A Minor exchange on Joyce’s knowledge and use of Gaelic

Minor exchange on Gaelic

Peter Chrisp via lists.colorado.edu
7:24 AM (7 hours ago)

to fwread
Joyce went to Irish lessons with Patrick Pearse – he was persuaded to go by his friend George Clancy (Davin in A Portrait). But Ellmann says that Joyce didn’t get on with Pearse and abandoned the lessons ‘because Patrick Pearse found it necessary to exalt Irish by denigrating English, and in particular denounced the word ‘Thunder’ – a favourite of Joyce’s – as an example of verbal inadequacy.’

But in The Years of Growth, Peter Costello notes that in the 1901 census, John Joyce recorded that both James and Stanislaus spoke and wrote Irish. Costello adds ‘which they did not learn at school but in the Gaelic League.’

Peter C

From: gerry grimes <mildewlisa@gmail.com>
To: fwread <fwread@lists.Colorado.EDU>
Sent: Sat, 8 Jun 2013 9:18
Subject: Re: Scribbledehobble — from Oxford’s Dictionary of National Biography site

Irish is still taught here as a compulsory subject in primary and post primary schools. Since Joyce was educated in the catholic school system I am sure this was the case for him ( I believe a test in Irish formed part of the entrance exam for UCD). He would have learned prayers in Irish and the mass rite at that time would have been in latin.

Wasn’t it Dinneen who formally introduced the letter h as the 18th letter in the Irish alphabet and wasn’t this significant for the structure of the 18 chapters of Ulysses?

There is a joke in Ireland about the tourist who asks directions from an old farmer he encounters on a country road. The farmer thinks for a while then says – ‘if I was going there I wouldn’t start from here’. I was reminded of this story while reading of your intention to learn Irish:
Lesson One


Male:       Dia  dhuit.

Female:   Á,   an dtuigeann tú Gaelainn?

The word Gaelainn was new to me – but you learn something everyday. Unfortunately, it breaks one of the laws of Irish regarding the distribution of vowels in a word – where vowels are separated by a consonant(s) a slender vowel (i or e) must be followed by a slender vowel and a broad vowel ( a, o or u) followed by a broad vowel. This rule is useful for identifying a word that you suspect may be an Irish word in FW – I can find no example in O Hehir where this doesn’t hold.

12:50 PM (2 hours ago)

to fwread
Well there are at least 1,100 uses of, puns on, or references to the Irish language in FW (5th most used language in the book).


1:50 PM (1 hour ago)

to fwread
A number of years ago a manuscript circulated written by Eileen MacCarvaill of Dublin, ostensibly having to do with Joyce’s education. In it the claim was made that there were advertisements in some 1901 Dublin news­papers for both Joyce and Thomas Kettle as main speakers for Gaelic lectures in Caithal Mac Garvey’s Tobacco Shop.. For many things it is my personal judgement, having had the privilege of reading that manuscript some 25 years ago though I was not allowed to keep it, that MacCarvaill was unreliable, carried away  by a personal and enthusiastically nationalist view of Irish history. I have no idea what the opinions of his writings and lectures of his colleagues and others in Dublin is or was. The manuscript was never published for reasons I know nothing about. But when someone says in a simple declarative way that they have seen something, in this case advertisements in a Dublin paper, I think we need to take the matter seriously, although there is no  other record of Joyce speaking publicly in Gaelic..  It is at least a serious possibility that this happened, even if the actual newspapers may by now have crumbled to dust.


Peter Chrisp via lists.colorado.edu
2:23 PM (45 minutes ago)

to fwread
He writes about his brief experience in the Gaelic League in Stephen Hero, where  Emma Clery says, ‘You get tired of everything so quickly – just the way you did in the Gaelic League’.

Yes, Joyce was much more interested in European languages. Irish to him was insular – one of the nets he had to escape.

I’d imagine that John Joyce was exaggerating when he claimed his sons could speak Irish. Flann O’Brien, whose first language was Irish, makes fun of the eccentric Irish in Ulyssses

Peter C

3:03 PM (6 minutes ago)

to fwread
It would seem to me that the question is whether McCarvaill’s evidence is to be “tested”
or dismissed out of hand.
If he did give talks in Gaelic that would be meaningful. No matter how transitory his interest.
Given his capacity for absorbing languages and dictionaries it reallly I think does not tell us much whether he had formal training or not, or if his interest was long lasting or peripheral.
My general feeling is that he had a strong nationalist streak which he then tied other colonial issues and issues of cultural dominance, among others, and that his concern for what
Sean Golden called the genuine Irish tradition
extended not only to the English the Irish spoke
but also to Gaelic. And I can think of no reason for him NOT to know Gaelic. It may have been insular, but Finnegans Wake is clearly a book about islands.



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