In Brief

The "Nannetti" first encountered in Aeolus, shortened in some Dublin mouths to "Nannan" and identified very precisely in Ithaca as "Councillor Joseph P. Nannetti, M. P., Rotunda Ward, 19 Hardwicke street," was an actual Dubliner. As the print foreman at the Freeman's Journal he matters to Bloom chiefly as the man who can get Alexander Keyes' ad placed in the paper, but he also figures in the novel as a son of immigrants who attained considerable prominence in Irish politics. 

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Born in 1851, fifteen years before the fictional Bloom, Joseph Patrick Nannetti was apprenticed to a printer and became a master of the craft. He entered politics as a trade unionist and nationalist and was elected President of the Dublin Trade Council (1886-88), City Councillor for the Rotunda Ward (1898-1915), Member of Parliament for College Green (1900-15), and Lord Mayor of Dublin (1906-8). Nannetti's trade unionism was of an earlier generation than that of James Larkin and James Connolly, far less militant in pitting workers against employers. His nationalism as a member of Parnell's Irish Parliamentary Party included continued agitation for Home Rule. Although his two terms as Lord Mayor came after the time represented in the novel, Joyce took care to have Alf Bergan observe, in Cyclops, that he was already "running for the mayoralty" in 1904. In Aeolus Bloom thinks, "Soon be calling him my lord mayor. Long John is backing him, they say."

Bloom talks to Nannetti in his little "reading closet" in the Freeman offices about publishing Keyes' ad. Later, in one of the intruding scenes in Wandering Rocks, the councillor is seen "On the steps of the City hall" greeting two other members of the Dublin Corporation. In Cyclops, Joe Hynes tells the other men in the pub that in the evening Nannetti will be "going off by the mailboat" to London to speak on the floor of the House of Commons "about the commissioner of police forbidding Irish games" in Phoenix Park, and about "taking action in the matter" of foot-and-mouth disease. Bloom is disappointed to hear of Nannetti's departure, because he had been hoping to speak to him again about the ad. In real life, no one in Dublin could have spoken to Nannetti at any time on June 16; according to the Evening Telegraph, he was in Westminster addressing Parliament that afternoon.

The mailboat departed each evening at 8:15. Near the end of Nausicaa, which begins at about 8:00, Bloom thinks, inaccurately, that Nannetti must be nearly to Wales by now: "Nannetti’s gone. Mailboat. Near Holyhead by now. Must nail that ad of Keyes’s. Work Hynes and Crawford." This reverie takes shape again in Circe as a fantasy of Nannetti being out in Dublin Bay on the Erin's King, like Bloom with his daughter Milly.

The implied identification between the two men insinuates a thought that is never made explicit in the novel: how, Bloom must wonder, has this son of foreigners become such an important person in Dublin? Dennis Breen of the Brini clan has earned only suspicion and contempt. The ambitious son of a Hungarian Jew born Virag has not fared much better. But Nannetti has been accepted and entrusted with political authority. Even in the xenophobic and misanthropic confines of Barney Kiernan's pub no one slanders him. Joe Hynes, a fellow newspaperman, calls him by the familiar "Nannan" and refers to him as "The mimber," which Slote glosses as simply a western Irish pronunciation of "member," i.e. M.P. 

Bloom's closest approach to forming such thoughts comes in Sirens. As he walks along Wellington Quay and gazes on "Ceppi's virgins, bright of their oils," he recollects that "Nannetti's father hawked those things about, wheedling at doors as I. Religion pays. Must see him about Keyes's par." Peter Ceppi & Sons sold Blessed Virgin statues at 8-9 Wellington Quay, so the implication is that Nannetti's father sold such icons by knocking on doors. Bloom's father too was a door-to-door salesman, and after Bloom left high school he took up his destined place in that line of work. He has moved on to other occupations, but ad canvassing is not so far removed from door-to-door sales, and it has not led him to the career as a Lord Mayor or magistrate that he fantasizes about in Circe and Ithaca.

One advantage of an Italian-Irishman, of course, would be the Roman Catholicism that the two cultures share—as Bloom notes when he thinks, "Religion pays." Ceppi and his sons were not the only Italian-Irish artisans to fill the BVM niche. Many commentators have traced Nannetti's origins to an Italian "sculptor and modeller" who sold his work at 6 Great Brunswick Street in the 1840s and 50s. Some have inferred that his father must have been Giacomo Nannetti, who owned this business. But Harald Beck, in an article on James Joyce Online Notes, has argued that it was not Giacomo but his Italian-born nephew Giuseppe (Joseph) who fathered Joseph Patrick. Giuseppe helped run the business, and it would appear that neither nephew nor uncle "hawked" Virgin Mary statues door-to-door. That wrinkle on the historical record is fiction, imagined either by Joyce or by Bloom himself to allow Bloom to think about what he has in common with Nannetti.

Since both of the small changes that Joyce made to the life of the actual Joseph Patrick Nannetti lead to Bloom being imaginatively associated with the Councillor, it seems justifiable to infer that he regards his older, more powerful, and very socially prominent co-worker with some mixture of admiration, inspiration, consternation, and/or envy. Bloom must see in Nannetti signs of what is, or is not, possible for an ethnically heterogeneous "mimber" of Dublin society.

JH 2018
Photograph of Joseph Patrick Nannetti from the 2 February 1907 issue of the Illustrated London News. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Photograph of Nannetti in his mayoral robe and chain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Nannetti’s Emporium of Fine Arts at no. 6 Great Brunswick Street, in a drawing reproduced in Henry Shaw's Dublin Pictorial Guide & Directory (1850). Source: