Chapter 2


Pages: 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44-47

[In which the name of the new-comer, Earwicker, is discussed. The fall of Earwicker is discussed as a sin involving two women in a park, avenged by three soldiers. A rumour about Earwicker starts following a chance meeting which suggests that he is a homosexual, and a scurrilous ballad is created and distributed over all Dublin.]

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Now, concerning the genesis of Humphrey Chimpden’s occupationally-based surname Earwicker (we are back in the presurname period) – discarding older theories that link him to the Gravy’s, the Northeasts, the Ankers and the Earwickers of Sidlesham, or theories that proclaim him to be offspring of Vikings who settled in Herrick or Eric – the best version is the Dumlat that has it this way. We are told that in the beginning, the grand old gardener was working under a tree one sabbath afternoon in his garden behind his inn, the old marine hotel, when a runner announced that royalty had halted on the high road with a pack of dogs in the midst of hunt. Forgetful of everything except his fealty to the king, he didn’t bother mount a horse, but stumbled out to greet the king hotfaced as he was…

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…jingling his turnpike keys and bearing aloft amid all the pikes of the hunting party a pole on which was attached an upsidedown flowerpot. His majesty, who was or feigned to be longsighted, had been meaning to inquire what had caused the road to become so potholed – but seeing Humphrey’s pole and flowerpot, asked instead whether fishing flies were better for trapping lobsters. To which blunt, honest Humphrey answered, ‘Naw yer maggers, I was just catching bloody earwigs’. The king, who was drinking a goblet of ale, smiled most heartily beneath his walrus moustache, and indulging the none too genial humour he had inherited from William the Conqueror on the female side, turned to two of his retinue of gallowglasses, Michael, etheling lord of Leix and Offaly and the jubilee mayor of Drogheda, Elcock, and remarked: ‘Holy bones of Saint Hubert, how our red brother of Pomerania would fume if he knew that he has in charge of this bailiwick a turnpiker who is by turns a pikebailer no seldomer than an earwigger!’ (One can still hear the laughter of the hunting party there under the roadside tree planted by the lady Holmpatrick, and one still feels Humphrey’s silence in the road marker that states ‘Five miles outside Dublin’). There is the question of whether this account of his name is recorded in any collateral narrative accounts about names. Or is the truth somewhere in between?

P. 32

There is nothing left on the road that can give us a clue. And is this our fate as well? Is this all that will be left of our kingdom? It will be a long time before we find out. Bear in mind that this man is a mountain, and one can expect changes as one ascends a mountain. Let’s leave aside the fallacy that it was not the king he met on the high road, but the king’s inseparable sisters, uncontrollable nightwalkers who, after the revolution, had come down in the world and were at the time ‘amusers’ - staged by Madam Sudlow as Rosa and Lily Miskinguette in a pantomime. The fact emerges that after the date of the meeting with the king, all papers exhumed so far were initialled by Humphrey with the sigla, H.C.E. and, while the starving inhabitants of Chapelizod called him ‘good Dook Umphrey’ and his cronies called him ‘Chimbers’, the rest of the population interpreted the initials as ‘Here Comes Everybody’. An imposing everybody he looked – constantly the same and worthy of any such universalisation. He frequented the theatre, and, despite continuous taunts from the front of Accept these few nutties! and Take off that white hat! And Stop his Grog and Put It in the Log and Loots in his Boots, he sat surveying the truly catholic audience who applauded Mr Semperkelly’s tourers in a command performance of A Royal Divorce . He sat in his viceregal booth…

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… a veritable Napoleon the Nth, with his hat only marginally less eminent that two archbishops also sitting there, a world renowned practical joker and celtic comedian in his own right, dressed in an amazing swallowtail shirt and tuxedo.

A baser meaning has been read into the taunts he endured, which cannot be decently hinted at. It has been bruited about by certain wisecrackers that he suffered from a vile disease. To such a suggestion the only self-respecting answer is to say that there are certain statements which ought not to be allowed. Nor have his detractors, who apparently conceive of him as a great white caterpillar capable of any enormity, aided their case by insinuating that he lay under the ludicrous imputation of annoying Welsh Fusileers in Phoenix Park. To anyone who knew and loved the christlikeness of the big cleanminded giant H.C. Earwicker throughout his life, the mere suggestion of him being a lustsleuth seems preposterous. The truth compels one to add that there is said to have formerly been some case of the kind suggesting that there was a certain person at about that time, stumbling…

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…round Dublin in leaky sneakers with a dark track record, and who has remained anonymous despite having a wanted poster in the police station. And years afterwards, claims a priest, he was seen at the head of a food queue at a church. Slander has not been able to convict our southern-born Earwicker, that homogenous man, of any greater impropriety than of having behaved with ungentlemanly immodesty opposite a pair of dainty maidservants in a rushy hollow, where the call of nature had sent them both at that evening hour. Their published testimonies, however, differ on minor points regarding the intimate nature of this first offence, which was admittedly incautious but at its wildest a partial exposure – attenuated by the hot summer and a ripe occasion to provoke it.

We can’t do without women. Wives, rush to the rescue! Guiltless of much laid to him, this time he also claimed to be so, and his statement is considered…

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… to be true. His detractors also tell the story of how one April morning, (his birthday as it turns out) a long time after the alleged misdemeanour, when Earwicker, the friend of all creation, was walking across Phoenix Park carrying his walking stick when he met a Cad with a pipe. The latter – the Cad – accosted him, asking: ‘How are you today my fair sir?’ and whether Earwicker would tell him what the time was, as his watch was not working. Frightened by the encounter, worried that he might be shot, and realising how isolated he was, Earwicker, stopped and stated that he was feeling tiptop, and retrieved his pocket watch, but at that moment he heard Fox Goodman, a bell-ringer in Chapelizod to the south, ringing the ten-ton bell in the speckled church there, and told the Cad that it was 12 noon and time for a tankard of beer. [Twelve noon happening to be an answer which suggested he was homosexual - Ellmann.] Then, bending deeply to give more weight to what he was about to say, plus a gift of a copper coin, with sardinish breath (although he…

P. 36

…usually chewed ginger) he added ‘Whereas the ac-ac-accusation against me has been made, what was known in high quarters and has been stated in the Morning Post, is that the creature was quite beneath parr and several degrees lower than a snake.’ To support his statement, the blonde giant tapped his watch shut and, now standing fully erect, clasped the hollow of his elbow (pointed at 32 degrees and making the ritual sign of a backward E) and pointed at the Wellington Monument, as though it was a witness to what he was about to say, and after a pause he said: ‘Shake c-c-comrade. I have won in equal combat against the snake. Hence my n-n-nation wide hotel and creamery establishments. For the honour of Ireland’s daughters, I am willing to take my stand upon the monument, for our r-r-redemption any day any hour and make my oath to Sinn Fein , even if I get life for it, upon the bible and in the presence of the Great Taskmaster, the deity itself, the Bishop of the High Church of England, before all people in the world who speak English – that there is not one tittle of truth in the snake’s f-f-fabrication.’

The Cad, swift to make errors and slow to check himself…

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… lifted his hat and bade the giant ‘Good morrow’ and ‘good night’ and added that he was greatly obliged, and like a sensible man and perceiving the delicate situation, thanked him for guilders received and for giving him the time (taken a little aback that that it was still so early) and upon humble duty to meet his taskmaster he went about his business – whatever it was, saluting corpses – accompanied by his trusty dog. (One could have followed him from the particles of scalp and dandruff he left in his wake.) The Cad reflected to himself as he went that, ‘I have met with you, bird, too late, or if not, too early’. And after that he repeated verbatum as many of Earwicker’s words as he could remember that evening to his wife – just before the hour of the twittering of birds between prayers and sleep, as the tide brought supper and souvenirs up long the Grand and Royal canals, and after he crept through the hedge and greeted her at home. Arvanda, always acquiescent, sat studying castles in the air, as the Cad spat upon the hearth (would a prominently connected man of Irish-European descent who knew the correct this, such as Mr Shallwesigh or Mr Shallwelaugh, expectorate in such a way when he had his handkerchief in his pocket?) amused with his thoughts. He had supped on sot and pottage, which he called Peach Bombay, a supreme of peas boiled in goat’s milk and white malt vinegar – a meal he relished as much a rat likes fennel. And on this celebration…

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… of his happy escape from Earwicker, he ate in addition a regional dish, a platter of boiled beef, with a Spanish olive on top, which would have went well with a bottle of Phoenix brewery beer ’98, followed by a Porter, Grand Cru, that were the candleholders, and both of which he sniffed obdurately.

Our Cad’s wife (nee Bernice Maxwelton) who had an ear for spittoons, gleaned everything and two nights later slipped the key in her hand and spoke of the encounter amongst 111 other matters (how faint are women’s whispers – amid the din of their menfolk!) to her favourite reverend, the director, over a cup of tea. Her eyes were dry and small and her speech thick, because he was a funny colour and looked as though he couldn’t stand anymore of the talk of these old hens. She had been meaning to speak to him (just a tablespoon of sugar!) trusting that the gossip she delivered to his ear might go no further because of his jesuit’s cloth. Yet it was this spoiled priest, Mr Browne, who was merely disguised as a clergyman, and when apprised of the facts, was later overheard, whilst in his secondary disguise as Nolan, to whisper a slightly varied version of Earwicker’s (Crooked Ribs) statement to a layteacher, a Philly Thurnston, a stout figure in …

P. 39

… his forties, during a priestly flutter at the racecourse. The date could easily be remembered by all betting people who read the paper, because it was when the classic Encourage Hackney Plate was captured by two noses by Saint Dalough from the cream colt Bold Boy Cromwell, with Drummer Coxon coming third – thanks to the jockey Winny Widger! - who in his brown and purple cap was unlike any other jockey that ever rode our jumping nags.

