Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 7, 2017

Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #10 Chapter 9

So, we come to Part II Chapter 9!

And here is the warning from my guide William York Tindall:

If almost every word of the first eight chapters of “the book of Doubleends Jines” (two ends joined and Dublin’s giant) carries three or four meanings, almost every word of this chapter carries “three score and ten toptypsical” meanings (20.15-16*) or more.  “Than this,” we say, scratching our heads, “nothing is denser.” Such density that Joyce must have had more of a later time on his hands. Indeed, he wrote Part II when, after hitting his stride “where the hand of man has never set foot” (203.15-16), he had finished Parts I and III.  To explain all of Chapter IX – as one would if one could – would require a book and a big book too.  I shall have to be contented, according to my space, time, and capacity, with bits and pieces.

(A Reader’s Guide to “Finnegans Wake” by William York Tindall, Syracuse University Press, 1969, p.153)

I shall have to be contented with that too, Mr Tindall…

What happens, is not so complicated (though I needed to read both Tindall and Campbell to get the gist of it).  Night falls, and Earwicker’s children, Shem, Shaun, Isabel and the 28 friends, put on a play for their parents.  There is a guessing game like the one that Shem inflicted on Shaun in Chapter VI. But this time it’s Shaun who has to answer the impossible questions, and he fails three times to win the admiration of the girls so he goes off sulking and swearing revenge in a most moraculous jeerymyhead. [A Jeremiad, i.e. a long literary lament about the state of society and its morals]. He will avenge himself by writing, he bawls.  He will spill all the secrets of his ma and pa and [as we say here in Australia] have a good old whinge about how hard done by his is.  But proceedings come to a halt because their mother (A.L.P. i.e. Anna Lavinia Plurabelle) is making dinner while H.C.E. (Here Comes Everybody i.e. Earwicker) is nearby at the pub.  He commands them indoors with one of Joyce’s 100-letter words…


Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics,Kindle Edition p. 257.

[Lukkedoer apparently means shut the door in Danish, and so do the phonetic representations  unanddurras in Gaelic and fermoyporte in French – which I might have recognised as fermez la porte but didn’t].

… and so the fooling around comes to an end and everyone goes home.

The chapter starts with the playbill for the performance at the Feenichts [Phoenix] Playhouse. (Bar and conveniences always open, Diddlem Club douncestears.)  [Do children still do this?  We did in my family, writing and performing our own plays, with carefully crafted playbills to entice an audience].  The FW playbill introduces the artistes, who include Glugg (a.k.a. Shem), and Chuff (a.k.a his brother and rival Shaun) and also

THE FLORAS (Girl Scouts from St. Bride’s Finishing Establishment, demand acidulateds), a month’s bunch of pretty maidens who, while they pick on her, their pet peeve, form with valkyrienne licence the guard for

IZOD (Miss Butys Pott, ask the attendantess for a leaflet),

Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics Kindle edition) (p. 220).

but also this character whose role is incomprehensible to me:

ANN (Miss Corrie Corriendo, Grischun scoula, bring the babes, Pieder, Poder and Turtey, she mistributes mandamus monies, after perdunamento, hendrud aloven entrees, pulcinellis must not miss our national rooster’s rag), their poor little old mother-in-lieu, who is woman of the house, playing opposite to

HUMP (Mr. Makeall Gone, read the sayings from Laxdalesaga in the programme about King Ericus of Schweden and the spirit’s whispers in his magical helmet)…. (ibid, p. 220)

(I put that bit in just to show what I’ve been struggling with.  The only words I can conjure with are mistributes monies which is sheer genius for ‘mishandling the money’ –  and  pulcinellis which is reminiscent of the Latin word for girls and the French plural feminine pronoun elles meaning they or them.)

But strange as this is, there are words and phrases I’ve fallen in love with:

  • reveiling (revealing and re-veiling)
  • Tiffsdays off (a handy expression for a day off work when you’re fed up with the toxic workmates)
  • baschfellors (bashful bachelors)
  • Cinderynelly (Nelly/Ella)
  • novembrance (Remembrance Day in November)
  • Psing a psalm of psexpeans (demonstrating how ludicrous English spelling is, and same below)
  • gmere gnomes of gmountains
  • justickulating (gesticulating)
  • our funnaminal world (fundamental-animal)

And what about this?  (I do love the accidental music providentially arranged)

With futurist one-horse balletbattle pictures and the Pageant of Past History worked up with animal variations amid ever-glaning mangrovemazes and beorbtracktors by Messrs. Thud and Blunder. Shadows by the film folk, masses by the good people. Promptings by Elanio Vitale. Longshots, upcloses, outblacks and stagetolets by Hexenschuss, Coachmaher, Incubone and Rocknarrag. Creations tastefully designed by Madame Berthe Delamode. Dances arranged by Harley Quinn and Coollimbeina. Jests, jokes, jigs and jorums for the Wake lent from the properties of the late cemented Mr. T. M. Finnegan R.I.C. Lipmasks and hairwigs by Ouida Nooikke. Limes and Floods by Crooker and Toll. Kopay pibe by Kappa Pedersen. Hoed Pine hat with twentyfour ventholes by Morgen. Bosse and stringbag from Heteroditheroe’s and All Ladies’ presents. Tree taken for grafted. Rock rent. Phenecian blends and Sourdanian doofpoosts by Shauvesourishe and Wohntbedarft. The oakmulberryeke with silktrick twomesh from Shop-Sowry, seedsmanchap. Grabstone beg from General Orders Mailed. The crack (that’s Cork!) by a smoker from the gods. The interjection (Buckley!) by the firement in the pit. Accidental music providentially arranged by L’Archet and Laccorde. Melodiotiosities in purefusion by the score.

Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics Kindle Edition) (pp. 221-222).

Tindall has a good explanation for what’s going on in the density of word play:

Joyce accounts for density by three words and a reference: “monthage” (223.8), “portemanteau (240.36), “Calembaurnus” (240.21) and Wagner (229.34; 230.12-13).  Montage, a moving picture technique developed by Joyce’s friend Sergei Eisenstein, is the juxtaposition or superimposition of things to create a third thing.  The verbal combinations that make this chapter readable and unreadable can be thought of as montage by superimposition. A “portmanteau word”, defined by Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, carries like any portmanteau, several things at once. Since a calembour is a pun, ‘Saint Calembaurnus” must be the patron of punning.  Double talk accounts in part for a density improved by Wagnerian motifs. (p.155).

(An example of a portmanteau word that I found online, is podcast, a word made up from iPod and broadcast.  And an example of one leitmotif amongst others which recur often in FW, says Tindall, is tea: it carries its usual meanings of home, marriage (“Tea for Two”), urine and peace after conflict).

Tindall worries that Joyce is losing his readers with this chapter, but I don’t think so.   I especially liked the sequence that Campbell explains as a sequence of Roman Catholic sacraments:

[Glugg] ran amuck against seven good little boys (the seven sacraments) who were playing with the company: dove his head into Wat Murrey (baptism), gave Stewart Ryall a puck on the plexus (confirmation), wrestled a hurry-come-union with the Gillie Bed (eucharist), wiped all his sense, martial and menial, out of Shrove Sundy MacFearsome (penance), excremunccted as freely as any froth-blower into MacIsaac (extreme unction), had a belting bout, chaste to chaste, with McAdoo about nothing (matrimony), and inbraced himself (228) with what hung over from the MacSiccaries of the Breeks (Holy Orders).

(A Skeleton Key to “Finnegan’s Wake”: James Joyce’s Masterwork Revealed, by Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson, Collected Works Edition, New World Library, 2005, p.148, quoting FW in the Penguin Kindle edition P.227-8 )

*Numbers refer to line numbers in the text so that readers can find their way whichever edition they are using).

So on to Chapter 10!


A Reader’s Guide to “Finnegans Wake” by William York Tindall, Syracuse University Press, 1969; and

A Skeleton Key to “Finnegan’s Wake”: James Joyce’s Masterwork Revealed, by Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson, Collected Works Edition, New World Library, 2005

Finnegans Wake (Modern Classics) read by Jim Norton with Marcella Riordan, Naxos AudioBooks 2009

Finnegans Wake (Penguin Modern Classics), introduction by Seamus Deane, Penguin, 2015.  (I’m using the Kindle edition ASIN B00XX0H95S, just to make quoting easier because typing the text is such a provocation to AutoCorrect).)



  1. Oh well done you! I had really no idea what Finnegan’s Wake was when my Aunt asked me if I’d like to accompany her to a one woman show at the SouthBank Centre in London one weekend.

    Well, you can imagine, with no prior knowledge, what a shock it was, I was looking around at the audience enraptured, wondering how they’d all known! And then it started to gel and work and was some kind of brilliant, even though I couldn’t really find many other words to describe the experience, surreal perhaps! Hilarious to have not known. Not sure I’m ready to read it any time soon, I prefer to keep that playful yet intense experience pure.


    • That sounds wonderful! I am following an artist @artofthewake ‏ – she tweets her illustrations of FW and they are marvellous:)


  2. there are some glorious words in that list but oh boy that extract from Ann and Hump had me completely baffled. I couldnt read a whole book that was like this – one passage is enough to make my head ache


    • Well, I don’t read it like I read other books. It’s a once-a-week effort, not at bedtime even if I could heft this huge edition onto the bed, and I read the cribs before – and sometimes during – the reading.
      I think it helps that I’m also beginning to read novels in French. I have enough vocab to understand most of the one I’m currently reading, but there are still plenty of words I have to guess, to skip over and hope that context will reveal all, or to puzzle me so much that I consult the dictionary. It’s the same with FW. I read it as if it were a foreign language…


  3. You sound like you’re starting to enjoy yourself. My favourite ‘portmanteau’ word was ‘mother-in-lieu’ – that conjures up so many images.


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