Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 27, 2017

Finnegans Wake, (1939), (2014 Folio Edition) by James Joyce #11 Chapter 10

So, we come to Part II Chapter 10!

Small signs of progress: I am more than half way through A Reader’s Guide to “Finnegans Wake” by my trusty guide William York Tindall, and 45% through A Skeleton Key to “Finnegan’s Wake”: James Joyce’s Masterwork Revealed by Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson.

But only 41% through the actual book I am reading, so I shall save the champagne for later.

Just flicking through the pages of chapter X in my copy of FW, I notice some strange things:

  • There are footnotes and marginalia left and right.  Not the editor’s, they are James Joyce commenting on his own chapter.  Some of the footnotes are very long, taking up over half the page.  I know enough about this book by now to know that they are not there to make anything clearer to me.
  • There are slabs of text in what appears to be straightforward French (yay! I can read that) and Latin (well beyond the capacity of my experience in Form 2).
  • There is a diagram like the ones we used to draw in secondary school geometry. I recognise the symbol π (pi).

So.  Consulting Tindall I learn that chapters IX, X and XI are the densest part of the Wake (which is both encouraging, and not) and he helpfully sorts out what Joyce means by the first lines:

As we there are where are we are we there (Finnegans Wake (Penguin Kindle Edition p.260)

À la Tindall, this becomes:

We are there.  Where are we?  Are we there? ( Tindall, p.170)

Hmmm… indeed.

Those who’ve read Ulysses will recognise what Joyce is doing in this chapter: he’s playing with form by mimicking text.  This time he is mimicking the children’s homework – Shem’s, Shaun’s and Isabel’s – and the footnotes and marginalia are a parody of  scholarship.  This chapter was apparently published in 1937 separately as Storiella as She is Syung, the title showing the importance of the footnotes at the bottom: they are the female’s i.e. Isabel’s and the marginalia are Shem’s and Shaun’s.  I use the Kindle Edition to quote FW here because it’s such a pain to copy Joyce’s games with spellings only to have auto-correct fix them – but the eBook has difficulty with the form, messing it up entirely.  This is a screenshot of what it looks like:

You can see Shem’s smart-aleck comments on the left, and Shaun’s pompous professorial ones on the right (in capital letters, which they’re not supposed to be), but (you’ll have to squint to see it), to see Isabel’s footnotes, you have to click that little ‘1’ (which ought by rights to be a ‘4’) after the word voylets (violets) and go out of the text to wherever Kindle has put the footnotes.  Wrong, wrong, wrong, they are footnotes not endnotes and the compositors who have fiddled with this obviously have no idea what they are doing.  It gets worse: later on in the chapter they turn these left and right marginalia into paragraph headings, differentiating between the two with italics and capitals, sticking them in where someone thinks they ought to go, a layout which destroys the whole point of Joyce setting it up like this.  Is it just the Kindle edition which does this, or the Penguin paperback edition too?  (BTW#1 unde et ubi is Latin for how and where, which despite the Latin is more comprehensible than imaginable itinerary through the particular universal, eh?) (BTW#2 Yes, I know they’re not called compositors.  But I don’t know what the digital arrangers of text are called. Feel free to enlighten me).

My indispensable Tindall tells me that, for these three commentators:

Their ostensible concern is with grammar, history and mathematics.  Their real concern is with their parents.  Through history they arrive at H.C.E. [their father a.k.a. Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker  and a zillion other names besides] and through geometry at A.L.P. [their mother Anna Lavinia Plurabelle who is also the River Liffey and a zillion other things besides], who, working at home, created these little homeworkers. (Tindall, p.172)

Tindall also warns me that Shaun and Shem in their role as commentators literally shift sides of the page.  He then goes on to explain a whole lot of stuff which makes no sense until I have read the FW text but I read it anyway.  (My process, so far in reading FW is to read the Tindall, and then the Campbell, and then I remember some of it as I am reading FW, and sometimes I consult them again when I am totally confused. I usually find Tindall more helpful in the detail but Campbell often more illuminating.  Both are indispensable, and ha! if I ever read FW for a second time, I will get more out of these commentaries than now, a naïve newbie floundering through FW for the first time).

Anyway.  Now to Campbell, who is likewise discouraging with his bald assertion that this chapter is perhaps the most difficult in the book.  But he also helpfully says:

… [It] describes the course of events during the study hour of the children.  It amplifies the moment into an image of studenthood in general, and enlarges the little tasks into representations of the great scholarly tasks that have occupied mankind from the beginning.  The principle references are to the medieval studies of the Trivium (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric) and Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy) and to the esoteric doctrines of the Kabbala.

So.  I might be ok with grammar bits, maybe the logic, probably the music, rusty on the geometry and out-of-my-depth on the astronomy because our Australian skies are not the same as Joyce’s northern hemisphere skies.  As for the Kabbala(h), no chance because the Wikipedia page is way too long for me to be bothered reading it..  My cribs will have to suffice.

Campbell differs from Tindall in his assessment of who the commentators are, but is put right by editor Epstein who says the footnotes are by Issy, not Shem.  But there’s a nice summary that tells me where I’m going once I start to read:

[The narrative outline of this chapter is fairly simple, but obscured by the intricacies of the student problems.  The chapter opens with a review, in allegorical terms, of the process of creation; twenty-six pages (260-86) are devoted to the description of the descent of spirit into time and space.  First, the will to creates moves the world-father to beget the universe; then the world becomes possible, takes form, actually appears.  Man comes into being with his primitive lusts and taboos, and becomes localised in the tavern of HCE.  There is the nursery of the children, the entire human comedy presents itself in miniature.

[The last pages of the chapter (286-308) are centred in the nursery.  The boys are at their tasks, and their sister is musing over letters.  The good little boy, named Kev in this chapter, is having trouble with his geometry; bad little Dolph assists him, and in so doing teaches him something which elicits a blow from the indignant hero.  Dolph recovers from the knockout and the two are reconciled.  Then comes supper, and time for bed.  (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.164 )

Reading through the Campbell crib is extremely daunting.  Best to get started and see what I can make of it….


So much for all that!  But I have found some lovely snippets for your delectation.  Page refs are to the Penguin Kindle Edition:

Sweet-some auburn, cometh up as a selfreizing flower, that fragolance of the fraisey beds  (p. 265, fraise is French for strawberry)

Stew of the evening, booksyful stew. (p.268, an allusion to the Turtle Soup in Alice in Wonderland?  Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

To me or not to me. Satis thy quest on (p.269).

There’s a split in the infinitive from to have to have been to will be (p.271)

This is the glider that gladdened the girl that list to the wind that lifted the leaves that folded the fruit that hung on the tree that grew in the garden Gough gave (p. 271, a twist on This is the House That Jack Built.  Neither Tindall nor Campbell have anything to say about this, so I remain mystified about who Gough might be).

And this, which all those of us who remember parsing will enjoy:

From gramma’s grammar she has it that if there is a third person, mascarine, phelinine or nuder, being spoken abad it moods prosodes from a person speaking to her second which is the direct object that has been spoken to, with and at. Take the dative with his oblative for, even if obsolete, it is always of interest, so spake gramma on the impetus of her imperative, only mind your genderous towards his reflexives such that I was to your grappa… (Finnegans Wake (Penguin Kindle Edition p. 268)

It comes as a relief to read the French segment: I’m intrigued as to why it is just straightforward French without any word games.

Finnegans Wake (Penguin Kindle Edition p. 281). My translation (FWIW)
Aujourd’hui comme aux temps de Pline et de Columelle la jacinthe se plaît dans les Gaules, la pervenche en Illyrie, la marguerite sur les ruines de Numance et pendant qu’autour d’elles les villes ont changé de maîtres et de noms, que plusieurs sont entrées dans le néant, que les civilisations se sont choquées et brisées, leurs paisibles générations ont traverse les âges et sont arrives jusqu’à nous, fraîches et riantes comme aux jours des batailles. Today, as in the times of Pliny and Columella, the hyacinth pleases itself in Gaul, the periwinkle in Illyria, the daisy on the ruins of Numance, while all around them cities have changed masters and names.  Many (of these flowers) entered into oblivion while civilizations were shocked and broken, [but] peaceful generations [of flowers] have traversed the ages, and come [back] to us, fresh and smiling, as in the days of battles.

