Episode 10

A brief guide to “Wandering Rocks”

Prepared by Danis Rose

2021 edition Ulysses pages 244-284
2017 edition Ulysses pages 197-229
1922 edition Ulysses pages [210]-244

Thursday 16 June, 1904: 2.55 p.m. to 4.00 p.m., The city steets.


TITLE and SENSE: Wandering Rocks. The Hostile Environment.
SCENE: The Streets
HOUR: 3 p.m.
ORGAN: Blood
ART: Mechanics
SYMBOL: Citizens
TECHNIC: Labyrinth

In ‘Wandering Rocks’, we find a synopsis of the topography of the Dublin of Ulysses. From multiple points of view we peer down at the movements of Joyce's variously interrelated characters, winding their way about the hostile labyrinth of the city or simply standing still, the whole framed by Church (find Father Conmee) and State (find the Earl of Dudley).

The city swirls about us as the characters continue their individual, in the main inconsequent, Odysseys, sometimes intersecting, or meeting tangentially in near-synchronicity of action (Simon Dedalus curses the lacquey at 3.23 p.m.; Farrell the blind stripling at 3.46 p.m.). Our view is variously spatially and temporally distorted: certain place-names, for example, retain their erased former names. Joyce wanted us to work hard to pin down his many moving directions and points. Fragmentation – the result of being crushed between rocks – is the order of the hour: one notes the presence here of the legless, the eyeless, the mindless, the soulless, the penniless, the hopeless, the rudderless and the directionless, and, of course, the footless. Additionally, disjointed limbs and features, even disembodied voices, abound.

The episode is sectioned, appropriately, into nineteen vignettes, each encapsulating a small stretch of time enclosing a character or characters going about his or their afternoon business, or, as the facts suggest, passing the time in idleness, in the metropolis. These are as follows. (Only the first is here considered in any detail.)

Section 1 (2.55 – 3.39 p.m.)

The benign, the Very Reverend John Conmee S. J., silk-hatted, prefect of studies at Belvedere and Superior of the residence at the R. C. church of Saint Francis Xavier on Upper Gardiner Street (the locale for the retreat as narrated in Grace in Dubliners), makes his way in idyllic weather from the presbytery house behind the church to pay a visit to Brother William Swan, Director of the O'Brien Institute for Destitute Children, an orphanage in Fairview in which he hopes to place the son of the lately departed Paddy, scion of the noble tribe of Dignam.l1

Setting out on his Odyssey, Conmee meets a one-legged sailor outside the Sisters of Charity Convent on the corner of Gardiner Street before he crosses the road to Mountjoy Square, where, under the trees, he greets the wife of Mr David Sheehy M. P. He espies three Belvedere boys and asks one of them to post a letter for him in the bright red pillar letter-box at the corner of Fitzgibbon Street (alas, now gone: both letter and pillar-box). From here the sky pilot veers left into Great Charles Street, passes the shut-up Free Church, and, at the street's end, turns the corner down onto the North Circular Road and Portland Row, passing St Joseph's R. C. church on the right. He turns left and walks along the North Strand Road, passing William Gallagher's (at no. 4), purveyor, grocer, coal and corn merchant, Grogan's the tobacconist's (at no. 16), Daniel L. Bergin's (at no. 17), grocer, tea, wine & spirit merchant, and William Youkstetter's (at No. 21), the pork butcher.l2

Across the road, he notices H. J. O'Neill's (at no. 164), undertaker and job carriage proprietor.

The reverend father next crosses the Royal Canal at Newcomen Bridge, beside Charleville Mall, and boards an outward-bound tram, disliking as he does traversing by foot “the dingy way past Mud Island”.l3 He alights at the Howth-road tram-stop and continues on his way to the orphanage on shank's mare, opening his breviary to read as he strolls along the quiet, pleasant Malahide Road. As he does so his tranquility is arrested by the unanticipated emergence from a gap in a hedge of “a flushed young man” and a young woman “with wild nodding daisies in her hand”. We learn in Oxen that this pair, blessed gravely by the Superior, is the lecher Lynch and some tart.

Section 2 (ca 3.14 p.m.)

Cornelius (“Corny”) Kelleher, leaning against the door-case of O'Neill's the undertaker's at 164 North Strand Road (passed by Conmee in (1)), where he is employed, spits and speaks with suspicious familiarity to Constable 57C.

Section 3 (ca 3.13 p.m.)

A nameless one-legged sailor (greeted earlier by Conmee in (1)) is seen jerking his way on crutches up Eccles Street (where an arm (Molly's) tosses him a coin from a window), before vanishing into (one-armed) Nelson Street.

Section 4 (ca 3.25 p.m.)

Katey and Boody Dedalus, sisters of Stephen, arrive home at No. 7, Saint Peter's Terrace in Cabra,l4 where a third sister, Maggy, is boiling shirts and preparing pea-soup. Dilly, a fourth sister, has gone out in search of their father Simon.

Section 5 (ca 3.05 p.m.)

Hugh Boylan purchases port, potted meat and fruit at James Thornton's, fruitier and florist, No. 63, Grafton Street for his afternoon assignation (potting his meat) with Molly. He rudely appropriates a red carnation from a vase. Before leaving, he asks can he make a telephone call (to his office). On leaving, he heads off down Grafton Street where he waylays Bob Doran, Jack Mooney's brother-in-law, outside La Maison Claire, court dressmaker, at No. 4.l5

Section 6 (ca 3.21 p.m.)

Stephen Dedalus encounters, and converses with in Italian, his music teacher Almidano Artifoni, outside the statue-rich entrance gates to Trinity College.

Section 7 (ca 3.11 p.m.)

Miss Dunne takes a telephone call (see (5)) from her employer, Blazes Boylan, at her place of work at No. 15, D'Olier Street. She informs him that Lenehan wishes to meet up with him at the Ormond Hotel at 4.00 p.m.

Section 8 (ca 3.14 p.m.)

Ned Lambert shows the Reverend Hugh C. Love about the council chamber (the old meeting-room or chapter house) of Saint Mary's Abbey at Nos. 2-5, Mary's Abbey: the “most historic spot in all Dublin”.l6

Section 9 (ca 3.08 p.m.)

Lenehan and M'Coy, on their way to the Ormond Hotel, walk from Crampton Court to Capel Street Bridge. Leaving the tiny square (just south of the bridge), the duo turn left into Dame Street and pass ‘Dan Lowrey's music hall’ at No. 72 (properly the Empire Palace Theatre: now the Olympia Theatre). Taking another left into Sycamore Street, M'Coy tries to determine the time. They pass under Merchant's Arch (a part-covered passageway from Temple Bar to Wellington Quay), where they spot the dark-backed figure of Bloom bent over a cart. ‘There he is, Lenehan said.’

Section 10: the epicentre (ca 3.08 p.m.)

Leopold Bloom hunts through old books on a hawker's cart at Merchant's Arch for another lurid read. It is clear from his remark on being handed Tales of the Ghetto by the bookseller (“That I had, he said, pushing it by”) that he has been there before and, by inference, that the books are not for sale but for rent (he had had the Tales out before). Fair Tyrants, another potential, he also remembers having had out. It soon becomes apparent that Bloom is looking for a book not for himself but for Molly, and he finds one – Sweets of Sin – that is suitably lush for her low-brow taste in literature. Though disturbed by some passages in it, putting him too much in mind of his wife's impending four o'clock assignation with their mutual acquaintance and business partner Mr Hugh Boylan, he elects to take it. We do not at this point in the novel witness the cash transaction; but we learn later from the budget in Ithaca exactly how much he pays the bookseller.

Section 11 (ca 3.22 p.m.)

Stephen's shabbily-dressed sister Dilly sidetracks her errant father outside Joseph Dillon's auction-rooms at No. 25, Bachelor's Walk, and demands some of his borrowed money. Ill-tempered at the unwanted intrusion of responsibility, the old braggart nevertheless coughs up two pennies for her to buy a bun and a glass of milk.

Section 12 (ca 3.24 p.m.)

Tom Kernan, frock-coated purveyor of fine teas and lover of fine sloe gins, sets out from the sundial at the Junction of James's Street and Bow Lane, west, and traverses several streets in successful pursuit of business.

Section 13 (ca 3.30 p.m.)

Stephen Dedalus watches through the window of No. 57, Fleet Street, the proprietor Thomas Russell, lapidary and gem-cutter, inspect his wares.

Shoving on, and turning into Bedford Row, he pauses outside the shop of M. Clohisey, bookseller, at Nos. 10 & 11, where he meets his sister Dilly (see (11)) who has spent a penny on the purchase of a second-hand French primer. Stephen, who spends his relatively considerable earnings on drink in the company of parasites and prostitutes, offers her no support, financial or otherwise, in a striking example of Joyce's self-honesty.

Section 14 (ca 3.28 p.m.)

Simon Dedalus converses with two cronies (Father Cowley and “big” Ben Dollard) outside Richard Reddy and Daughter, antique dealers, at No. 19, Ormond Quay, lower.

Section 15 (ca 3.36 p.m.)

Martin Cunningham, in the company of Mr Power and John Wyse Nolan, wends his way from the courtyards of Dublin Castle to James Kavanagh's wine-rooms at No. 27, Parliament Street, where they meet the city sub-sheriff, Long John Fanning.

Section 16 (ca 3.27 p.m.)

Mulligan and Haines scoff mélanges, cakes and buttered scones in the Dublin Bread Company's tea-rooms at No. 33, Dame Street.l7

Section 17 (ca 3.30 p.m.)

“Cashel Boyle O'Connor Fitzmaurice Tisdall Farrell” follows behind the stout trousers of the figure of Artifoni (from (6)) along Mount Street lower.l8 Changing his destination, Farrell retraces his steps and crosses over into Clare Street.

Section 18 (ca 3.17 p.m.)

Master Patrick Aloysius Dignam, son of the late and lately interred Paddy Dignam, having gratefully absented himself from his dismal house of mourning, makes his way homeward from P. Mangan's the pork butcher's at Nos. 1-2, William Street south (inexplicably some two miles distant), where he has collected a pound and a half of pork-steaks.

Section 19 (3.14 – 4.00 p.m.)

William Humble Ward, second earl of Dudley, the lord lieutenant general and general governor of Ireland, and Lady Dudley make their stately way in a cavalcade leisurely across the city, travelling by carriage from the Viceregal Lodge in the Phoenix Park to attend the opening of the Mirus Bazaar in the grounds of the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge, a distance of about five miles. Their passage is noted and / or hailed by a multitude of obedient citizens out enjoying the felicity of the town.


Bosphorus = Liffey
European bank = Viceroy
Asiatic bank = Conmee
Symplegades = Groups of citizens
Bloom = Odysseus
Stephen = Telemachus

As there is no Wandering Rocks episode in Homer, there are really no correspondences.

At the same time, Joyce sought to use the brief reference in Homer to the dreaded clashing rocks (as an alternative sailing route to that past Scylla and Charybdis) to justify an entire interpolated episode: an “entr'acte” as he called it. There are all sorts of tricks and illusions embedded in the episode to disorient the navigating reader, from the unfamiliar or obsolete naming of persons and places to the incompleteness of action and/or description. The sections into which the episode divides intersect complexly through temporal coincidence or counterpoint of event; for example, Molly, seen solely as a plump arm, tosses a coin out of a window just as a war-wounded one-legged sailor jerks past, reflecting the famous one-handedness of another sailor: the Dublin-born Duke of Wellington. A number of studies have looked into these delicately interwoven intertextual details.

The fragmented state of the narrative, in a sequence of little islands, or vignettes, is intended to evoke the fragmentary nature of the wandering rocks (traditionally, the Plangtai). To make one's way past these, in which hostility is one's only companion, is, Joyce suggests, no less fraught with threat and no lass labyrinthine that the simple movements of a simple soul traversing the streets of Dublin.

It is no accident that the episode opens with the affairs of the church and closes with those of the state: a pincer-like movement to manipulate or choke whatever lies within its grasp.

Jason's ship, the Argo, has a rather special counterpart: the fragment of paper that Bloom scrunches up and tosses into the Liffey. Its little Odyssey through the random eddies, swirls and detritus of Anna Livia is artfully related.

Clearly, Joyce thoroughly enjoyed writing this cameo of Dublin at a particular hour on a particular day, amused as he was at confounding the inattentive reader.


Jason and the Argonauts
The Strait

Odysseus, having returned from the underworld to the island of Kirke, on the sorceress's advice chooses not to take the perilous route to Ithaca that passes by the Wandering Rocks; but rather to sail his ship past Skylla, even at the cost of some men's lives.

The dangeous passage by the migratory rocks was traversed only once, by famed Jason of the Argo, and Odysseus prudently avoids it. Better to lose some of his crew than all.