Wednesday, September 06, 2023

The “Flunky Beadle” in James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake"

In James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" (1939), Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker writes a list "of all abusive names he was called" (FW 71.5-6). The page-long includes this insult that you can sing if you like: "Flunkey Beadle Vamps the Tune Letting on He's Loney" (FW 71.32-33). Like a soldier aspiring to fashionable, "Yankee Doodle" here becomes a lonely improviser and pretender who is doubly subordinate to those he serves, both as a flunky and as a beadle (a minor parish official, such as Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens's "Oliver Twist", 1838). In our reading group, we wondered if "Loney" was an echo of a particular aristocratic name for the beadle to pretend to. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 September 2023) 

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