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A Preliminary Stratigraphy of "Scribbledehobble"

by Jorn Barger

[This essay appears in "European Joyce Studies #3" published December 1994.]

"James Stephens was over here for a week. I saw him nearly every day and explained to him all about the book...." JJ to Harriet Weaver, 22 Nov. 1929

"There are two things about you which are unchangeable: you are the most subtil man, and the most continuously kind male creature I have ever known... I got the ...book you left... I send you my love in return, but that is so easy to send by a postman, that it is not worth signing a receipt for at the other end." James Stephens to JJ, 20 Sept. 1936 [emphasis added]

If one chooses to push the limits of the geologic metaphor for Joyce's Finnegans Wake notetaking, the physical notebooks may be seen as a series of riverbeds into which notes, like sedimentary pebbles, have been deposited over a period of months or years.

During his first ten months of work on Finnegans Wake, between October 1922 and August 1923, Joyce wrote just four vignettes (less than eight pages total, about 2500 words), but also some 10,000 notes of one or a dozen words each-- so if we wish to understand the evolution of his thought during this critical time, we have at minimum a dozen times the volume of clues in the form of notes, as in the early drafts themselves. The early FW notes, though, are notably opaque-- like the surviving Ulysses notes, they cover an apparently unbounded range of themes, and it's been impossible for anyone, from within this welter, to pick out with any confidence any single unambiguous evolutionary thread.

The greatest obstacle to such recognition of developing patterns has been the peculiar format of Buffalo notebook VI.A, "Scribbledehobble", for that book's 3500 notes were sorted by Joyce into thirtyeight distinct lists, each list growing, like fluvial sediments, in orderly, monotonic sequence, but none of the lists declaring its chronological position relative to any of the others, effectively turning Scribbledehobble into a perfectly blank chronological cul-de-sac. So no one has been able to say what note among the 3500, or in the larger set of 10000, was Joyce's earliest reference to, for example, the letter motif, nor whether it was an accusing letter before it was a letter of exoneration, nor whether the letter motif preceded or followed the crime motif....

Danis Rose and others have shown convincingly that only three of the surviving pocket stenopads could have been filled during this period, with VI.B.10 surely first, then likely VI.B.3, and then VI.B.25. But it's been open to doubt whether even this chronological 'spine' is reliably sequential-- Joyce might have filled in these books as haphazardly as he liked, as if the geological strata were jumbled or inverted in places-- and any number of additional books might now be lost. And, given that most of B25 consists of unreadable stubs of destroyed pages, we are left with the meager chronological insight that most of the notes in B10 were probably jotted earlier than most of those in B3... not much of a clue at all, to go on.

Two new insights promise now to reverse this situation: Very occasionally, Joyce copied notes from the B-series pads into Scribble, and these provide a substantial set of weak time-correlations between Scribble and the Bs. But more spectacularly, examination of the facsimiles of Scribbledehobble in the James Joyce Archive, and of the original at the University of Buffalo, reveals that Joyce's pen, ink, and handwriting changed within each list according to a pattern that holds consistent from list to list, allowing (even at this early stage of study) for some dozen strata to be tabulated, as if a sequence of rock sediments varied in color, or shape, or grainsize. Because Joyce's notetaking in Scribbledehobble involved sorting, many of these strata are identifiable across the majority of Scribble's 38 separate lists. And the weak correlations that the duplicate copyings provided can now serve the infinitely more powerful role of confirming this mapping, correlating the Scribble strata to the B-series notepads.

The broad picture that emerges is this: To a first order of precision, the correlations imply that the B-series books were filled linearly, B3 close on the heels of B10, around the beginning of April 1923. Scribble was begun in parallel with B10 in October or November 1922, Joyce consistently using a pen with a fine nib until April or May, when he underwent major eye surgery. He then switched to a much coarser pen through May, June, and July, and in August switched back briefly to a medium nib, for the last 300 Scribble notes of the period. This fine-coarse-fine pattern is clearly visible in the facsimiles, although several important lists omit the initial fine-nib phase altogether, indicating that they were not begun before Summer 1923. The coarse nib may have been a showy gold model, with the standard reinforced alloy tip, but this tip would have broken off sometime in June, for around this time the nib begins growing dramatically duller, leaving a clean chronological trail that may eventually prove traceable even down to a note-by-note granularity. (Picture a computerized microscope graphing the density of pigment-molecules at regular cross- sections within each penstroke!) The medium-fine nib of Winter and Spring 1923 was replaced twice during the spring, with an extra-fine nib that is represented in more than a dozen lists, whose chronologies can be the most easily finetuned, using this data. The handwritings and inks will certainly reward similar close study.

I will review here fewer than 40 of the most critical duplications. They're arranged below strictly by Scribble stratum, from oldest to youngest. The most important thing to keep clear in dealing with Joyce's copyings is that the original note need not have been 'fresh' when the copying was done-- Joyce may have gone back, even in July, and copied something into Scribble from B-series notes he'd taken the previous fall (I'll call such copyings 'sleepers')-- but if he copied a note into Scribble in July, we can be sure that its sourcenote could not have been noted later, like the subsequent August!

In the comparisons that follow, "Cyclops 16" will mean the 16th note under the heading "Cyclops" in Scribbledehobble; 10.17 means page 17 of notebook VI.B.10. Arrows show the presumed direction of the copying, based both on strata and on content clues. Doubleheaded arrows imply ambiguous directionality.

The oldest handwriting in Scribble is the self-consciously careful script of:

Cyclops 16 "gun (revolver)" <-- 10.17 "his 'gun' (revolver)"
Nausikaa 19 "schoolgirl complexion" <-- 10.35 "schoolgirl complexion"
Oxen 22 "old top" <-- 10.16 "old Top"
Words 95 "fuselage" <-- 10.35 "eggshaped fuselage"
Circe 161 "unfrocked" <-- 10.59 "unfrocked"
Since B10 was certainly filled through page 35 by the end of November, the last two of these may be hypothesized as sleepers copied a month or two later (nappers?). If one wishes to argue that all these are sleepers, though, and Scribble wasn't launched until Summer 1923, it remains to explain why no later B-series notes got mixed in at this early layer, when Scribble was finally begun.

Several notes drawn from the Arabian Nights are also clustered here: see Words 12, Scylla 18, Encounter 1, Sisters 1. And the following close thematic correlations must also date from these oldest strata:

Eumeus 27 "shape of face frequently alters with the passing of years"
                -->  Ithaca 48 "alteration of earth's face age"
Circe 36-37 "path of duty = bobby's beat : backwards = tamer leaves cage"  
                -->  Proteus 7 "guilty looks back, conscience forward"
Eolus 29 "reporter 11 years old"
               <--  10.22 "Sylvia Silence, the girl detective"
Eumeus 182 "true plotting of ship's position"
                -->  10.61 "false setting of starmap discovered new star"
B10 has its center staples between pages 62 and 63, and since these staples are noticeably pried loose, as if by pages pulled out, and since only 124 pages of the notebook survive (while the cover's advertising promises 200pp), I propose that as many as 76 pages must have been removed and destroyed, so that 10.63 must be thought of as 'really' more like 10.139. That the missing pages were fully used before being destroyed is shown by a pair of blue shadows of crayon-lines, and a red one, not from page 62, still visible on page 63. (Virtually all Joyce's blue exxings in B10 were for the HCE vignette in September 1923, so the central pages were not removed before then.) At worst, the gap between 10.62 and 10.139/63 may span December '22 to February '23.

[Note: The work of Lernout and Deane in correlating B.10 notes to dateable newspaper articles shows convincingly that the span is less than a week in mid-December, so probably less than ten of the missing pages were written on.]

The following correlations may all be 'backwards copyings' (really just later thoughts) from Scribble to B10, with improvements. We may guess the lobscouse note dates from 6 Jan. 1923 (with the standard new-year's typo):

Ithaca 61 "seats gallery 18 inches, stalls 20 inches"
                             --> 10.198/118 "loveseat (1 1/2)"
Lestryg 12 "cock-a-leekie"  <-->  10.176/100 "cockieleekie soup"
Lestryg 13 "lobscouse (beef, spuds, onions, fried 6/ 1/ 922)"
Eumeus 294 "baggy pants"    <--  10.156/80 "Tar's baggy slacks"
[Note: Lernout's January 27 date for the end of B.10 seems to me to require that an entire notebook is missing between B.10 and B.3, which I propose to call VI.E.1.] I take the April 6 date on page 3.05 to be reliable. Joyce's three eye operations of April 1923 correlate perfectly with the start of the new pad, and the 'blind' handwritings of 3.43 and 3.82-86. Joyce's June 16 channel- hop likely happened around 3.120, judging from greatly increased references to Harriet Weaver and Kathleen Barnacle here.
Eumeus 349 "dissimulated himself behind door"
                          -->  3.39 "they dissimulated themself (T + I)"
Cyclops 81 "M. Personne, Chemisier, Dijon"
                         <-->  3.32 "at Dijon lives M. Personne"
Exiles2 12 "bold waves locked up in nursery"
                         <-->  3.78 "wellmannered waves"
Painful 22 "publishes description of Is"
                         <-->  3.36 "description of Is's mouth"
Penelope 98 "picture doesn't do you justice"
                         <-->  3.48 "Portrait hardly did her justice"
Penelope 100 "we ran out of oil"  <-- 3.21 "We ran out of oil"
The early references to Tristan under Sirens probably predate the Tristan vignette (begun in March), unlike all the Exiles notes:
Sirens 3 "philtre love to hate, essence of Erin"
                          -->  Exiles2 14 "love philtre (I)"
The rainbow-grass-green imagery of 3.64 and Scribble's 'After the Race' looks to have been formative for July's Berkeley & Patrick vignette:
After 25 "I.R.A. paint grass green"  <-->
   3.64-65 "Culter of the thing in itself see the grass (r+o+y+b+i+v)"
In 1923, daylight saving time started in England and Ireland on April 22, in France on May 26. Connolly sees "twins of doubt":
Eolus 82-83 "length of days ascending saving of doubt"
      -->  Painful 3 "saving daylight"
'A Painful Case' and 'Exiles 1' may have offered FW's earliest instantiation of the Shem/ Shaun duality, via Pop/ Tristan:
Painful 12 "his years made up of anniversaries"
       <-->  Exiles1 1 "Presiozo thought anniversaries silly"

Eveline 11-13 "she walked alone from school. told her friends pop walked 
zigzag: man followed"  <--> 3.121 "Man follows Is"
Circe 224 "Doppelganger"  --> 3.129 "2 Tristans (Doppel ganger)"
Grace 26 "S. Patrick infant prodigy"  <-- 3.121 "Infant Prodigy"
Words 292 "readyrainroof"  <-- 3.125 "readyrainroof (parapluie)"
Words 334 "dilsy dulsy officer"  <-- 3.112 "dilsy dulsy offer"
The biggest surprise from this new chronological sorting is that Joyce's notetaking on Bedier's Tristan can now be seen to have begun in Scribble under Exiles2, notes 16-58, Joyce following Bedier's text in tight sequence, and then crossing over to 3.142-146, still maintaining a tight sequence through to the end of Bedier. (Joyce's original 'analfabet,' as in Bedier, was Tristan!)
Exiles2 39 "Trist's way for entering house (zigzag)" (cf. Eveline 12 above)
Exiles1 18 "hot water bottle" -->  Words 469 "hoht wahta bottle"
Eveline 41 "analfabeta"  <-- 3.143 "analfabet"
Joyce appears to have consulted Frank Harris's biography of Oscar Wilde here (the long quote was traced to Harris by Sam Slote):
Encounter 3-7 (all Wildean notes)
Eumeus 471 "Sect X, Crim. Law. Amend. Act 1885"
3.153 "It is not true that Pop was homosexual he had been arrested at the 
request of some nursemaids to whom he had temporarily exposed himself in 
the Temple gardens"

Cyclops 136 "salmon of knowledge (JFB)"
                            --> Scylla 70 "nuts of knowledge (AE)"
Scylla 75 "AE Lurgan (Armagh) 1867 aet 56, WBY 58 GBS 67. GM 71 (1923)"
                            -->  Penelope 179 "tell W. G.M. = 70 not 71"

Exiles2 86 "Trist (Euph) swears - no indeedy goodness gracious"
                                  <-- 3.138 "goodness gracious"
Words 470 "potato Clad-dagh ring" <-- 3.147 "potato rings"
The torn pages of B25 bring the trail of correlations to an abrupt halt here, except for one ambiguous surviving hint. Comparison of the visible fragments of notes on the surviving stubs of B25, to those Scribble notes copied as late as 1926, in a much larger hand, into pages 1 to 47 of Scribble (which I'll nickname 'Personal' after the chapter heading on page 1), shows a half-dozen unambiguous copyings, suggesting that before Joyce savaged B25, he copied on average two notes from every B25 page into Scribble pages 31-45. (Noting, too, that the page numbering in JJA35 misses twelve leaf-stubs between pp. 30-31 of B25.)
Personal 397 "I speak low"  <--  25.01 "Irish speak low"
Personal 404 "Kevin's chapel procathedral"
          <-- 25.05 "S Kevin's Chapel -- pro Cathe"
Personal 420 "John Whiglton built gingerbread"
          <-- 25.15 "Gingerbread built"
Personal 426 "no more tay for sugar the cosey"  <-- 25.19 "no more tay for"
Personal 561 "crooked stick + grey goose quill"
          <-- 25.83/59 "crooked stick + grey goose"
Personal 572 "saint carry pipkin" <-- 25.93/69 "Saints carry pipkins"
Personal 573 "Mgr Kevin" <-- 25.94/70 "Monsignor Kevin"
So we may wonder whether the note "nested coffin", copied in 1926 at Personal 564, wasn't expanded in 1923 into Hades 21-24 as "Egypt coffins : 1st square, body circumflexed : 2nd on left side oblong eyes painted : 3rd back". (Mention of Lucia's Dalcroze dancing lessons at Personal 422 confuse the issue though, since they were in 1926, not 1923.)

These final two 'intra-Scribble' copyings promise some insight into Joyce's copying strategies (and sources):

Hades 28 "feel yr own pulse"  <-->  Eumeus 497 "feel yr own pulse"
Penelope 219 "had to send away servants causa LB"
           --> Exiles2 125 "Brang. sleeps with Mark: Is gets rid of her"

A Pattern of Destruction?

It is irresistibly tempting to speculate that, at the same point when Joyce destroyed B25 after copying many of its unexxed notes into Scribble under the heading 'Personal,' probably in 1926, he also copied and destroyed the central third of B10, in all likelihood for the identical reason. There are two runs of Personal notes (Scribble pages 3-6, and 18-23) that are likely candidates for a Winter '23 origin, being relatively free of the sigla-symbols Joyce introduced much later. And to account for the other Personal notes we may guess that several other sections of notebooks were also copied and destroyed at this time.

So the question must be asked, why just these notebooks, these pages? What was Joyce's criterion for this selective destruction? Could they have included portions of the semi-mythical FW master schema, which Joyce was carefully keeping hidden from too-easy discovery? (The Stephens quotes at the top of this article are intended to reassure the faithless that Joyce was not wandering mapless in the dark!) That Joyce's initial maps would date to January 1923 is reasonable, and we may speculate that the B25 notes from July may have explored the symbolism of the Berkeley vignette (symbolism that Joyce buried notably deeper than in any of the other early drafts), or perhaps planned out a structure anticipating his next four months of writing: HCE, Mamalujo, and that amazing transport of creativity that became FW chapters 2-4.


3 Many thanks to David Hayman for his transcripts of B10 and B3, to his students Chris Bjork and Sam Slote for sharpeyed readings, to Robert Bertholf and Luca Crispi in Buffalo, and to the FWAKE-L electronic study group and John Kidd for encouragement.

How to read the strata-table

This table is designed as a compact strata-index to Thomas Connolly's transcription of Scribbledehobble. "1Heg" in line Names under column B means that the first note under Names appears to belong to stratum B, and that Connolly transcribed that note's first three letters as "Heg". Connolly's many transcription errors make it problematic to assign an unambiguous note-number to each note, so I specify the first three letters to doublecheck synchronization. (Generally, where one note might be two, I count it as two.) A dash implies no notes within a stratum, while an arrow implies that notes are present but the boundary is too vague to guess at, yet. The last column gives the notenumber of the last note for that heading; its stratum is indicated by a slash '/'.

My methodology was to use the especially long Eumeus heading as a yardstick, correlating the changes of hand and ink purely by eye. The nibs XF, F, M, D, XD cover a range from extrafine to extradull. Strata C, E, and L are especially clear, where present. The month-assignments are approximate, as are the correlations to B-series notepads in the bottom rows. (The Personal notes are included in recognition of their source in lost pages of B25.)

Stratum: A     B      C      D      E      F      G   
month:  Nov   Dec    Jan    Feb    Mar  Apr-May  Jun  
Nib:     F     F     XF      F     XF      M      D   
Books:  --    --     --     --     --     --     --   
Names:  --    1Heg   --     -->    --     --    47Pod
Words: 1rab   -->    --    90ere 190mir 196afi 256bel
Penel: 1I'l   -->    --     -->   48can  62Pen  68Ica
Ithac: 1ina  11em    --     -->  109her 113fis 118mic
Eumeu: 1tim   -->  197had 207ang 332out 353mad 379ano
Circe: 1the  19whi 122not 137I'l 162whe 170you 183pot
OxenS: 1to   10deh  26Yur  30roy   --    41pra  47Pro
Nausi: 1pos  27at    --     --    53Cub  61eve  80so 
Cyclo: 1Sen   -->    --     -->   79Nam  82Fir  96Cyc
Siren:  --    --     --     1sin   --     7mus   -->  
Wandr:  --    1How   --     -->    --     --     2Ope
Scyll: 1Que   8inf   --     -->    --    31wel  33epi
Lestr:  --    1God   --     -->   17mar  24tar   --> 
Eolus: 1win   9muc  58ana  62Iro  82len  93no    --> 
Hades: 1hea   -->    --     -->   11ded  14wit   --  
Lotus: 1nun   -->    --     -->    --    26cha   --> 
Calyp:  --    --    1Wsh    --     --     --     2Hth
Prote:  --   1lob    --     -->    8mal  10avi  11FMH
Nesto:  --    --     --     --     1cle   --     4nat/
Telem: 1Buc   --     --     --     --     4SD    5HCS 
Exil3:  --    --     --     --     --     --     1cha 
Exil2:  --    --     --     --     --     1Mar   16par
Exil1:  --    --     --     --     --     --     1Pre 
Port5:  --    --     --     --     --     1Geo/  --   
Port2:  --    --     --     --     --     --     1yel/
Port1:  --    --     --     --     --     1I'l   2all/
Grace:  --    --     --     --     --     1Hou   4SPa/
Mothe:  --    --     --     --     --     1gat   --   
Painf:  --    --     --     --     --     1Pop   -->  
Clay :  --    --     --     --     --     1gen   --   
Cloud:  --    --     --     --     --     --     1Cru/
Board:  --    --     --     --     --     1Alf/  --   
After:  --    --     --     --     --     1lea   -->  
Eveli:  --    --     --     --     --     1bru  19nig 
Encou:  --   1Bar    --     --     --     --     --   
Siste:  --   1Ara    --     --     5des   7LG   11pri 
Chamb:  --    --     --     --     1TSE/  --     --   
VI.B: 10.01  10.40 10.100  E1.01  E1.100  3.01  3.120  
Personal:     --     --     --     --     --     --   

Stratum:  G      H      I      J     K       L     Tot
month:   Jun    Jul    -->    -->    -->    Aug
Nib:      D      D     XD     XD     XXD     M
Books:    --     --     --     1AnI/  --     --     6
Names:   47Pod   -->    -->    --     --    67Dob/  67
Words:  256bel 351foo 391coh 540jer 553goo 595lus/  618
Penel:   68Ica 101Wsp 140tel 206Wil   --   216tha/  226
Ithac:  118mic   -->    -->  119sav   --   131iro/  131
Eumeu:  379ano 417dia 469old 481LB  489ass 508amy/  521
Circe:  183pot 230pas 250sin   --   272Roy 279Han/  292
OxenS:   47Pro   -->    -->    --     --    71atc/  71
Nausi:   80so    -->    --     --     --    86Cis/  86
Cyclo:   96Cyc   -->  131Tut 138WAA 139Bat 149Woo/  154
Siren:    -->    -->   16Con   -->    -->   26Wst/  34
Wandr:    2Ope   9Far/  --     --     --     --     9
Scyll:   33epi  39dre   -->   76fac   --    80Gib/  80
Lestr:   -->    -->    -->   71can   --    77bre/  77
Eolus:   -->    -->  108mei   -->  118scr/  --     149
Hades:   --     --    16in    -->    -->   30wid/  36
Lotus:   -->    -->    -->    --     --     --     37
Calyp:   2Hth   3Are/  --     --     --     --     6
Prote:  11FMH   -->    --     --     --     --     32
Nesto:   4nat/  --     --     --     --     --     4
Telem:  15HCS   7Pal/  --     --     --     --     11
Exil3:   1cha   --     --     --     --     --     1
Exil2:   16par  -->   60Tri  92her  94kin 118com/  158
Exil1:   1Pre   4How  23dan  33she  36gru  42Iha/  44
Port5:   --     --     --     --     --     --     4
Port2:   1yel/  --     --     --     --     --     4
Port1:   2all/  --     --     --     --     --     3
Grace:   4SPa/  --     --     --     --     --     27
Mothe:   --     7Rai   -->   13OJo   --     --     13
Painf:   -->   28thi   -->    -->    --    69tel/  71
Clay :   --     --     --     --     --     --     3
Cloud:   1Cru/  --     --     --     --     --     1
Board:   --     --     --     --     --     --     1
After:   -->    -->    --     --     --     --     42
Eveli:  19nig  26bot  47don  60Yor   --    63was/  68
Encou:   --     3onb/  --     --     --     --     11
Siste:  11pri  22Fab  65dau  67que  70she  73she/  79
Chamb:   --     --     --     --     --     --     1
VI.B:  3.120  25.01    -->  25.60    -->   2.01
Personal:     397Isp   -->  564nes/  --     --   (176)

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