The section where the boys are doing their maths is often very funny, even if your memories of Fourth Form maths are ab-surd (Sorry, couldn’t resist that!):

Show that the median, hce che ech, interecting at royde angles the parilegs of a given obtuse one biscuts both the arcs that are in curveachord behind. Brickbaths. The family umbroglia. A Tullagrove pole to the Height of County Fearmanagh has a septain inclinaison and the graphplot for all the functions in Lower County Monachan, whereat samething is rivisible by nighttim, may be involted into the zeroic couplet, Nom denombres! The balbearians. palls pell inhis heventh glike noughty times ∞, find, if you are not literally cooefficient, how minney combinaisies and per-mutandies can be played on the international surd! (Penguin Kindle Edition pp. 284-285).

Here’s the Latin bit, (which makes an amusing contrast with using Google translation, but I’ll spare you that.)

Finnegans Wake (Penguin Kindle Edition p. 287). Gilbert Highett’s translation in Tindall, p178
Venite, preteriti, sine mora dumque de entibus nascituris decentius in lingua romana mortuorum parva chartula liviana ostenditur, sedentes in letitiae super ollas carnium, spectantes immo situm lutetiae unde auspiciis secundis tantae consurgent humanae stirpes, antiquissimam flaminum amborium Jordani et Jambapastae mentibus revolvamus sapientiam: totum tute fluvii modo mundo fluere, eadem quae ex aggere fututa fuere iterum inter alveum fore futura, quodlibet sese ipsum per aliudpiam agnoscere contrarium, omnem demun amnem ripis rivalibus amplecti Come past, you people of the past (or you dead), without delay, and while in a little page in the manner of Livy an explanation is given rather gracefully in the Roman language of the dead, about the beings who are still to be born, sitting in joy (letitiae should be letitia) over pots of flesh, or rather looking at the site of Paris (lutetiae, a play on words that may justify letitiae) from which under favourable omens such great races of humanity are to arise, let us turn over in our minds the most ancient wisdom of both (amborium should be amborum) the priests Jordan and Jambaptista: that the whole universe flows safely like a river that the same things were poked (fututa is obscene) [Google translates it using another word beginning with ‘f”] from the heap of rubbish will again be inside the riverbed, that anything recognises itself through some contrary, and finally (demun should be demum) that the whole river is enfolded in the rival banks along its sides.

Well, that makes it clearer, eh?

And the diagram?  According to Tindall it is Shem’s mathematical representation of his mother.  The brothers, now renamed Kev and Dolph quarrel at this point because Dolph is supposed to be helping his brother but Kev has failed to understand any of it.  (Along with the rest of us).  They reconcile, it’s bedtime, there’s a sort of dialogue between all the great names of history from Alcibiades to Xenophon, and then there are ten monosyllables vertically down the page  – Aun Do Tri Cri Cush1 Shay Shockt OCkt Ni Geg – which Campbell explains like this, to my complete mystification:

Now comes a list of ten monosyllables which gear the circling wheels of Finnegans Wake into the Kabbalistic decade of the sephiroth.  This is the powerhouse of the book, with energy currents going to every page.  The syllables, each representing a number, fall into three groups of three, with one remaining.  They represent the descent of the all-highest One (Aun) down the ladder of the decade to union with Zero in order to form the number ten (Geg).  Each rung of the descent is matched by a marginal word corresponding to a phase of cosmic revolution. (Campbell, p 191, and he explains it all in great detail over the next two pages as well).

Uh, ok.

Do not get the impression from this post that I understand anything more than scraps of this chapter: without Tindall and Campbell, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what this chapter is about, and I’d be giving up if not for their advice that I’ve now ‘read’ two of the three most difficult chapters in the book.

So on to Chapter 11!

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


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. Joyce is such hard work – but like you say, I find it’s the scraps of wonderful poetry and funny wordplay that make it worthwhile (struggling with ulysses – 30%). Thanks for this wonderful review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Peter, Yes, Ulysses is hard work too, but it does get easier with re-reading. I’m not sure that FW will, but I am determined to finish it at least once!


  2. Echoing Peter’s comment – well done on passing the halfway mark; it is surely the ultra-marathon of reading. Fitness and marathons might be a good metaphor for reading. I remember at the peak of my reading fitness (2002) finally understanding Ulysses – on my third attempt – and moving onto Finnegan’s Wake, only to discover I was not ready. Since then I have only lost reading fitness and would probably struggle with Portrait of the Artist. I think blogging is the perfect response to Finnegan’s Wake or any Joyce; it needs some response from the reader.


    • Thanks, Nathan, I just hope I’m not driving readers of my blog away!


  3. Guessing the fruit of the tree in the garden that Gough gave, is the apple in the garden of Eden, not that that helps. Not sure how Gough is pronounced in Gaelic, but maybe Gock or even Hock. Anyway, press on, I’m loving it.


    • You could be right… the CD player in my computer has given up the ghost this week so I can’t play the FW CD, which usually really helps with working out the words. I really can’t face upgrading to Win 10 or anything else right now, so I’m just going to leave it for a bit … I might buy one of those portable DVD players that children use in the back of the car and get round it that way…
      Could Gough be God, pronounced in a strong Irish brogue?


  4. Reading a book that requires supporting books? I commend you – don’t think I could do it but figure there’s enough treasure there to make it worthwhile.


    • Yes, it’s an odd thing to do, but FW is so very challenging I can’t imagine persisting with it if I didn’t have help.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow – you certainly are getting into FW! Very impressive and I enjoyed your supplying the translations. My reading was nothing like yours – I just enjoyed the ride about 3 or 4 pages a day for about 8 months.


  6. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #11 Chapter 10 […]


  7. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #11 Chapter 10 […]


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  9. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #11 Chapter 10 […]


  10. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #11 Chapter 10 […]


  11. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #11 Chapter 10 […]


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  14. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #11 Chapter 10 […]


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  16. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #11 Chapter 10 […]


  17. […] Finnegans Wake, (Folio Edition) by James Joyce #11 Chapter 10 […]


  18. Dear Lisa! I came across your site sort of by accident. I was following the trail of a friend who had just added the Tindall book to their reading list. I’m a enthusiastic Joyce reader and I have spent some fair time of my life wrestling with FW!
    I chose to read your comments about Chapter 10. Very interesting. For a couple of years, when re-reading, I use to intentionally skip this chapter: I was afraid of it, and could not discover when to read the footnotes.
    I’ve struggled with FW guides for years, and ultimately find them all much more confusing to read then the book they are suppose to be explaining. I’ve also had the problem of not “seeing” the story that the explicators see. So I’ve been on my own basically for years.
    Anyway, if you would ever like to chat about Joyce!
    mark. – )


    • Hello Mark, how nice to meet you!
      ‘Wrestling’ is the right word, I think. I look back on the months I spent with FW with a mixture of delight and frustration, and a weird urge to go back and read it again! Yes, I think Joyce has worked his magic on me, as he did with Ulysses.
      I know what you mean about the guide… I’ve been selective with what I’ve commented on here because there were indeed ideas in the guides that I couldn’t find in the text, and yet I know that if I hadn’t had them to start with, I wouldn’t have got anywhere. Especially with the difficult chapters.
      I have a suggestion: next time you are wrestling with Chapter 10 let me know, and I’ll read it again too. That might be fun!


      • Hi Lisa and thank you for your friendly reply. I just moments ago disconnected the link between us. It’s no reflection upon you at all. It’s more my paranoia about clicking “on” to new things. I apologize, I’m not sure how to re-establish contact. Blogs are all new to me. – )
        I like the idea of reading 10 together, very much!


        • Hello again, Mark, I’m not sure what you mean about disconnecting the link, but as far as I know, any time you want to discuss this chapter, you just find this page and then write a comment in the comments box!


  19. This morning after I had posted a message on your site I received 3 e-mails from WordPress, and they asked me to subscribe to their service,
    then just before your e-mail came I unsubscribed. I’m new at this and rather unskilled when it comes to technical issues. Sorry! – )


    • I am not sure how it works if you don’t have a WordPress blog, but I think receiving emails after making a comment should only happen if you tick the box under the comments box to receive notification of a reply. I think that receiving three means (a) one email asking you to confirm that you wanted to subscribe to further comments on this particular page, and (b) notifications that there had been further comments.
      That’s quite different to subscribing to the actual blog. Subscribing to this blog (which means you get notifications of every new post that I write) only happens if you input your email address to the ‘Subscribe by email” box in the RH menu OR if you click the orange RSS icon (also in the RH menu).
      But don’t worry, we were all newbies once, and we all learn how to play online bit-by-bit according to our own needs and interests!


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