An Unwritten Chapter of Ulysses?
Joyce’s Notes for a “Lacedemon” Episode

—Daniel Ferrer,

Description and source

In 2001, when I offered a preliminary description of the then newly discovered “Proteus and Sirens” notebook, I gave the following account of the last page:

The last page of the copybook is occupied by a set of Homeric notes. It is difficult to relate these notes to the neighbouring drafts in a definite way. The fact that they are written on an external page (the equivalent of a back cover for this coverless copybook) makes it almost impossible to determine their time of inscription. We can make the following guesses: a) the direction of writing of this page relatively to the two drafts does not make it very likely (but not impossible) that it was inscribed first, before the notebook was turned over for a fresh start; b) the page cannot have been filled after the completion of the ‘Sirens’ draft, since the expansive pressure of the draft on the last pages is such that it would have welcomed an extra blank page if one had been available, and it did require, as we will see, the usage of at least two supplementary loose leaves; c) the notes could follow the “Proteus” draft and precede the “Sirens”; or d) they could follow the first spell of writing that took the “Sirens” draft to page 19 of the notebook (numbered “10)”), before the radical change that characterizes the second part of the draft. The contents of these notes will have to be scrutinized and compared to Joyce’s other sets of Homeric notes. The page is headed “Lacedemon” and the first third is devoted to a kind of genealogical schematisation of the two unions of Menelaus, with a slave and with Helen. A series of correspondences is enumerated, for instance Menelaus is equated with Uncle Hubert, O’Rourke, Captain O’Shea, Joe Casey, J.H. Parnell, S.D.’s brother, Ulysses (some of these people are eclipsed by their brothers, others are cuckolds). Helen is equated with Kitty O’Shea, Aunt Josephine, Molly Bloom (this proves at least that her role was already defined when these notes were taken). Below this, a list, numbered and then partially renumbered, of the events of Telemachus’s visit to Lacedemon, with a boxed subdivision relating mostly to the interrogation of Proteus. Several interrogation marks seem to indicate uncertainty of usage and interpretation. This is clearly the case for Helen’s pouring of Nepenthe, which is tagged with a parenthesis: “(Latin?)”. [I now read this word as: “(Lotus?)”!] Almost half of the events in the list are crossed out in blue. When Joyce took those notes, was he contemplating a “Lacedemon” episode, as a transition between “Nestor” and “Proteus”? We know that in 1915, he planned a Telemachiad with four episodes. At a later stage, Joyce seems to have mined these notes for the writing of ‘Nestor’ and the expansion of the ‘Proteus’ draft, but also for other episodes. (Ferrer 2001: 60-61)

Thirteen years later, as far as I know, nobody has taken up these suggestions, that had been made on the basis of a brief examination of the manuscripts, in a dimly lit warehouse. Now that the notebook is fully available, it is time to return to this fascinating document and study it more leisurely.

Here is a transcription of the last page of the notebook (NLI MS 36,639/03/B, p. 28). It can be checked against the high-resolution digital image that is provided on the National Library of Ireland online catalogue.1

I will use this transcription as the basis for a running commentary, making explicit some of the allusions of my earlier description. I will indicate the source of the notes and their destinations, when I have been able to locate them. I will then propose some further hypotheses concerning its date and its status.

It is important but difficult to determine the sequence of the different inscriptions on the page. It seems likely that the line of separation drawn with a ruler across the page and the two perpendicular lines delimiting a box in the right bottom corner have been added after the text had been written. Graphic clues suggest that Joyce numbered the notes as he was inscribing them (first level of numbering: 1 through 24 followed by 1 through 17). Obviously the second level of numbering (1 through 6 in larger ciphers) came later and the blue crayon markings were added at a still later stage, when the crossed-out elements were incorporated in a draft, or when they were transferred to another notebook or notesheet.

This document is clearly divided in two parts. The top of the page is occupied by a diagram, while the remainder contains a list arranged in two columns.

The graphic representation at the top of the page can be read as a kind of family tree. It indicates that Megapenthes is the son of Menelaus and a slave and marries the d[aughter] of Alector, while [Hermione] is the d[aughter] of Menelaus and Helen and marries the son of Achilles. The source for this can be found in Book IV of the Odyssey, and more specifically in Butcher and Lang’s translation:

Menelaus […] they found giving a feast in his house to many friends of his kin, a feast for the wedding of his son and daughter. His daughter he was sending to the son of Achilles, cleaver of the ranks of men […]. And for his son he was bringing to his home the daughter of Alector of Sparta, for his well-beloved son, strong Megapenthes, born of a slave woman, for the gods no more showed promise of seed to Helen, from the day that she bare a lovely child, Hermione, as fair as golden Aphrodite. (Book IV p. 48)2

The names of Menelaus, Helen and Megapenthes are juxtaposed with circles containing the names of figures that Joyce considered equivalent to them.

In the case of Menelaus, these characters are men who have been betrayed by their respective wives: the “shepherd of the people” (a Homeric designation for Agamemnon, who was not only cuckolded, but assassinated by his wife), O’Rourke, Prince of Breffni (See U 2.392-394), Captain O’Shea (the husband of Katherine O’Shea, Parnell’s lover), Joe Casey (Joseph Theobald Casey3, the model for the Kevin Egan of Ulysses, deserted by his wife, see U 3.253-254), Ulysses himself (in Joyce’s pessimistic interpretation of Penelope’s constancy) and presumably of “Uncle Hubert” (but I don’t know who he is). After the first pencil circle had been filled, Joyce took into account another aspect of Menelaus and added, above the circle, the names of men who are eclipsed by their brother: John Howard Parnell (the brother of Charles Stewart, see U 8.500-506), Stephen Dedalus’s brother (Maurice, ultimately representing Stanislaus Joyce; see A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).

It is only logical that Helen should be assimilated to Kitty O’Shea, “Mollie Bloom” (this spelling is used by Joyce in the early notes) and Madame Casey. “Aunt Josephine” (certainly Josephine Murray, Joyce’s favourite aunt) is added to the list, but I don’t know why she is lumped with these Messalinas.

As for Megapenthes, he is tagged “Bastard / Child of Sorrow / Tristan / Man of Sorrows”. This is a confirmation of the precise source for the notes on this page. Joyce consulted various translations of the Odyssey4, but only Butcher and Lang provide an etymological footnote for Megapenthes:

*A son of sorrow: Tristram. (Book IV: 48n)

After this early schematisation, comes a more straight-forward list of elements from the Odyssey, that closely follows Homer’s text. Spelling and phrasing confirm that Joyce was still using Butcher and Lang. The notes are listed below, accompanied by the relevant passages of the translation.

1. Wedding song: clowns

Menelaus […] they found giving a feast in his house to many friends of his kin, a feast for the wedding of his noble son and daughter. […] a divine minstrel was singing to the lyre, and as he began the song two tumblers in the company whirled through their midst. (Book IV: 48)

2. Eteoneus: boorish valet

See next item for source.

3. Horses fed (Man & Beast)

‘Menelaus, fosterling of Zeus, here are two strangers, whosoever they be, two men like to the lineage of great Zeus. Say, shall we loose their swift horses from under the yoke, or send them onward to some other host who shall receive them kindly?’

Then in sore displeasure spake to him Menelaus of the fair hair: ‘Eteoneus son of Boethous, truly thou wert not a fool aforetime, but now for this once, like a child thou talkest folly. Surely we ate much hospitable cheer of other men, ere we twain came hither, if even if in time to come Zeus haply give us rest from affliction. Nay go, unyoke the horses of the strangers, and as for the men, lead them forward to the house to feast with us.’

So spake he, and Eteoneus hasted from the hall, and called the other ready squires to follow with him. So they loosed the sweating horses from beneath the yoke, and fastened them at the stalls of the horses, and threw beside them spelt, and therewith mixed white barley, and tilted the chariot against the shining faces of the gateway, and led the men into the hall divine. (Book IV: 49)

4. Bathed by maidens (Casey)

Now when the maidens had bathed them and anointed them with olive oil, and cast about them thick cloaks and doublets, they sat on chairs by Menelaus, son of Atreus. (Book IV: 49)

Note: In “Proteus” Stephen remembers Kevin Egan (Joe Casey) protesting: “The froeken, bonne à tout faire, who rubs male nakedness in the bath at Upsala. Moi faire, she said. Tous les messieurs. Not this Monsieur, I said. Most licentious custom. Bath a most private thing. I wouldn't let my brother, not even my own brother, most lascivious thing.” U 3.234-238.

5. Menelaus does not ask names

So Menelaus of the fair hair greeted the twain and spake: ‘Taste ye food and be glad, and thereafter when ye have supped, we will ask what men ye are; for the blood of your parents is not lost in you, but ye are of the line of men that are sceptred kings, the fosterlings of Zeus; for no churls could beget sons like you.’ (Book IV: 50)

6. Menelaus eats his bit? tanist.



The tanist was the second-in-command and heir-apparent to a Celtic chief, designated among his family. This was the position of Menelaus among the Greeks, as long as his brother Agamemnon lived. Joyce suggests that he may have found this frustrating.

