(D) about “Two Gallants,” August, Month of the Donnybrook Fair

Under the lens of Florence Walsl, “Two Gallants” focused on three levels of “betrayal social, political, and religious.” In this essay, you will find a synthesis of what other notables have said organized under Walsl’s analysis. The betrayals act out in personal relationships, institutional contracts, and spiritual compacts.

Joyce draws crosshatched shadows of betrayal on the story’s harp and slavey as symbols of Ireland.

… a harpist stood in the roadway, playing to a little ring of listeners. He plucked at the wires heedlessly, glancing quickly from time to time at the face of each newcomer and from time to time, wearily also, at the sky. His harp, too, heedless that her coverings had fallen about her knees, seemed weary alike of the eyes of strangers and of her master’s hands. (Joyce 85)

Joyce draws the harp as an anthropomorphic and symbolic allusion to Ireland. It has a gender. Her shame has grown old, and she too weary for dignity. She sighs. Both harpist and instrument are watchful for strangers, wary of masters, and fearful of unlucky skies. The harpist strums “Silent, O Moyle” a tune of longing for deliverance from a long, forced, unnatural transformation.

Litz says Joyce, like Yeats, admired the Irish peasant virtues. Life in too-English Dublin corrodes the native qualities(68). That corruption is the fate of the gallants’ target, the unnamed slavey. On the fence of the Duke’s Lawn, a somber Lenehan plucks at the metal rails. He may be lusting for the slavey as harp or mourning her betrayal in the harpist’s tune (Joyce 89). Lir’s daughter in the lyric is enchanted into a swan’s form until redemption comes to Ireland (Scholes and Litz 468n54.14 ).

Torciano is the best cartographer of Lenehan’s stroll. Bloom thought it a good puzzle to cross Dublin without passing a pub. In “Two Gallants,” Lenehan traces a trail of treachery where each block posts a reminder of theft and brutality. I won’t repeat Torciano’s work here but will list a few of his monuments to monstrosity.

Lenehan marches off from Waterhouse’s clock, gold and silver platers to the Crown. That locale was a common rendezvous for rogues and the woman they ruined. Jackson and McGinley share that in a 1904 letter, Gogarty referred to Nora as one of those pursued “slaveys” (43). The first landmark is the Kildare Club descended from the Hell Fire and Daly Clubs. There the most arrogant of the Dublin Bucks ( Bucks Whaley, Lawless, English, et al.) collected. Rutland Square was the typical haunt of the elder Whaley, a priest hunter, called “Burnchapel.” Here also Earl Clonmell cashed in on the trust of Catholic lands he oversaw. He seized the deeds without apology. On Upper Sackville, Lord Charlemont refused to call the Volunteers to resist the Act of Union. Nearby were Grand Orange Hall and Rotunda Hospital. The hospital’s Master Frederick Jebb wrote against the Union, then accepted a lifelong stipend to turn out propaganda for the Crown. Stephens Green faced the mansions of Lords Ely and Loftus, who pocketed bribes of thirty thousand pounds to vote for Union. The Shelbourne, lost by the Earl’s family, became a British barracks and site of “inquisition and torture.” Merrion Square faces the house where Thomas Reynolds betrayed Edward Fitzgerald. On Capel Street, Lenehan crosses where King James’ Mint House stood; from there, brass coins debased Ireland’s currency. The Royal Exchange had housed yet another barracks and torture chamber (Torciano 92-104).

The Moon, Mother-of-Pearl Unbuttoned, The Clock, and Coin copyright (C) don ward 2022

When describing the three-headed betrayal, Walsl says, “Two Gallants” shows the men of Ireland betraying their potential and futures, betraying Ireland as a nation, and betraying the religious symbolism of Christ betrayed (Walzl 75). Lutz has another thought. He says, “But Joyce’s irony cuts two ways, and the story strongly implies that the parasitic attitudes of Corley and Lenehan were always a part of the traditional code of gallantry.” Litz calls this “an attack upon the stock responses and illusions of romantic fiction.” He continues by reminding the reader of The Three Musketeers, where Pothos accepts stolen money from the procurator’s wife (Litz 64-65). While Corley plays the corrupter and Lenehan the sycophant, the seducer as a police informant also represents the Crown and Lenehan plays Ireland on a starvation diet of gardener’s green peas and ginger beer, orange and weak (Jackson and McGinley 49).

