“There is one below would speak with your ladyship.”
Joyce calls on his pupil, who is surrounded by stout defenses protecting her purity. A fortress cold and crenelated protects Amalia Popper. The echoing “clack” of high heels suggests her role as dominatrix, although the heels are worn not by SHE but by her factota. SHE need not stoop to conquer. Her functionaries deal with the petty trades.
Joyce exaggerates the luxury of the Popper home to emphasize Amalia’s social status. The Poppers, although well-financed, were not ensconced in a castle. Papli Leopoldo founded companies trading in import and export and finally began his own shipping company. In later life, Popper surrendered his businesses after institutionalized anti-semitism followed Austrian Anschluss with Nazi Germany (http://museojoycetrieste.it/popper-leopoldo/). As Jews, they were probably not emblazoned with heraldry (we will return to discuss Amalia’s crest subsequently), and the chainmail that protected the maiden was not literal but still almost impenetrable. Principessa Amalia practices an aloofness. Euphemistically, “She never blows her nose.”
Richard Ellmann endorses the similarity between SHE and Dante’s two Beatrices of The Divine Comedy. But Beatrice Portinari is more dissimilar to Ms. Popper than like HER. Bice in Dante is didactic, even boorish. Amalia is merely reserved, keeping HER own counsel except once when questioning the author’s motives in A Portrait. More of Dante later, but the inaccessible Beatrice in the Florentine’s Paradiso is not accidental.
Ellmann wrote the introduction to Giacomo Joyce, and a few pages of notes, much of which is recycled from his biography of Joyce. We might not have known about Amalia Popper were it not for Joyce’s biographer. Similarly, we would not know the identity of Bice Portinari were it not for Boccaccio. We found a new Beatrice, another “Paradiso,” and a new Boccaccio. Ellmann would not have missed his connection to the immortal Boccaccio.
Another Beatrice will appear in Joyce’s play Exiles. Beatrice Justice is weak-eyed like SHE and attended by lesser beauties like Bice during her second meeting with Dante.
don ward June 25, 2020