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.
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.