Charley, you're my darling

Charley, you're my darling

In Brief

A classic Scottish folk song shows up in Hades when Joe Hynes refers to C. P. M'Coy as "Charley" and recalls that he "was on the Freeman once." Bloom thinks, "So he was before he got the job in the morgue under Louis Byrne. . . . Got the run. Levanted with the cash of a few ads. Charley, you're my darling. That was why he asked me to." Bloom's association of two Charleys may be purely superficial, but more likely—given the endless significations in Joyce's writing—it reflects his hunch that the dishonest M'Coy is avoiding contact with the newspaper that once employed him.

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M'Coy not only steals people's suitcases. When he held the job that Bloom now holds, it seems that he made off with some money that businessmen had given him to pay for ads in the Freeman. To "levant," according to the OED, is to steal away, to abscond, often used in connection with bettors who don't intend to pay up. M'Coy, then, may have wanted to avoid Paddy Dignam's funeral because that event was likely to be covered by someone from the newspaper (and, indeed, Joe Hynes is there). M'Coy is playing the same trick as Tom Kernan, mentioned a bit earlier in Hades as avoiding contact with the grocer Fogarty who has allowed him to run up a tab: "Though lost to sight, Mr Dedalus said, to memory dear."

The song commemorates the 1745 return to Scotland of Charles Edward Stuart, a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Charlie, a.k.a."The Young Pretender" or "The Young Chevalier." Charles was the grandson of King James II of England (King James VII of Scotland), whose alleged Catholic sympathies prompted the Revolution of 1688 that put William and Mary in power, and who was decisively defeated by "King Billy" at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland. Raised in Rome as a Catholic and a believer in the "Jacobite" cause, Charles returned to Scotland at the age of 25 to return his family to power, and his military campaign was initially successful. But after a crushing defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 he went into hiding on the Scottish moors and then fled to the Isle of Skye—an action romanticized in another great Scottish air, The Skye Boat Song. The flight from Scotland is the part of his story that seems relevant to Ulysses, though perhaps Charles Stuart's ignominious subsequent existence as a continental exile addicted to love affairs (he had many darlings), alcohol, and Jacobite intrigues hovers about the edges of the comparison.

The effect of Bloom's alluding to the song, then, may be to suggest that Charley M'Coy is a failed and exiled pretender. As Zack Bowen puts it, "The Stuarts were after the throne in the same way that M'Coy was after the Freeman funds. As Charley M'Coy was banished from the Freeman, so the Pretender was banished from England, and neither dared show his face. . . . Prince Charlie was banished to France under Louis XV, while Charley M'Coy was banished to the morgue under Louis Byrne."

The song itself contains no dismal anticipations of Charles Stuart's dismal end. It caught on in Ireland because it breathed a spirit of hope to a disenfranchised Catholic nation:

Twas on a Monday morning,

Right early in the year, 

When Charlie came to our town 

The young chevalier.

Charlie is my darling, my darling, my darling. 

Charlie is my darling, the young Chevalier.

As he came marchin' up the street, 

The pipes played loud and clear. 

And a' the folk came rinnin' out 

To meet the Chevalier.


Wi' highland bonnets on their heads 

And claymores bright and clear, 

They came to fight for Scotland's right 

And the young Chevalier.


They've left their bonnie highland hills, 

Their wives and bairnies dear, 

To draw the sword for Scotland's lord,

The young Chevalier.


Oh, there were many beating hearts, 

And mony a hope and fear, 

And mony were the pray'rs put up, 

For the young Chevalier.


The original patriotic words, reproduced here, were penned to a traditional tune in 1745 by Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne, the talented songwriter who also composed "Will ye no' come back again?," another moving song about the Bonnie Prince. In 1794 Robert Burns wrote a new version, celebrating Charlie's conquests between the sheets. Burns' lines have become as well known as Lady Nairne's, and they are sung in the two performances featured here.

JH 2020
The "lost portrait" of Charles Edward Stuart, 1745 oil on canvas painting by Allan Ramsay held in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
"Gentlemen, he cried, drawing his sword, I have thrown away the scabbard": Bonnie Prince Charlie on the battlefield, in an illustration from Scotland's Story: A History of Scotland for Boys and Girls (1876). Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Oil on canvas portrait of Charles Edward Stuart near the end of his life, ca. 1785, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, held in Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. Source: Wikimedia Commons.