7. Telemachus admires

Telemachus spake to the son of Nestor, holding his head close to him, that those others might not hear: ‘Son of Nestor, delight of my heart, mark the flashing of bronze through the echoing halls, and the flashing of gold and of amber and of silver and of ivory. Such like, methinks, is the court of Olympian Zeus within, for the world of things that are here; wonder comes over me as I look upon it.’ (Book IV: 50)

8. Menelaus complacent

Menelaus […] spake to them winged words:

‘Children dear, of a truth no one of mortal men may contend with Zeus, for his mansions and his treasures are everlasting: but of men there may be who will vie with me in treasure, or there may be none. (Book IV: 50)

9. Menelaus wandering

    Cyprus, Phenicia, Egypt, Libya, Ethiop, Sidonia

I roamed over Cyprus and Phoenicia and Egypt, and reached the Aethiopians and Sidonians and Erembi and Libya, where lambs are horned from the birth. (Book IV: 50-51)

10. Menelaus tells of brother (J. Stephens?)

While I was yet roaming in those lands, getting together much living, meantime another slew my brother privily at unawares, by the guile of his accursed wife. (Book IV: 51)


James Stephens, founder of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, was Joseph Casey’s cousin.

11. Menelaus — Memory of the Dead

I would that I had but a third part of those my riches, and dwelt in my halls, and that those men were yet safe, who perished of old in wide Troy Land, far from Argos, the pastureland of horses. (Book IV: 51)

12. Menelaus — “poor dear Ulysses”

Howbeit, though I bewail them all and sorrow oftentimes as I sit in our halls, – awhile indeed I satisfy my soul with lamentation, and then again I cease; for soon hath man enough of chill lamentation - yet for them all I make no such dole, despite my grief, as for one only, who causes me to loathe both sleep and meat, when I think upon him. For no one of the Achaeans toiled so greatly as Odysseus toiled and adventured himself: but to him it was to be but labour and trouble, and to me grief ever comfortless for his sake, so long he is afar, nor know we aught, whether he be alive or dead. Yea methinks they lament him, even that old Laertes and steadfast Penelope and Telemachus, whom he left a child new-born in his house.’ (Book IV: 51)

13. Menelaus has recognized Telemachus

See next item for source.

14. Telemachus covers face & weeps

So spake he, and in the heart of Telemachus he stirred a yearning to lament his father; and at his father's name he let a tear fall from his eyelids to the ground, holding up his purple mantle with both his hands before his eyes. And Menelaus marked him and mused in his mind and his heart whether he should leave him to make mention of his father, or first question him and prove him in every word. (Book IV: 51-52)

15. Helen distaff, wooling, silver basket

Polybus, […] gave two silver baths to Menelaus, and tripods twain, and ten talents of gold. And besides all this, his wife bestowed on Helen lovely gifts; a golden distaff did she give, and a silver basket with wheels beneath, and the rims thereof were finished with gold. This it was that the handmaid Phylo bare and set beside her, filled with dressed yarn, and across it was laid a distaff charged with wool of violet blue. (Book IV: 52)

16. Helen recognizes Telemachus (?)

      likens to Ulysses (voice of S[tephen] D[edalus])

‘Menelaus, fosterling of Zeus, know we now who these men that have come under our roof avow themselves to be? […] None, I say, have I ever yet seen so like another, man nor woman — wonder comes over me as I look on him — as this man is like the son of great-hearted Odysseus, Telemachus, whom he left a new-born child in his house […]

And Menelaus of the fair hair answered her, saying: ‘Now I too, lady, mark the likeness even as thou tracest it. For such as these were his feet, such his hands, and the glances of his eyes, and his head, and his hair withal. (Book IV: 52)


In “Proteus”, Stephen Dedalus calls Simon Dedalus: “the man with my voice and my eyes” (U3.45-46). Kevin Egan insists on the resemblance: “You’re your father’s son. I know the voice.” (U3.229)

17. Pisistratus introduces Telemachus

And Peisistratus, son of Nestor, answered him, saying: ‘Menelaus, son of Atreus fosterling of Zeus, leader of the host, verily, this is the son of that very man, even as thou sayest. (Book IV: 53)

18. Menelaus was going to do a lot for Ulysses

‘Lo now! in good truth there has come unto my house the son of a friend indeed, who for my sake endured many adventures. And I thought to welcome him on his coming more nobly than all the other Argives, if but Olympian Zeus, of the far-borne voice, had vouchsafed us a return over the sea in our swift ships, - that such a thing should be. And in Argos I would have given him a city to dwell in, and stablished for him a house, and brought him forth from Ithaca with his substance and his son and all his people, making one city desolate of those that lie around, and are in mine own domain. Then ofttimes would we have held converse here, and nought would have parted us in our friendship and in our joys, ere the black cloud of death overshadowed us. (Book IV: 53)

19. Pisistratus weep broth[er] — Antilochus whom

      he never saw (harpist [doubtful reading])

      all weep

Argive Helen wept, the daughter of Zeus, and Telemachus wept, and Menelaus, the son of Atreus ; nor did the son of Nestor keep tearless eyes. For he bethought him in his heart of noble Antilochus, whom the glorious son of the bright Dawn had slain, Thinking upon him he spake winged words:

[…] I too have a brother dead, nowise the meanest of the Argives, and thou art like to have known him, for as for me I never met nor saw him. (Book IV: 54)

20. Helen pours Nepenthe (Lotus?)

Then Helen, daughter of Zeus, turned to new thoughts. Presently she cast a drug into the wine whereof they drank, a drug to lull all pain and anger, and bring forgetfulness of every sorrow. Whoso should drink a draught thereof, when it is mingled in the bowl, on that day he would let no tear fall down his cheeks, not though his mother and his father died, not though men slew his brother or dear son with the sword before his face, and his own eyes beheld it. Medicines of such virtue and so helpful had the daughter of Zeus, which Polydamna, the wife of Thon, had given her, a woman of Egypt, where earth the grain-giver yields herbs in greatest plenty, many that are healing in the cup, and many baneful. (Book IV: 55)

21. Helen tells of Ulysses (beggar)

He bruised himself with unseemly stripes, and cast a sorry covering over his shoulders, and in the fashion of a servant he went down into the wide-wayed city of the foemen, and he hid himself in the guise of another, a beggar, though in no wise such an one was he at the ships of the Achaeans. (Book IV: 56)

22. Menelaus tells of wooden horse

      (uncle Hubert & bailiff)

never yet have mine eyes beheld any such man of heart as was Odysseus; even as he wrought and dared this other deed in his hardiness in the shapen horse, wherein sat all we chiefs of the Argives, bearing to the Trojans death and doom. (Book IV: 56)

Ulysses resists Helen’s voice

       Protean voice of others

Anon thou didst draw nigh, and sure some god must have bidden thee, who wished to bring glory to the Trojans. Yea and godlike Deiphobus went with thee on thy way. Thrice thou didst go round about the hollow ambush and handle it, calling aloud on the chiefs of the Argives by name, and making thy voice like the voices of the wives of all the Argives. But I and the son of Tydeus and goodly Odysseus sat in the midst and heard thy call. Now we twain had a desire to start up and come forth or presently to answer from within. But eager as we were, Odysseus stayed and held us there. (Book IV: 56-57)

      all sleep

‘But come, bid us to bed, that forthwith we may take our joy of rest beneath the spell of sleep.’

So spake he, and Argive Helen bade her handmaids set out bedsteads beneath the corridor, and fling on them fair purple blankets and spread coverlets above, and thereon lay thick mantles to be a clothing over all. So they went from the hall with torch in hand, and spread the beds, and the henchman led forth the guests. Thus they slept there at the outer gallery of the house, the hero Telemachus and the splendid son of Nestor. But the son of Atreus slept, as his custom was, in the inmost chamber of the lofty house, and by him lay long-robed Helen, that fair lady. (Book IV: 57)

23. Telemachus tells tale of woe on Ulysses

So now am I come hither to thy knees, if haply thou art willing to tell me of his pitiful death, as one that saw it perchance with thine own eyes, or heard the story from some other wanderer; for his mother bare him to exceeding sorrow. And speak me no soft words in ruth or pity, but tell me plainly how thou didst get sight of him. (Book IV: 58)

       Menelaus is indignant about suitors

Then in heavy displeasure spake to him Menelaus of the fair hair: ‘Lo you now! for truly in the bed of a brave-hearted man were they minded to lie, cravens themselves as they are! (Book IV: 54) (Book IV: 58)

