29 Rutgers L. Rev. 259 (1975-1976)
Law at Finnegans Wake, The; Cowan, Thomas

handle is hein.journals/rutlr29 and id is 267 raw text is: THE LAW AT FINNEGANS WAKE*
THOMAS COWAN**
I. THE JOYCESCAPE
John Joyce always said his eldest son James should be a lawyer
because the boy speaks better than he writes. The fatherly ambition
wasn't to be realized, but, not surprisingly, it left its mark. James Joyce
had a life long interest in the law. In fact, he even considered pursuing
the profession to support his main work, writing. A few law lectures at
University College, Dublin, seem to have convinced him, however, that a
jealous mistress would not advance his career in literature.
While Joyce thought he could do without the law, the law showed no
inclination to reciprocate. His first novel Dubliners was destined for a
long and acrimonious struggle with publishers who feared the law of
criminal libel.' Moreover, when James Joyce and Nora Barnacle decided
in 1904 to marry themselves without benefit of church or state, the
Joyces literally began a career in legal irregularity that was to last for
over a quarter of a century.
To be sure, these practical concerns assail many people who nonethe-
less show no intellectual interest in the law itself. Not so Joyce.
Sometime between 1909 and 1914 (I have not been able to pinpoint the
date any closer) Joyce prepared for his own use a complete digest of the
common law of commercial transactions.2
* Part of the substance of this paper was reported to the IV James Joyce Sym-
posium held in Dublin on June 11-16, 1973. See Appendix for a brief guide to literature
helpful to the reading of the Wake. Numerals here refer to pages and lines of the
Wake, all printings of which retain the original pagination.
** Professor Emeritus, Rutgers Law School, Newark, New Jersey; B.S., Economics,
Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Ph.D., LL.B., University of Pennsylvania;
S.J.D., Harvard.
1. For the best sources for this and other details of Joyce's life, see R. ELLMANN,
JAMES JOYCE (1965); 1-3 LETrERs OF JAMES JOYCE (vol. 1, S. Gilbert, ed. 1957; vols.
2-3, R. Ellmann, ed. 1966).
2. This extraordinary document which has never been published is now in the
Joyce Collection at Cornell University. It consists of 135 pages of notes in Joyce's
small but precise handwriting. Page 35 is missing and an unnumbered page appears
after page 84. The leading page is labeled Banking and the first nineteen pages are
explicitly on the law of banking as of the first decade of the century. But there is
much more. Pages 20 to 45 are labeled Commercial Law and are a rather full
tight student's outline of the English common law of contracts. Pages 46 to 62 con-
tain notes on English law and custom of clerk hire. Pages 63 to 85 labeled Insurance
are a concise summary of the English Workmen's Compensation Act of 1906, followed
abruptly by a desultory account of other forms of insurance. The next section, pages
86 to 110, is called Shipping. It is an extended glossary of English terms and usages

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