Dress Down Sunday -
looking at what goes on underneath the clothes
Ulysses by James Joyce
published 1922 section 8
Grafton street gay with housed awnings lured his senses. Muslin prints, silkdames and dowagers, jingle of harnesses, hoofthuds lowringing in the baking causeway. Thick feet that woman has in the white stockings. Hope the rain mucks them up on her. Countrybred chawbacon. All the beef to the heels were in. Always gives a woman clumsy feet. Molly looks out of plumb. He passed, dallying, the windows of Brown Thomas, silk mercers. Cascades of ribbons. Flimsy China silks. A tilted urn poured from its mouth a flood of bloodhued poplin: lustrous blood. The huguenots brought that here. La causa ? santa! Tara tara. Great chorus that. Taree tara. Must be washed in rainwater. Meyerbeer. Tara: bom bom bom. Pincushions. I'm a long time threatening to buy one. Sticking them all over the place. Needles in window curtains.
He bared slightly his left forearm. Scrape: nearly gone. Not today anyhow. Must go back for that lotion. For her birthday perhaps. Junejulyaugseptember eighth. Nearly three months off. Then she mightn't like it. Women won't pick up pins. Say it cuts lo.
Gleaming silks, petticoats on slim brass rails, rays of flat silk stockings. Useless to go back. Had to be. Tell me all. High voices. Sunwarm silk. Jingling harnesses. All for a woman, home and houses, silkwebs, silver, rich fruits spicy from Jaffa. Agendath Netaim. Wealth of the world. A warm human plumpness settled down on his brain. His brain yielded. Perfume of embraces all him assailed. With hungered flesh obscurely, he mutely craved to adore…
observations: Leopold Bloom is expressing his appetites in this section: he is about to make an abortive attempt to have lunch, and he is also looking at the lingerie in the shop windows, and thinking about Agendath Netaim, a company advertising the riches of the orient that pops up throughout the book.
‘Say it cuts lo’ is not a mistake – the word should be love, but Joyce (or Bloom) cuts it short. There’s a theory that this links up with Nabokov’s Lolita – she is frequently referred to as Lo.
The scrape is going back to his grazing his arm on a pin Molly has left lying around – hence the idea to buy her a pincushion. Everything in this book does make sense if you pay enough attention.
One surprising thing in the book is this:
He took a reel of dental floss from his waistcoat pocket and, breaking off a piece, twanged it smartly between two and two of his resonant unwashed teeth.
- a very early reference to the practice, as the first floss had only been patented a few years earlier, and there don’t seem to be many references to it in the literature of the time.
Ulysses has featured before here and here. A character in this book goes to work in a lingerie shop (“got me a purple thong”), and a lady here haunts them.
The picture is from the State Library of Queensland.