24 Prophesies U[lysses]’s return,

Even as when a hind hath couched her newborn fawns unweaned in a strong lion's lair, and searcheth out the knolls and grassy glades, seeking pasture, and afterward the lion cometh back to his bed, and sendeth forth unsightly death upon that pair, even so shall Odysseus send forth unsightly death upon the wooers. (Book IV: 58)

tells of how U[lysses] threw Philomeides

Would to our father Zeus, and Athene and Apollo, would that in such might as when of old in stablished Lesbos he rose up and wrestled a match with Philomeleides and threw him mightily, and all the Achaeans rejoiced; would that in such strength Odysseus might consort with the wooers (Book IV: 58-59)

1. Eidothea & Menelaus

And now would all our corn have been spent, and likewise the strength of the men, except some goddess had taken pity on me and saved me, Eidothee, daughter of mighty Proteus, the ancient one of the sea. For most of all I moved her heart, when she met me wandering alone apart from my company (Book IV: 59)


Joyce begins here a new sequence of numbers.

2. School of seals

the seals, the brood of the fair daughter of the brine, sleep all in a flock, stolen forth from the grey sea water. (Book IV: 61)

3. Ambrosia

There would our ambush have been most terrible, for the deadly stench of the sea bred seals distressed us sore: nay, who would lay him down by a beast of the sea? But herself she wrought deliverance, and devised a great comfort. She took ambrosia of a very sweet savour, and set it beneath each man’s nostril, and did away with the stench of the beast. (Book IV: 62)

4. Menelaus outwits Proteus

first among the sea-beasts he reckoned us, and guessed not that there was guile, and afterward he too laid him down. Then we rushed upon him with a cry, and cast our hands about him, nor did that ancient one forget his cunning. Now behold, at the first he turned into a bearded lion, and thereafter into a snake, and a pard, and a huge boar; then he took the shape of running water, and of a tall and flowering tree. We the while held him close with steadfast heart. But when now that ancient one of the magic arts was aweary, then at last he questioned me and spake unto me. (Book IV: 62)

5. Questions him

I am holden long time in this isle, neither can I find any issue therefrom, and my heart faileth within me. Howbeit, do thou tell me — for the gods know all things — which of the immortals it is that bindeth me here, and hath hindered me from my way; and declare as touching my returning, how I may go over the teeming deep. (Book IV: 62-63)

6. Drowned Aias

Aias in truth was smitten in the midst of his ships of the long oars. Poseidon at first brought him nigh to Gyrae, to the mighty rocks, and delivered him from the sea. And so would he have fled his doom, albeit hated by Athene, had he not let a proud word fall in the fatal darkening of his heart. He said that in the gods’ despite he had escaped the great gulf of the sea; and Poseidon heard his loud boasting, and presently caught up his trident into his strong hands, and smote the rock Gyraean and cleft it in twain. And the one part abode in his place, but the other fell into the sea, the broken piece whereon Aias sat at the first, when his heart was darkened. And the rock bore him down into the vast and heaving deep; so there he perished when he had drunk of the salt sea water. (Book IV: 64)

7. Agamemnon’s death Mur[der]

See source after next item.

8. Shepherd of the People / to Agam[emnon]

Then with chariot and horses he went to bid to the feast Agamemnon, shepherd of the people; but caitiff thoughts were in his heart. He brought him up to his house, all unwitting of his doom, and when he had feasted him slew him, as one slayeth an ox at the stall. (Book IV: 65)

9. P[roteus] tells of U[lysses]’s

‘It is the son of Laertes, whose dwelling is in Ithaca; and I saw him in an island shedding plenteous tears in the halls of the nymph Calypso, who holds him there perforce; so he may not come to his own country, for he has by him no ships with oars, and no companions to send him on his way over the broad back of the sea. (Book IV: 65)

10. M[enelaus] in Egypt piles a barrow

So when I had appeased the anger of the everlasting gods, I piled a barrow to Agamemnon, that his fame might never be quenched. (Book IV: 66)


This is another confirmation of the source. Of all the translations that Joyce might have consulted, only Butcher and Lang use the phrase to pile a barrow.

11. T[elemachus] speaks of poor I[thaca].

In Ithaca there are no wide courses, nor meadow land at all. It is a pasture-land of goats, and more pleasant in my sight than one that pastureth horses; for of the isles that lie and lean upon the sea, none are fit for the driving of horses, or rich in meadow land, and least of all is Ithaca.’ (Book IV: 67)


Perhaps also an allusion to “poor Ireland” in “The Wearing of the Green”?

12. sleepless T. dreams Ath[ene]

The son of Nestor truly was overcome with soft sleep, but sweet sleep gat not hold of Telemachus, but, through the night divine, careful thoughts for his father kept him wakeful ever. And grey-eyed Athene stood nigh him and spake to him (Book XV: 240)


Here Joyce ceases to follow the course of Homer’s text. In order to continue the narration of the events taking place in Lacedemon, he jumps over the extended paralipsis (173 pages) covering the simultaneous events in Ithaca and then the further adventures of Ulysses. For Joyce, the basic unit is not the Homeric song, but the narrative episode, or the diegetic location.

13. Go to swineherd

for thy part seek first the swineherd who keeps thy swine, and is loyal to thee as of old. There do thou rest the night, and bid him go to the city to bear tidings of thy coming to the wise Penelope. (Book XV: 241)

14. M[enelaus] proposes tour

Menelaus, of the loud war cry, answered him: ‘[…] if thou art minded to turn toward Hellas and mid Argos, so as I too may go with thee, then will I yoke thee horses and lead thee to the towns of men, and none shall send us away empty, but will give us some one thing to take with us, either a tripod of goodly bronze or a cauldron, or two mules or a golden chalice.’ (Book XV: 242)

15. Lunch

Now when Menelaus, of the loud war cry, heard this saying, straightway he bade his wife and maids to prepare the midday meal in the halls, out of the good store they had by them. (Book XV: 243)

16. Gifts Helen M[enelaus]

Menelaus, of the fair hair, spake to him saying:

‘Telemachus, may Zeus the thunderer, and the lord of Here, in very truth bring about thy return according to the desire of thy heart. And of the gifts, such as are treasures stored in my house, I will give thee the goodliest and greatest of price. I will give thee a mixing bowl beautifully wrought; it is all of silver and the lips thereof are finished with gold; it is the work of Hephaestus; and the hero Phaedimus the king of the Sidonians, gave it to me when his house sheltered me, on my coming thither. This cup I would give to thee.’

Therewith the hero Atrides set the double cup in his hands. And the strong Megapenthes bare the shining silver bowl and set it before him. And Helen, of the fair cheeks, came up, with the robe in her hands, and spake and hailed him:

‘Lo! I too give thee this gift, dear child, a memorial of the hands of Helen, against the day of thy desire, even of thy marriage. But meanwhile let it lie by thy mother in her chamber. And may joy go with thee to thy well-builded house, and thine own country.’ (Book XV: 243-244)

17. M[enelaus] sends greetings

he stood before the horses and spake and greeted them:

‘Farewell, knightly youths, and salute in my name Nestor, the shepherd of the people; for truly he was gentle to me as a father, while we sons of the Achaeans warred in the land of Troy.’ (Book XV: 245)

II. Draft usage

If we compare these notes with the very early “Proteus” draft that is to be found at the beginning of the same notebook (NLI 36,639/07/A), we will see that several elements of the list are present there, which means that, contrary to what I had supposed when I first described the notebook, the notes must be anterior to the draft.

For instance the passage in the draft in which Stephen reminisces about the coy Kevin Egan (still called Joe Egan on the first level of the draft, after Joe Casey) in the Swedish bath (“the girls who washed and rubbed his naked body in the bath at Upsala, most licentious custom, bath a most private thing”, 36,639/07/A, p. 5) must derive from the note: “4. Bathed by maidens (Casey)”. It is less certain, but still likely that Egan’s drink, the “green fairy” (absinth), derives from the “Nepenthe” in note 20.

The passage goes on with a description of Kevin Egan as a deserted husband (a “loveless […] wifeless […] castoff man”) while “his madam” is coquetting with her lodgers in a separate residence (“rue Gît-le-Cœur”, where the heart is laid to rest), directly reflecting the “Lacedemon” diagram, which identifies Casey with Menelaus and Madame Casey with Helen.

The “school of turtlehide whales stranded” (36,639/07/A, p. 7) is an almost direct transposition of the note: “2. School of seals”.

The long passage about drowning and the drowned corpse (36,639/07/A, p. 7-8) echoes: “6. Drowned Aias”.

The draft includes a passage, which was later moved to the “Nestor” episode, describing the wanderings of the Jewish people, and symbolically of mankind (“They sinned against the light. Old oracle. And I? And we? Wanderers to this day.” 36,639/07/A, p. 7). It is very likely that it stands for: “9. Menelaus wandering”.

Walter Goulding, who is chided for his suspicion and for not properly welcoming his cousin Stephen (36,639/07/A, p. 4), seems to be an incarnation of Etoneous, the boorish valet of note 2. And uncle Richie, as he displays his operatic voice, may be a representation of both the minstrel and the clowns in note 1.

Other possible echoes are less convincing, but we know that Joyce was fond of far-fetched correspondences. For instance, the midwife’s bag with a fœtus wrapped in ruddy wool (36,639/07/A, p. 6) may refer to Helen’s silver basket and violet wool in note 15. The examples already given are sufficient, however, to show that the “Lacedemon” notes must precede the “Proteus” draft and therefore date from the summer 1917 (or earlier).

If the notes were used to write this draft (or its lost predecessor), it is clear that they were not immediately discarded afterwards. They were used again for later drafts of this episode and some of them were incorporated into other episodes, either directly or from some other note repository into which they had been transferred in the meantime.5

For instance the idea of the father’s resemblance (from note 16) appears in the subsequent extant draft of “Proteus” (Buffalo V. A. 3) and the phrase “the man with my voice” appears as an addition to the passage. The word “tanist” (from note 6) also appears in this draft. Arthur Griffith, perhaps a replacement for James Stephens (from note 10), appears as a marginal pencil addition to the same passage. But “sheperd of men”, which seems to derive from “8. Shepherd of the People”, only appears at proof stage, 4 years later, in the summer of 1921.

Other notes from this page migrated to different episodes, probably at an early stage. For instance the constellation of betraying women, Helen of Troy/Kitty O’Shea/O’Rourke’s consort, is exposed in “Nestor” (U 2. 390-394). John Howard Parnell is presented as the shadow of his brother in “Lestrygonians” (U 8.500-502).

III. Writing process

What can we infer from all this about Joyce’s writing procedure in the early days of Ulysses? I must admit that I was wrong when I claimed that Homer provided at first only a very broad framework and that the detailed correspondences were only added much later (Ferrer 2009, 2011). We can see that Joyce took systematic notes on the Homeric text at a very early stage of drafting. The heading, which seems to be the first thing written on the page, suggests that he intended to compose a “Lacedemon” episode based on Book IV of the Odyssey, presumably after having written a “Telemachus” based on Book I and Book II and a “Nestor” based on Book III.

Joyce begins by clarifying the family relationships, which are presented in a rather confusing way in the first paragraph of the translation, but even before completing the genealogical tree, he begins to establish a network of equivalences. He translates the Homeric cast of character in terms of Irish history (O’Rourke, Parnell) and personal history (Aunt Josephine, uncle Hubert(?)) but also already in terms of his projected fiction (“Mollie” Bloom), with some overlap between these categories (Joe Casey belongs both to Irish history and to the personal history of Joyce; “SD’s brother” is both a fictitious character and a reference to Stanislaus). The cluster around the name of Megapenthes is less character-oriented. It introduces etymological interpretation and an early occurrence of the theme of Tristan, which will play such an important part in the genesis of Finnegans Wake.

After that, Joyce started to take consecutive notes on the Homeric text, indicating parenthetically some correspondences with Irish or personal history. Why are the notes numbered, and then later re-numbered in the left margin? This obviously indicates an attempt to arrange, and then rearrange, but it is difficult to understand what may have been Joyce’s principle of organization.

The most interesting point is that Joyce starts a new sequence of numbers when he reaches the story of Proteus. The corresponding part of the source text is one of those characteristic Homeric stories within the story: Menelaus tells Telemachus of his encounter with Proteus. The new sequence of numbers suggests that Joyce immediately decided that this could be the substance for a new episode and the decision was clearly ratified later by the drawing of a box around this set of notes.

It would have been narratologically coherent to start another sequence of numbers or to close the box at the point where the story of Menelaus’s adventures with Proteus ends, but Joyce did not do so. The notes go on beyond that point, but they do not follow slavishly the course of the Homeric text. We have seen that Joyce continued to take notes about the events in Lacedemon and, when necessary, jumped to Book XV in order to conclude.

We can guess that the “Lacedemon” episode never went further than this initial planning and was absorbed into what should have been one of its component parts, the “Proteus” episode.6

Another, more general, question remains. This page is undoubtedly exceptional in the extant Joyce corpus, but in what sense is it an exception? Is it an exceptionally preserved example of Joyce’s normal writing procedure?7 Or is it an exception in Joyce’s mode of writing? Did Joyce take similar, systematic and consecutive, notes on the text of Homer as the basis for drafting the other episodes of Ulysses? We cannot answer with any certainty, but Joyce’s procedures are usually very consistent, so there is a good probability that this was the way that Joyce was working, at least for the early episodes. Even if we could prove this, perhaps on the basis of newly discovered manuscripts, it is likely that this document would remain unique in one way: it gives us the opportunity of observing at close range how the idea of one episode (“Proteus”) emerged in the process of taking notes for another one and it allows us to witness the first moment of the protean transformation of a virtual chapter into a different, but actual one. At a more general level, it is, on the other hand, perfectly emblematic of what genetic criticism teaches us about authorial intentions: they are inevitably subject to a process of metamorphosis as soon as they become actualized.


