Finnegans Wake Draft Analysis

Finn's Hotel

Details of the various draft stages.

Compiled by Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon

In February 1923, before James Joyce had entirely finished making corrections to Ulysses, he was admitted to hospital in Paris for an operation on his eyes (see Letters, I, 6 February and BLHW, 16 February, 1923). As his sight improved following the treatment, so did his mood, and he began to compose a series of short prose pieces, at first without any clear plan as to what he was going to do with them beyond a vague plan to write a serio-comic history of Ireland. The title he had in mind was “Finn's Hotel”, but this he kept secret because of its personal connotations: it was the name of the Dublin lodginghouse in which his wife Nora was working (a live-in servant) on the day he met her (June 10, 1904) as she was walking down Nassau street (see Selected Letters, 11 December, 1909).

There are some commentators who dispute Finn's Hotel's existence as a distinct work. Such a view appears to us to betoken an inability to keep more than one idea in one's head at the same time (not a good recommendation for a Finnegans Wake scholar). We will only say that a series of vignettes, written in 1923 under a different title and with different ends in view, all but one laid aside for 15 years, then remembered (slap your forehead!), sought out, and then some of them, not all, spatchcocked into Finnegans Wake in 2 or 3, more or less incongruous, positions, looks to us very much like an other, largely abandoned, work.

The order of the pieces as laid out below follows roughly their order in a projected history of Ireland, rather than their order of first composition. We begin with a tale of Patrick and the druid (a.d. 432), followed by a kind of prayer to Kevin (born a.d. 498), odd versions of the romance of Tristan and Isolde as told by the annalists (ca. a.d. 600), their own story, a description of the sorry old age of King Roderick O'Conor, high-king of Ireland (a.d. 1172), an account of the origins of Isolde's father, H.C.E., now become an Englishman, and his encounter with the King (seemingly posing as William IV, a.d. 1830-1837, predecessor of Victoria, fox hunting), a letter to His Revered Majesty from H.C.E.'s wife, A.L.P., dictated to his first-born son, Shem, in exoneration of his, H.C.E.'s, character, and, finally,a brief recital of the occasion of the letter's delivery by his second-born son, Shaun, twin of Shem, to all the world.

FH I : ‘The Irish Chinchinjoss’

a.k.a ‘Patrick and the Druid’
(incorporated into Finnegans Wake IV§3 in August 1938)
First draft or perhaps a fair copy (ink); probably late March 1923 (see Letters, III, 28 March 1923).
Fair copy (ink); July 1923 (see Letters, BLHW, 2 August, and III, 2 August, 1923.
  • MS: BL 47488, fols. 99v, 100r
  • JJA 63 (Book IV): 146b-146c
  • Notebooks used: N3 (VI.B.3)
For later drafts of this piece see IV§3.2, etc., and for its 1938 incorporation into Finnegans Wake, IV§3.3

FH II : ‘Kindness to Fishes’

a.k.a ‘Kevineen’
(not included in Finnegans Wake)
First draft (pencil) written on the verso of IV§2.1; probably July 1923.
Fair copy (ink); Probably July 1923.
  • MS: NLI 41818 fol. 6r (online)
  • JJA: not reproduced
This piece was laid aside and never incorporated into Finnegans Wake

FH III : ‘A Tale of a Tub’

a.k.a ‘Saint Kevin’
(incorporated into Finnegans Wake IV§2 in July 1938)
First draft (pencil), in hand of Nora Joyce; mid-March 1923 (see Letters, BLHW, 18 March 1923).
  • MS: Buffalo N3 (VI.B.3), pp. 42, 43, 44, 45
  • JJA 63 (Book IV): 34-37
Second draft (pencil); late March 1923. The verso contains the first draft of FH II).
Fair copy (ink); revised July 1923 (see Letters, III, 26 July, 1923).
  • MS: BL 47488, fol. 25r
  • JJA 63 (Book IV): 38c
  • Notebooks used: N4 (VI.B.25)
For later drafts of this piece see IV§2.3, etc. Joyce only incorporated it into Finnegans Wake proper in 1938.

FH IV : ‘Her Charms’

on the character of Isolde
(not included in Finnegans Wake)
Abandoned fragment; probably July 1923.
This piece was laid aside and never incorporated into Finnegans Wake

FH V : ‘The Big Kiss’

a.k.a ‘Tristan and Isolde’
(later partly absorbed into II.4§2)
Earliest fair copy (ink); probably July/August 1923.
Second fair copy (ink); early August 1923.
Third fair copy (ink) (including the “Seaswan's song”; August 1923 (see Letters, BLHW, 12 August, 1923).
  • MS: BL 47481, fols. 97r, 97v, 98, 98v
  • JJA 56 (Book II, Chapter 4): 12-19
  • Notebooks used: SA (VI.A)°, N1 (VI.B.10)°
For later drafts of this piece see II.4§1.3, etc. In 1938 it was partly absorbed into II.4§2 (see II.4§2.6/3.8).

FH VI : ‘The Staves of Memory’

a.k.a ‘MaMaLuJo’
(rewritten as Finnegans Wake II.4§2-3 in July 1938)
First draft (pencil) in Nora Joyce's hand (preceded by an early version of the “Seaswan's song”): probably August or September 1923 (see Letters, BLHW, 10 September, 1923).
For ‘Mamalujo’ proper, see II.4§2.0. It was published in Paris in the Transatlantic Review as a ‘side-piece’ in 1924. Significantly, it was not included when, in 1927-1929, transition magazine published, in the order of their later appearance in Finnegans Wake, all of the material he had already written, whether or not (as was the case for I.2, I.5, I.7 and I.8) it had already appeared elsewhere in print. In 1938 July ‘Mamalujo’ was combined with portions of FH V and incorporated into Finnegans Wake by inserting it, somewhat arbitrarily, at the end of Book II (see II.4§2.6/3.8).

FH VII : ‘Skyward to Stardom’

a projected continuation of ‘Tristan and Isolde’
(not included in Finnegans Wake)
This fragment (a first draft, subsequently abandoned) includes the earliest version of the “Seaswan's song” (copied into II.4§1.2). The material on the final page is written in the margins of a sheet containing a draft of Joyce's poem “Nightpiece” (not a part of the text) and (on the verso) the earliest fair copy of the ‘House of a Hundred Bottles’ (‘Roderick O'Connor’) piece (see FH VIII (II.3§7.0) below): July 1923 (see Letters, I, 19 July 1923).
Fair copy (crayon and ink) of the material on the verso of FHviii.0: July 1923.
  • MS: NLI 41818, fol. 5r (online)
  • JJA: not reproduced
Other than a re-use of the “Seaswan's song” in II.4§1.2, this piece was laid aside and never incorporated into Finnegans Wake.

FH VIII : ‘House of a Hundred Bottles’

a.k.a ‘Roderick O'Connor’
(later absorbed into II.3§7)
First extant draft; March 1923 (see Letters, I, 11 March 1923: the ‘two pages’ mentioned in the letter do not appear to have survived); ink. Probably revised in July 1923 (a fragment of FHvii.0 in crayon is written on the verso: see Letters, I, 19 July 1923).
Fair copy (ink); possibly July 1923.
  • MS: BL Add MS 47480, fol. 269r
  • JJA: 55 (II.3 pt 2): 446b
For the 1938 incorporation of this piece into Finnegans Wake, see II.3§7.3

FH IX : ‘Here Comes Everybody’

(used as the hopping-off point for Work in Progress, later I.2§1)
First draft (ink) - written on “Restaurant des Trianons” notepaper; probably August-September 1923 (see Letters, III, 23 August 1923).
Fair copy (ink, but with pencil revisions); September 1923 (see Letters, BLHW, 10 September 1923).
For later drafts of this piece see I.2§1.2, etc.

FH X : ‘Here's Lettering You’

a.k.a ‘The Letter’
(originally intended for I.5, rewritten as Finnegans Wake IV§4 in July 1938)
First draft (pencil) in the red-backed notebook; probably December 1923.
Draft of ALP's signature; this page also contains material for I.5§1.0, §3.0, and I.4§2.1χ.
  • MS: BL 47471b, fol. (30r)
  • JJA 46 (Book I Chapters 4 and 5):
  • Notebooks used: N1 (VI.B.10)
Second draft (pencil) in the same notebook, following immediately on the same page the end of I.4§2.1; fols. 37v, 38v and 40v, and fol. 42r, also carry material (written later) used in §4.0 and §3.0+, respectively; probably December 1923.
Partial fair copy, comprising a redraft of fols. 37v to 42r above; written on the versos of pages used in the early drafts of 1.3 and 1.4; fols. 18v, fols. 19v and 20v, and fols. 22v and 23v also contain material used in I.4§1A.0, I.3§3.1, and I.4§1A.1, respectively.
  • MS: BL 47471b, fols. 14v, 15v, 16v, 18v, 19v, 2Ov, 22v, 23v
  • JJA 46 (Book I Chapters 4 and 5): 273-280
  • Notebooks used: N3 (VI.B.3)°
Fair copy (ink) with some auxesis; probably December-January 1923-1924.
Typescript (incomplete) following the last lines of a typescript of §1 (see §1.3, fol. 11 r); this page possibly forms part of the draft of the ‘Letter’ used as the basis of IV§4.0; January 1924 (according to Harriet Shaw Weaver, a letter dated 7 January 1924 refers to this page).
  • MS: BL 47473, fol. 21r, missing
  • JJA 46 (Book I Chapters 4 and 5):
Carbon of fol. 21r.
  • MS: BL 47473, fol. 20r
  • JJA 46 (Book I Chapters 4 and 5):
At this point Joyce decided not to use the ‘Letter’ episode in Book I. He laid it aside and only returned to it in 1938, when he rewrote it and incorporated it into Book IV (see IV§4.0, etc).

FH XI : ‘The Lion's Mouth’

introducing Shem, A.L.P.'s son and co-author, brother of Shaun, the deliverer of the letter
(not included in Finnegans Wake)
First draft (pencil) in the red-backed notebook; written on the versos and at the bottom of pages used also in I.5§1.0, I.5§1.0χ, I.5§2.0, and I.4§2.1; probably December-January 1923-1924.
  • MS: BL 47471b, fols. (35v), 34v, (30r)
  • JJA 46 (Book I Chapters 4 and 5): 292-294
  • Notebooks used: N1 (VI.B.10)
Redraft of the paragraph on fol. 30r; written at the bottom of a page used also for §2.1.
  • MS: BL 47471b, fol. (42r)
  • JJA 46 (Book I Chapters 4 and 5): 295
  • Notebooks used: SA (VI.A)°, N6 (VI.B.11)
This short piece was never incorporated into Finnegans Wake, though it acted as an important inspiration for III.1-3 (Shaun's adventures).