“My mouth is full of decayed teeth and my soul of decayed ambitions.” – Joyce
Born: Feb. 2, 1882
Died: Jan. 13, 1941
Physician’s Notes: Nearly blind for the last third of his life, the Irish author of Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake was wearing thick glasses at age six. As a young, unpublished writer, he was destitute, surviving on cocoa, which resulted in illness and severe toothaches. He couldn’t afford a dentist, and his tooth condition worsened, eventually causing iritis of both eyes. In 1907 he suffered an attack of rheumatic fever. Ten years later the attacks of iritis were so acute that he once spent five weeks recovering from one. Then he developed glaucoma. In 1923 he was advised to have all of his abscessed teeth extracted. This brought some relief from the iritis attacks, but between 1923 and 1926 he underwent seven eye operations, including one to remove the lens in his left eye. His eyes grew steadily worse. After his 10th eye operation (he was to have one more), he was able to see just enough to read newspaper headlines. (Writing in semidarkness, it took him 17 years to complete Finnegans Wake.) On Jan. 10, 1941, suffering from severe stomach pains, he was rushed to the hospital “writhing like a fish.” X rays revealed a perforated duodenal ulcer. An operation was initially successful, but Joyce weakened and finally fell into a coma, awakening only once before he died. His last words were “Does nobody understand?”
The name of one of Joyce’s notebooks, which is perhaps the most important early document relating to Finnegan’s wake (written 1922 – 1926) . It contains words, phrases, clichés, anecdotes, ideas, scraps of information and other memoranda.
The notebook was written in the time period before Joyce’s eye surgery (i.e. Around the time he had all his teeth removed?!).
Etymology: scribbledehobble (n.): James Joyce’s nonce-formation on scribble n. or scribble v., prob. influenced by such a word as hobbledehoy.
For instance in scribbledehobble he gives us a shorthand version of the park incident, expressed in terms of vegetation: “One’s upon a thyme and two’s behind their lettice leap and three’s among the strubbely beds” (Joyce really liked puns).
See Google Books: A first-draft version of Finnegans wake By James Joyce, David Hayman
Finnegan’s Wake online, annotated version. Warning: The book is nuts.
The Original Ballad of Finnegan’s Wake:
In the ballad, the hod-carrier Tim Finnegan, born “with a love for the liquor”, falls from a ladder, fractures his skull, and is thought to be dead. The mourners at his wake become rowdy, and spill whiskey over Finnegan’s corpse, causing him to come back to life and join in the celebrations. Whiskey causes both Finnegan’s fall and his resurrection—whiskey is derived from the Irishphrase uisce beatha, meaning “water of life”.
PDF of Ulysses: