carriage.

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As the carriage rolls along Martin Cunningham asks Simon Dedalus if he has read "Dan Dawson's speech" and tells him that it was printed "In the paper this morning." Bloom takes this as his cue to pull a copy of the Freeman from his coat pocket, evidently intending to share its contents, but he is rebuffed: "No, no, Mr Dedalus said quickly. Later on please." This exchange registers not only as another snub of the carriage's sole Jewish member, but also as a bit of physical comedy. In his notes to Hades (1992, trans. Hans Wollschlager), Fritz Senn observes that "Bloom's obsequious contribution to the conversation is once again disregarded. One reason for the disrespect, apart from Bloom's place in society, is simply the size of his newspaper, the Freeman's Journal. Fully-unfolded (a good 60 x 130 cm) [over 4 feet long and nearly 2 feet wide], it would certainly make the already uncomfortable size of the coach even tighter."

In Aeolus Bloom hears raucous laughter coming from the Evening Telegraph office, next door to the Freeman office where he stands, and decides to "Pop in a minute." He finds Ned Lambert occupied in the role that he was earlier barred from performing—reading Dawson's words from the morning paper. The speech praises the natural wonders of "Our lovely land," Ireland, and the color of the prose is decidedly purple. Professor MacHugh calls Dawson an "inflated windbag," Simon Dedalus says the speech would "give you a heartburn on your arse," and Bloom thinks, "High falutin stuff. Bladderbags." Shortly afterward, however, in one of his many acts of parallactic adjustment, Bloom thinks, "All very fine to jeer at it now in cold print but it goes down like hot cake that stuff."

The words in Aeolus are probably Joyce's over-the-top spoof, but there is good reason to think that he was parodying Dawson's rhetorical practice. In a page on James Joyce Online Notes, Harald Beck identifies several texts in which Mr. Dawson's contemporaries referred to his speechifying. In his memoir Under the Receding Wave (1970), Constantine Curran wrote, "Alert and spruce, impeccably dressed, flower in button-hole, the elder Dawson delighted in old-fashioned eloquence and in his own" (136). Dawson's obituary in the 19 March 1917 Freeman's Journal noted his "wonderful gift of eloquence." And a column in the 23 March 1889 issue of The Jarvey, a satirical magazine modeled on London's Punch, remarked on how frequently Dawson's effusions, rich in verbiage and deficient in intellectual content, appeared in the Freeman's Journal.

The column was addressed to "Charles Dawson, Esq., Lecturer on Talking about Everything in General and Doing Nothing in Particular." It read, in part, "The Freeman's Journal in particular seems utterly unable to make up its columns without Mr. Dawson on this or Mr. Dawson on that. One day it is Mr. Dawson lecturing in a Club, the next Mr. Dawson holds forth from a public platform. One day it's politics, and the next day industry, and not the least surprising part of the business is that you seem to be quite at home on every subject, from the depth of our mines to the height of our aims. Whether it is a Loaf or a Sunburst, the darning of stockings or the freedom of a nation, Mr. Dawson is semper paratus. . . . notwithstanding your very eloquent exordiums and your coruscating perorations, I sometimes fail to follow your reasoning."

Most helpfully of all, Beck reproduces part of a speech about Ireland, delivered early in April 1904 and printed entire in the The Freeman's Journal on April 7, in which  Dawson rhapsodized on "the boundless resources which a beneficent Providence has spread around on every side—resources which lie buried in the fertile womb of the earth, in the fields and mountains[,] in the rapid rivers, in the fathomless seas which wash our coasts, in the forces of Nature, lately replenished by the discovery of that unchained giant of electricity, the motor of many industries already, and the destined source of countless industries which will ere long awake the silent streets of town and village, and fill the air with the hum of industry all over the land." Beck notes the "Traces of hackneyed metaphors" in this sentence, which Joyce carved into gaping ruts in Aeolus.

Charles (Dan) Dawson (1842-1917), the son of a Limerick baker, owned several bakeshops in Dublin. He was elected to the Dublin Corporation in the 1870s and later served as Lord Mayor (1882-83), MP for County Carlow (1880-85), and Collector of Rates (taxes) for the Corporation. When Professor MacHugh exclaims, "Doughy Daw!," Bloom thinks, "He was in the bakery line too, wasn't he? Why they call him Doughy Daw."

JH 2019
Photograph of Dawson in Ephraim Cosgrave's Dublin and County Dublin: Contemporary Biographies (1908). Source: jjon.org.
Drawing of Dawson that appeared in the 23 March 1889 issue of The Jarvey. Source: jjon.org.
Ad for Dawson's bread in the 2 December 1882 issue of the Freeman's Journal. Source: jjon.org.