There were two poisonous tinkers, Treacle Tom – who was just out of prison following the theft of leg of pork – and his brother Frisky Shorty (who was both short and frisky) who had just come off the hulks, who being so poor were bumming around hoping to hit upon someone rich for jimmy o’goblin (sovereign) or a thick’un (crown piece). They happened to hear – while the local regiment were making the bar girls shriek – a person in motoring clothing speak in his ‘law language’ about the case of Earwicker (Mr Adams), which had once been in the Sunday papers, to his drinking partner a bloke wearing spectacles.

This Treacle Tom had been absent from his usual wild and woolly haunts – he usually slept nude in common lodging houses in strange men’s cots – but on race night – blotto after various tots of spirits at various pubs …

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… he sought his well warmed bed in a lodging house called ‘Abide with One Another’ in the Liberties, Dublin. After much puking and talking incoherently in his sleep and singing I come, my horse delayed, snored out the substance of the tale of the priest about Earwicker (rusinurbean] (he called the priests ‘girls’ because of their clothing) all through the night. In his dream it seemed to him it was Ides of March, or else in Wales with three fusiliers, when he was caught with his trousers down [be’ham’] and beheld Kate and Lavinia urinating, whereupon he found he had to fight black men upon white horses. The tale was heard by a small and stone broke cashdraper’s executive Peter Cloran (discharged), an ex-private secretary of no fixed abode called O’Mara - known locally as Mildew Lisa and who had spent several homeless nights under a blanket on a bed of ice with a stone for a pillow – and an ill-starred beach busker called Hosty. Hosty , without bread or butter, considered how he was standing on the footstool of the abyss, and suffering from melancholia had been tossing his blond head on the bed, devising way and means of getting hold of a pistol so that he could take a tram on the Dalkey and Blackrock line then find somewhere private where he could blow his head off. He had been trying to get well with the help of Madam Gristle for eighteen months, and had been in and out of a number of hospitals…

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… without having any success. Lisa O’Deavis and Roche Mongan (who had so much in common – but mainly the awful smell of a frustrated old sheep) slept in a bed with Hosty and it was not long after the noises of morning began than the rejuvenated busker – Hosty – and his wideawake bed fellows were up and shuffling across Dublin accompanied by Hosty’s fiddle. The music caressed the ears of the citizens in their brick homes with beds of raspberries and, hardly heeding the cries of the honeyman or the sweet lavender seller or fresh salmon monger, their mouths dropped open as they listened to what seemed to be the messiah of roaratorios. They stopped at a pawn brokers to redeem Hosty’s false teeth and afterwards stopped at the pub called the Old Sot’s Hole, where…

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… the trio was joined by a casual worker, a ‘decent sort’ of has-been who had just been paid and stood them a round of Jamesons whiskey, and then a few more to celebrate ‘yesterday’. Then flushed with their new friendship, they came out of the pub wiping their mouths on their sleeves, shouting to Hosty that the world community owed him a tribute for composing a ballad about the vilest bugger and yet most attractive avatar the world has ever known.

This song was first played where the Liffey runs and the hill Howth stands under a monument to Parnell, a large tree, before a cross section of Dublin people, ranging from: young children from Cutpurse Row, side by side with truant officers, pawn brokers and busy, long whiskered protestant gentlemen heading towards Daley’s club after hunting on the heath…

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.. to mass-going ladies from Hume St, some wandering simpletons from the cloverfields of Mosse’s Gardens, a fat priest from Skinner’s Alley, bricklayers, a fleming and his spouse, a blacksmith holding the hands of his children, a few sick sheep, hospital workers, four broke gents, a dozsen dianas, more priests and a few drunks who had taken the pledge, a postboy and a writer clinging to his mother in a cloud coloured petticoat. The hat went around and the ballad was stamped onto a broadsheet in black and white and headed by an excessively rough and ready woodcut. The words soon spread from archway to lattice, from person to person, from village to village, across the five provinces of Ireland and even to Scotland. To the majesty of the flute, which ‘Delaney’ piped out of his hat - was added a cello played by ‘Piggot’…

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…and the band leader ‘Hitchcock’ raised his hat to his companion drinkers and the canto was sung by the church by the river.

And through the people on the lawn it ran and caught on. It was spoken of all over Dublin by the Boyles and Cahills, the Skerretts and Pritchards, its verses set in stone. The ballad is about someone whose name is not certain – some call him a Viking, some a Catholic, some Brian O’Lynn or Finn McCool, or Earwicker, or Dan O’Connel, or Dunlop, or the Law, or the Salmon, or Michael Gunne or Guinness. Or even King Arthur, or Bartholomew Vanhomrigh, or Mountain, or Cromwell, the Sun, Shakespeare, the Wheel or the Wall – but I call him Persse O’Reilly – or else he’s ‘no-name’ at all. Sing it together – or leave it for Hosty to sing – all about the great fall.

The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly

Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty

How he fell with a roll and a rumble…etc