Two Gallants An Outline Commentary

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                         Two Gallants: An Outline Commentary

        Don Gifford (Joyce Annotated) frees himself from the burden of identifying the

real life counterparts of Joyce‟s characters on the bases that it is extra-literary and that it

is redundant to the achievements of other writers. His first point is true but the pursuit of

these identifications is amusing and has its uses where Joyce, in his way a great respecter

of reality, is concerned. T.S. Eliot‟s opinion is pertinent in this context: “ In the case of

James Joyce we have a series of books, two of which at least are so autobiographical in

appearance that further study of the man and his background seems not only suggested by

our own inquisitiveness, but almost expected of us by the author himself. Who want to

know who are the originals of his characters, and what were the origins of his episodes,

so that we may unravel the web of memory and invention and discover how far and in

what ways the crude material has been transformed. Our interest extends, therefore,

inevitably and justifiably, to Joyce‟s family, to his friends, and to every detail of the

topography and the life of Dublin, the Dublin of his childhood, adolescence, and young


        Gifford‟s second point implies that such works are common and the information

is easily accessible. I have not found it so.

        For these reasons I am happy to tell all that I know. There really was a Corley and

Corley may have been his actual name. When Joyce told him that he was in Dubliners, he

was delighted! The originals of Lenehan were Matt Lenehan, a French speaking sports

writer, and Mick Hart who died around 1900. He is referred to under the name Mick Hart

in Ulysses as a deceased friend of Bloom and the cause of death is described as phthisis.

        It is an evening in August. The narration is objective and the opening is

descriptive without the satire noted in „An Encounter‟ or „After the Race.‟

        Corley and Lenehan approach. Corley talks. Lenehan skips about. He wears his

waterproof toreador fashion (cf. Finnegans Wake 35.13-14: “carryin his overgoat under

his schulder, sheepside out, so as to look more like a coumfry gentleman.”) Corley

concludes his tale of sordid amatory conquest which sycophantic Lenehan rewards with

long silent laughter, catch word praise and, for the sake of the story, a functional

question. Corley gives details concerning his conquest of a serving girl, appropriately

called a „slavey,‟ and indicates that she steals from her master for him. Lenehan tells him,

for the third time, “that takes the biscuit!”

        Joyce has already described Lenehan. Now he describes Corley. Both descriptions

are placed where they do no damage and both make valuable contributions but both are

too long and both are set in place rather than integrated into the story.

        While Corley flirts selectively with girls in the crowd, Lenehan contemplates a

“large faint moon circled with a double halo,” harbinger of the rain that falls at the end of

the story. He then asks Corley if he will succeed in the planned, but undisclosed,

enterprise that involves the slavey. The question fires an explosion of assertion and

boasting from Corley. As he recalls a particularly pleasant conquest, he too fixes his

attention on the moon. They pass some railings (cf. „Araby,‟ „Eveline‟ and later in this

story) and Lenehan reminds Corley of the time and again expresses concern about the

success of their plan. Corley answers so emphatically that Lenehan declines to be more


         Their walk has brought them to the Kildare Street Club, an exclusive Anglo-Irish

club. Outside it is a street-singer and his harp. He plays a song by Thomas Moore, Silent,

O Moyle and from time to time turns his eyes wearily to the sky. His harp, “heedless that

her coverings had fallen about her knees,” seems weary of her owner, weary even of


         There is much obvious symbolism in this short paragraph: the weary harp is

Ireland; the Moore song is an excursion into wistful sadness about national issues; and

the placement outside a conservative club is a comment on colonialism and the ability of

the Irish to betray themselves but there are more important poetic issues invested in it

than this scanty harvest. On a deeper level it raises complex issues regarding perception

and being perceived, an issue pertinent to the stories and especially to this one. Joyce A-Z

fittingly observes that the voyeuristic aspects of this story arise from the mutual

manipulation of Corley, Lenehan and the slavey.

         The encounter with the harpist silences the two men until they come in sight of

the slavey. They are also released from silence by “the noise of trams, the lights and the


         Lenehan wants a closer look at her. This desire raises suspicions in Corley and

Lenehan bluffs his way through the other‟s apprehensions. They arrange that Corley will

join her, engage her in conversation and Lenehan will stroll by. Corley leaves and

Lenehan, speaking to his back, arranges when and where they will meet later. Lenehan‟s

farewell consists of urging his companion to execute their plan carefully.

         Lenehan approaches the pair. He carefully notes her appearance, a stocky

muscular body, ruddy face with blunt features, protruding teeth. She wears a blue dress

and a sailor hat. Since blue and white are the traditional colors of the Virgin Mary, we

have a devotional motif underlying the machinations of these manipulators. He greets

Corley as he passes. Corley returns his greeting negligently. He follows them until they

board a tram.

       Alone, Lenehan loses his vivacious manner, even the appearance of youth deserts

him. There are railings (again) and he runs his hand along them in sterile imitation of the

harper. He keeps walking for want of a better occupation and the strolling crowd leaves

him apathetic and withdrawn. He walks along a quiet street until he comes to a

refreshment bar. He glances about to verify that he is unobserved and enters. He has had

nothing to eat since breakfast when he cadged some biscuits from two grudging curates.

Across from him sit two work-girls and a mechanic (cf. the two ladies and the fat man in

„After the Race‟ and the man and two young women in „Counterparts.‟)

       Uncomfortable in this lower class establishment, he affects a brusque manner in

the belief that this and his careless manner of sitting at the table will make him less

conspicuous. He orders a plate of peas for three pence and a bottle of ginger beer. As he

drinks this he thinks of Corley and the slavey. He also thinks about his own life, one of

cadging drinks and feeding the vanity of others, a life without solid employment or real

friends. He, like Bloom, adopts an unreal scheme for the solution of his problems. He

thinks hopefully of marrying a woman with money.

       Tindall is properly excited by Lenehan‟s plate of peas and says “his dish of peas

could imply the mess of pottage for which he has sold his birthright, for, according to the

dictionary, pottage is a dish of vegetables, as Joyce expert in Bible and dictionary knew.

Jacob and Esau, like Cain and Able, are generally lurking in his works or behind them.”

        Lenehan leaves the refreshment bar and resumes his walk. He encounters some

young men that he knows and they have a listless conversation. It is a quarter to ten when

he leaves them and he hurries, fearful that Corley might be early at the rendezvous. As he

waits he wonders if Corley has been successful and then he wonders if Corley has not

gone home another way and left him in the lurch.

        The couple appears and Lenehan tries to evaluate Corley‟s success from his

appearance. Corley has failed, he decides. He follows them. The young woman enters a

house while Corley waits outside. She returns, is hidden from Lenehan‟s view by

Corley‟s body and re-enters the house. Corley walks away. Lenehan, after looking back

at the house to see that he is not observed (the second time that he has looked about to see

whether he is being seen), he twice calls out to Corley who ignores him. Light rain begins

to fall. He twice asks Corley if he succeeded. Corley, at last and wordlessly, shows

Lenehan a small gold coin.

        It‟s a surprise ending, a surprise especially since we don‟t expect such an ending

from Joyce. Some critics have minimized it by the assertion that, once we know it is

there, it does not spoil the story for us on re-reading. However true, this seems irrelevant

and a bland way to excuse a blemish. It is impossible not to think of Maupassant and how

not even his best stories are as good as Joyce‟s. How much more Joyce could have done

here if he had contrived less? As noticed in more detail elsewhere, Joyce does not respect

the traditional obligation to provide the reader with information. This is of the essence in

the matter of surprise endings although Joyce is elsewhere vigilant to defuse such


         Joyce does not comment on the original ownership of the coin. It is unlikely that a

young servant fresh from the country would have what appears to be a sovereign, a great

sum for any of the three in this story. It is likely that she pilfered it from her master just

as earlier she had stolen cigars from him.

         Despite the ending, the story has too much merit to deserve any severe strictures.

The scene with the harp, Lenehan eating peas and the deft richness of the texture take it

beyond cavil. Litz offers that with this story, the thirteenth in the order of composition,

Joyce enters into his own as a mature writer, a debatable position but metaphorically


                         Two Gallants: Characters (*mentioned)



An inspector of the police*

A girl* and her two young men*

The harpist

A young woman

Two curates*

Two work-girls

A mechanic


Two young men


Hoppy Holohan*