This the way to the museyroom.Posted: May 30, 2017
It is rare for a passage in Finnegans Wake not to produce in the reader a desire to enquire more deeply into some arcane knowledge referred to by Joyce. The readings which took place as part of the Dora García exhibition at the Tetley were no exception.
The pages we read mentioned many battles such as Camel, Flodden Field, Solferino, Thermopilae, Bannockburn (“panickburns”), and those in just one sentence. But the battle this passage is mostly concerned with is Waterloo in 1815 and its main protagonists, Wellington and Napoleon.
The mention of “scotcher grey” reminded me of the painting in Leeds Art Gallery which portrays the cavalry charge by the Royal Scots Greys early in the battle. It is by Lady Butler and entitled “Scotland Forever”. The gallery is closed until October of 2017 but its curator, Nigel Walsh, who was present at the last Tetley reading was able to tell me that it had been loaned to the Royal Armouries.
Inspired by the Wake reading, I paid a visit to the Armories the day after in order to reacquaint myself with the painting and to find out more about the battle of Waterloo. What I found was an extensive and informative display with maps, descriptions and a timeline of the battle, together with the uniforms and weapons of day. The centrepiece was a large scale model of the battlefield by William Siborne, one of two models he made in the 1830’s.
A subsequent meeting of the Finnegans Wake reading group encountered Joyce’s description of another aspect of battles, the scavenging of the remains: “ moonled brooches with bloodstaned breeks in em, boaston nightgarters and masses of shoesets and nickelly nacks and foder allmicheal”.
Phew! “Mind your boots goan out.”