Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 23, 2017

Finnegans Wake, (1939), (2014 Folio Edition) by James Joyce #9 Chapter 8

Well, I’m back on track with Finnegans Wake and here’s my once-weekly ramblings about the latest instalment…

As usual, I started my reading with my trusty guides Tindall and Campbell so that I know what to look for, and thus came to a delightful discovery: there is actually a recording of Joyce reading part of this chapter!  Well, of course, I cast aside Tindall and went straight to Google which responded to my search for ‘James Joyce reading Finnegans Wake’ with multiple sites with the reading and this explanatory snippet from

In August 1929, Joyce was in London to consult an ophthalmologist. While he was there, he met with his friend and admirer, C.K. Ogden, an authority on the influence of language upon thought and the founder of the Orthological Institute.  Ogden persuaded Joyce to come to the Institute to record the last pages of the Anna Livia chapter. The text had been prepared for Joyce in half-inch-high letters, but the lighting in the studio was so poor that he still could not read it easily. The recording was done nevertheless, with Joyce prompted in a whisper throughout.  To our knowledge this is the only recording of Joyce reading from the Wake.   (

Fans of the Wake at YouTube have uploaded an animation of this recording along with subtitles. 

Quite apart from the thrill of hearing Joyce read his masterpiece, this video is really useful for showing how words which seem incomprehensible in print are often just accurate reproductions of Joyce’s accent. ‘Hurd thum’ is just ‘heard them’.  ‘A manzinahurries off Bachelor’s Walk’ is just a bloke who’s in a rush! (Phwat is phthat? Try it aloud and see).

OTOH there are also the usual words which are #understatement difficult. Tindall tells me that much of this chapter uses Danish, not a language with which many of us have any familiarity, right?  But I am ahead of myself… back to the beginning…

Tindall and Campbell both agree that this chapter is ‘about’ Anna Livinia Plurabelle (ALP), Shem’s mother (see Chapter 7) and Earwicker’s wife, and she is represented by the River Liffey where two washerwomen are gossiping about Earwicker’s dirty linen, i.e. the crime against the girl/s of which he stands accused in the court of public opinion.  These two really enjoy themselves with a lot of smutty talk, identifying what folks get up to by the stains on their laundry.  The washerwomen tell us that ALP diverts her children’s attention from the scandal by giving them gifts, which gives Joyce the opportunity to do one of his splendid catalogues, this one lasting the best part of two pages, including these that I’ve selected from numerous others. (ALP seems to have hundreds of children).

  • for Sam Dash a false step;
  • snakes in clover, picked and scotched, and a vaticanned viper catcher’s visa for Patsy Presbys [my favourite]
  • scruboak beads [a rosary] for beatified Biddy;
  • a pretty box of Pettyfib’s Powder for Eileen Aruna to whiten her teeth and outflash Helen Arhone;
  • for Will-of-the-Wisp and Barny-the-Bark two mangolds noble to sweeden their bitters; [Tindall calls this a bitter comment on the Nobel for Shaw, Yeats and Mann]
  • a praises be and spare me days for Brian the Bravo;
  • penteplenty of pity with lubilashings of lust for Olona Lena Magdalena;
  • for Dora Riparia Hopeandwater a cooling douche and a warmingpan;
  • a hairpin slatepencil for Elsie Oram to scratch her toby, doing her best with her volgar fractions;
  • an old age pension for Betty Bellezza;
  • a letter to last a lifetime for Maggi beyond by the ashpit; and
  • a stonecold shoulder for Donn Joe Vance;

    (Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics, Kindle Edition, p.209-211)

Wardha bagful, indeed! A bakereen’s dusind with a tithe of tillies to boot. That’s what you may call a tale of a tub! (Penguin p.211)).  It’s a clever pun on the washerwomen’s tub and Swift’s novel of the same name, but that was the only allusion to Swift that I noticed, alas.  There are references to other works too, some of which I know, but others which eluded me:

Foul strips of his chinook’s bible I do be reading, dodwell disgustered but chickled with chuckles at the tittles is drawn on the tattle-page. Senior ga dito: Faciasi Omo! E omo fu fo. Ho! Ho! Senior ga dito: Faciasi Hidamo! Hidamo se ga facessà. Ha! Ha! And Die Windermere Dichter and Lefanu (Sheridan’s) Old House by the Coachyard and Mill (J.) On Woman with Ditto on the Floss.

(Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics, Kindle Edition pp. 212-213).

That last one is The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, and before that The House by the Churchyard (1863) by Sheridan Le Fanu, an Irish writer of Gothic tales whose name I know because he’s listed in 1001 Books and one of his books is called Uncle Silas (which leads to Eliot’s Silas Marner)Die Windermere Dichter (thank-you Google Translate) means The Windermere Poets, which is a reference to The Lake Poets – but what that has to do with anything I have no idea…

(And I should point out that the preceding gobbledygook senior ga dito etc was identified by Google Translate as Japanese.  Make of that what you will).

One thing I realised from listening to the recording was that (as Tindall says) there are many references to rivers from all over the world in this chapter, but the way that Joyce uses them is to tweak their names to mean something else, as in my Garry come back from the Indes or so firth and forth, an allusion to the Firth of Forth in Scotland.

At the end the two women metamorphose into stone and elm:

Can’t hear with the waters of. The chittering waters of. Flittering bats, fieldmice bawk, talk. Ho! Are you not gone ahome? What Thom Malone? Can’t hear with bawk of bats, all thim liffeying waters of. Ho, talk save us! My foos won’t moos. I feel as old as yonder elm. A tale told of Shaun or Shem? All Livia’s daughter-sons. Dark hawks hear us. Night! Night! My ho head halls. I feel as heavy as yonder stone. Tell me of John or Shaun? Who were Shem and Shaun the living sons or daughters of? Night now! Tell me, tell me, tell me, elm! Night night! Telmetale of stem or stone. Beside the rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters of. Night!

Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics, Kindle Edition pp. 215-216).

So on to Chapter 9!




  1. Well done on your progress. I have a copy of this and the Campbell guide but haven’t built up the oomph needed to start it yet. I shall keep an eye on your progress – you might inspire me to just jump straight in -eek!


    • Go for it!
      But I find Tindall much more helpful than Campbell, so if you can run to a copy of that as well, I’d recommend it.
      Oh, and also have other things to read as well, to maintain your sanity:)


  2. There was a reference in there, somewhere near the Mill on the Floss to JS Mill’s The Subjection of Women


  3. Yes *excitement* I think you’re right! I knew he meant John Stuart Mill, but I was focussed on the link with The Mill on the Floss and his preoccupation with rivers.
    See, this is how Tindall did it: he had a bunch of FW readers who were well-read and multilingual and they all added bits and pieces that they understood and bounced ideas off each other – until between the lot of them, FW began to make sense.


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