Would-be-bully Corley is known for his father’s position with the police and for sharing his elder’s inherited “frame and gait” (Joyce 80). Without resources of his own, Childe Corley makes ends meet as a police informant. He tells his girl-victim he is recently out of work with posh Pims, and she soothes him with two plundered cigars. This slavey will not be the first he deflowers, but like her predecessors, she may find herself
” on the turf….driving down Earl Street one night with two fellows…” (Joyce 83). Then Corley will deny responsibility for another fall. His model is Homer’s Melanthius, a falsehearted goatherd (Jackson and McGinley 43). Scholes and Litz recommend that Corley “aspirated the first letter (of his name echoing)… Dante’s ‘gallantry’ toward Beatrice” (467n52.2). It’s unlikely Corley could manage such sophistication, although Lenehan might. Better is the suggestion of Jackson and McGinley that Corley played the Florentine pronunciation of the initial “C” of his name like “H” making Corley into Whore-ly ( 44).

Lord John Corley, so-called for his claim to biological if not hereditary ties to a Malahide, is sometimes compared with the oppressor John Scott, Earl of Clonmel. Torciano extends complimentary honors to Lenehan, comparing him to the Irish traitor “False Squire” Francis Higgins.

In Corley and Lenehan, William Tindall finds the origin of Joyce’s brotherly combat. Lenehan, sometimes a sycophant for the sake of a drink or a cigarette, at times is unable to hide that his wit is sharper than Lord Corley’s. Lenehan’s dish of peas is his pottage, the selling of his birthright. They reflect Jacob and Esau. This is the prototype of Joyce’s “brotherly” conflicts– Stephen and Mulligan, Shem and Shaun (Tindall 24-25).

Ellmann insists that Lenehan and the Dubliner Michael Hart he was sketched after were not representations of Joyce, but that the similarity was limited to a slightness of stature. This may be true, but critics point out that Joyce’s “vagrant armed with a vast stock of stories, limericks and riddles” shows what his fate might be had he remained in Dublin with underappreciated talents. It was not simply that Joyce might wear a yachting cap or that he carried “seedy scraps of culture round.” He often needed a loan or a drink or cigarette. Like Lenehan, Joyce might also wonder about being …

…tired of knocking about, of pulling the devil by the tail, of shifts and intrigues…. Would he never get a good job? Would he never have a home of his own? He thought how pleasant it would be to have a warm fire to sit by and a good dinner to sit down to. He had walked the streets long enough (Joyce 92).

Would Joyce write copy (like the racing interview he faked for the Gordon-Bennett Cup) and subjugate his art? Would he serve at the court of the last of the haughty Bucks from Rutland Square? Walsl is among those who see the character of Lenahan as a refusal of that destiny (74). The dawning of 1910 found Joyce back in Dublin after struggling to open the Volta Theatre. There and in possession of some remaining cash, his old creditors and those wishing to touch him for loans accosted him. He saw the historical Corley, a model for the character’s stature, name, and penury. Knowing he would be asked to lend, Joyce ducked onto a tram to dodge the “touch” (Ellmann 305).

Mother of pearl buttons, a jeweler’s clock, a double haloed moon each symbolize the Eucharist and portends an offered redemption. “Silent, O Moyle” predicted the curse would remain until religion redeems the island. The images foretell offers of grace to Ireland, to emigre Joyce, and to Lenehan. Grace may be accepted or ignored, and Lenehan’s salvation is unreported. We know that clouds immediately obscure his haloed moon, and the tale of seduction, theft, and corruption unfolds on a Sunday. Divine support extended against Walsl’s three betrayals (personal, institutional, and religious) is countervailed by another disk, the gold sovereign (or half sovereign). That gold in reverse and perverse alchemy transforms into “rounds” of drinks buying the souls of slavey, Lord Corley, and Lenehan.


Works Cited

Burgess, Anthony. ReJoyce. Second ed., W.W. Norton & Company, New York. 1965, pp. 35–47. 

Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce, Oxford University Press, New York. 1983.

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Enhanced Media, 2016, Retrieved July 14- July 17. 2021.

Joyce, James. James Joyce’s Dubliners: An Illustrated Edition with Annotations, edited by John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley, St. Martin’s Press, 1993, pp. 42-52.

Litz, A. Walton. “James Joyce’s Dubliners: Critical Essays.” James Joyce’s Dubliners: Critical Essays, edited by Clive Hart, Viking Press, 1969, pp. 62–71. 

Scholes, Robert and A. Walton Litz, editors. James Joyce’s Dubliners: Text and Criticism. Penguin Books, 1996, pp. 467-469. 

Tindall, William York. “Dubliners.” A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1959, pp. 23-25. 

Torchiana, Donald T.” ‘Two Gallants’: A Walk through the Ascendancy,” Backgrounds for Joyce’s Dubliners, Allen & Unwin, 1986, pp. 91-108.

Walzl, Florence L. “Symbolism in Joyce’s ‘Two Gallants’ – JSTOR.” JSTOR1965, James Joyce Quarterly, 1965, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25486484. 


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