GEORGE B. BRYAN
Colloquial Language in Ulysses: A Reference Tool. By R[obert] W[illiam] Dent. Newark:
University of Delaware Press, 1994. Pp. 294.
A new book by an estimable scholar is an occasion of
delight and pleasurable anticipation. Those who know R. W.
Dent's Shakespeare's Proverbial Language: An
Index and Proverbial Language in English Drama Exclusive of
Shakespeare, 1495- 1616: An
Index will not be disappointed in his Colloquial Language
in Ulysses: A Reference Tool, which is the first
book of its type that deals exclusively with a single
specimen of modern literature. Proverb study prior to the
current decade has been devoted to examining significant
literary works of the past, but a few recent publications
have dealt exclusively with the entire oeuvre of a
single contemporary writer such as Agatha
Christie, Bernard Shaw and Eugene O'Neill. Since his retirement from teaching in 1985, Dent has turned
his experienced eye on James Joyce's Ulysses and
provided scholars a valuable reference tool.
At the outset it must be said that Dent provides "raw
data" not on proverbial language alone but on a broad
spectrum of colloquial (as defined by The American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language ) speech in an episode by episode, line by
line exegesis of Joyce's text. In the process, he notices
previous Joyce scholarship by indicating his agreement or
disagreement and sometimes offering alternative explanations
to perplexing problems. Philologists will, of course,
rejoice at the breadth of Dent's analysis, but
paremiologists will have to read selectively to isolate
proverbial material. A typical entry reads:
6.53 (87). the wise child that knows her own
father. Again 11.644f.; cf. 14.1063 (The wise
father...). OW899 (It is a wise child that knows its own
father) varied from 1584 (plus Greek from Od. 1.216). Thornton mistakenly believes this an
adaptation of The Merchant of Venice 2.2.76f.
Gifford, citing Odyssey analogue: "proverbial."
[23- 25 (Sources)]
Dent devotes nearly sixteen pages to an explanation of
how to read his entries, some of which are more complex than
the preceding example.
The full text of this
article is published in De
Proverbio - Issue 5:1997 & Issue
electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.
Dent also questions The great physician called him
home and adduces sources that identify Death as the
physician in question. He may be correct, but another option
is suggested by the lyrics of a wellknown nineteenth-century
hymn, "The Great Physician." William Hunter's lirics say,
"The great Physician now is near,| The sympathizing
Jesus." Numerous other publications refer to Jesus as the Great
In summary, by calling attention to possible errors and
oversights in previous scholarship and providing additional
insights sharpened by the wisdom of years, Dent has
performed a useful service for those who wish to plunge into
the depths of Joyce's colorful language.
Previously published in Proverbium, 13 (1996), pp. 349-351
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).
(Los Angeles: University of California
George B. Bryan, Black Sheep, Red Herrings, and
Blue Murder: The Proverbial Agatha Christie (Bern:
George B. Bryan and Wolfgang Mieder, The
Proverbial Bernard Shaw: An Index to Proverbs in the
Works of George Bernard Shaw (Westport, Conn.:
Greenwood Press, 1994).
George B. Bryan and Wolfgang Mieder, The
Proverbial Eugene O'Neill: An Index to Proverbs in the
Works of Eugene Gladstone O'Neill (Westport, Conn.:
Greenwood Press, 1995)
Burton Stevenson, The Macmillan Book of Proverbs,
Maxims, and Famous Phrases. (New York: The Macmillan
The Poems and Dramas of Lord Byron (New York:
Thomas Y. Crowell and Company, n. d.) 404.
First published in 1792, "The Pleasures of Memory"
appeared in numerous editions in the nineteenth
Cf. The Poems and Dramas of Lord Byron 404, n.
3. This note alludes to Rogers and the Arabic
Wolfgang Mieder and Stewart A. Kingsbury, eds., A
Dictionary of Wellerisms (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1994) 134. Ulysses is herein cited as the
William Hunter and J. H. Stockton, "The Great
Physician," The Broadman Hymnal, ed. B. B.
McKinney (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1940)
George B. Bryan
Department of Theatre
University of Vermont
Burlington, Vermont 05405