Ames, Keri Elizabeth. “Joyces Aesthetic of the Double Negation and his Encounter with Homer’s Odyssey”. In C. Jaurretche (ed.) Beckett, Joyce and the Art of the Negative. (European Joyce Studies 16) Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005, 15-48.

Butcher Samuel H., Lang, Andrew. Odyssey Of Homer Done into English Prose. London: Macmillan, 1879.

Ferrer, Daniel. “What song the sirens sang… is no longer beyond all conjecture. A preliminary description of the new ‘Proteus’ and ‘Sirens’ manuscripts”. James Joyce Quarterly 39.1 (Fall 2001): 53-68.

Ferrer, Daniel. “Ulysses de James Joyce: un homérisme secondaire”. In G.W. Most, L.F. Norman, S. Rabau (eds.) Révolutions homériques. Seminari e convegni, 19. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2009, 137-147.

Ferrer, Daniel. “Retrospective Homer”. In R. Baccolini, D. Chiaro, C. Rundle, S. Whitsitt (eds.) A Joyceful of Talkatalka from Friendshapes for Rosa Maria Bosinelli. Bologna: Bononia University Press, 2011, 53-68.

Gabler, Hans W. “Joyce’s Text in Progress”. In D. Attridge (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce [1st edition]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, 213-236. [e-publication:]

Groden, Michael. “A Textual and Publishing History”. In Z. Bowen, J.F. Carens (eds.) A Companion to Joyce Studies. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1984, 71-128.

Joyce, James. “Proteus and Sirens” notebook. (National Library of Ireland) NLI MS 36,639/03/B; (National Library of Ireland online catalogue, http//

Simpson, John. “They simply fade away: news on the life and death of an old soldier — Joseph Casey”. JJON (James Joyce Online Notes) N. 2, 2012,


1 I thank Luca Crispi for his help.

2 The page numbers refer to the 1879 edition of the Odyssey Of Homer Done Into English Prose by S. H. Butcher and A. Lang. There are several editions, with minor variants of translation, but I have not been able to determine which one Joyce used for these notes.

3 See Simpson (2012).

4 For a recent review of the question, see Keri Elizabeth Ames (2005).

5 It is likely that the blue pencil cancellations were made at the time of transfer.

6 Therefore, I no longer believe that “Lacedemon” is the fourth episode that Joyce was planning for the Telemachiad in 1915. As Michael Groden (1984: 93) suggested, Joyce was probably thinking of “Scylla and Charybdis”. See also Hans Walter Gabler’s convincing argument (1990: 222-223).

7 Preserved, presumably, because it happened to be written in the same notebook as two important drafts.


A la fin d’un cahier qui contient de très importants brouillons pour Ulysses on trouve une page de notes intitulée « Lacedemon ». Cette page, jusqu’à présent négligée, présente un intérêt exceptionnel par son ancienneté, par sa forme, par son contenu et par le rôle qu’elle a joué dans la genèse d’Ulysse. Il s’agit de notes prises à partir du quatrième chant de l’Odyssée, dans la traduction anglaise de Butcher et Lang. On voit comment Joyce s’approprie le texte homérique et le rapportant à l’histoire irlandaise, à sa propre histoire familiale et au livre qu’il projette. On y voit aussi Joyce renoncer à écrire un chapitre consacré à Lacédémone et s’orienter vers un épisode consacré aux aventures de Protée qui ne constituent qu’un détail du quatrième chant de l’Odyssée.

Pour citer cette page

Daniel Ferrer, «An Unwritten Chapter of Ulysses?
Joyce’s Notes for a “Lacedemon” Episode», Item [En ligne],
Mis en ligne le: 11 septembre 2015
Disponible sur:

Notice bibliographique

"An Unwritten Chapter of Ulysses? Joyce's Notes for a 'Lacedemon' Episode," in James Joyce: Whence, Whither and How. Studies in Honour of Carla Vaglio, ed. Giuseppina Cortese, Giuliana Ferreccio, M. Teresa Giaveri, and Teresa Prudente, Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2015. (p. 362-377)

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