The Fox-Under-the-Hill in Finnegans Wake

June 26, 2014

I’m enjoying exploring a website called Wake in Progress: Illustrations to Finnegans Wake. It records the ‘foolhardy attempt’ of Stephen Crowe to illustrate James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake. Do have a look. Here’s a choice few of his pictures, with some additional commentary from me…

Did I say ‘additional commentary’? Characteristically, what began as a random selection, based on the initial attractions of certain combined words and images, has evolved meanings and associations in the process of interpretation – ‘for ancients link with presents as the human chain extends’ (FW 254.8-9) – in which the pattern woven in and through the Wake encompasses ‘Countlessness of livestories’ (FW 17.26-27) beyond Joyce’s text, in a way that I hadn’t initially anticipated. Well, ‘What will be is. Is is’ (FW 620.32).

Stephen Crowe

Page 102 There’s a little lady waiting… This illustration reminded me of a recent post I did, alluding to HCE, ‘the noneknown worrier‘, who is an everybody ‘magnificently well worthy of any and all such universalisation’ (FW 32.20-21). In this particular case, ‘tombed to the mound’ (FW 17.29), he is interred within a Neolithic passage grave in Guernsey; a state that prompts the invocation to his consort, ALP: ‘Approach to lead our passage!’ (FW 262.2) through that ‘thanacestross mound’ (FW 18.3).

Stephen Crowe

So onto the illustration for page 96, Bestly saved his brush, which seems to follow on from the sepulchral, ‘folks-under-the-hill’ theme, with the motif of resurrection and/or metempsychosis, in the form of ‘our hagious curious encestor’, HCE’s metamorphosis into a fox, identified in Issy’s second footnote on page 293:

O, Laughing Sally, are we going to be toadhauntered by that old Pantifox… for the rest of our secret stripture?

Issy is, of course, referring to the sin in Phoenix Park, ‘where obelisk rises when odalisks fall’ (FW 335.33). Stephen Crowe’s text/picture evokes the alchemical ‘red resurrection’ motif I wrote of here,  but I’m also reminded of the baffling answer to the riddle Stephen Dedalus posed to his class in Ulysses: “The fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush”.

George Court, Adelphi

Above all, the Bestly saved his brush illustration is redolent of something of more personal interest I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, concerning a long-lost London pub off The Strand, situated at the end of Ivy Bridge Lane, ‘a narrow and precipitous passage which was formerly the approach to the halfpenny boats’ (Allbut 1899: 6). Nowadays, Ivy Bridge Lane survives as the service road of Shell Mex House. For a time, the pub was  run by Samuel Lovesey, a great-great-etc. uncle of mine 150-or-so years ago, and it was called The Fox-Under-the-Hill:

But, by the beer of his profit, he cannot answer. Upterputty till rise and shine! Nor needs none shaft ne stele from Phenicia or Little Asia to obelise on the spout.

(FW 68.27-30)


Once the haunt of coal-heavers working at Adelphi Wharf (including a four-times-great grandfather of mine who lived, worked and died there), the site of this vanished Thameside pub is now under Victoria Embankment Gardens, very close to the re-erected Egyptian obelisk known as Cleopatra’s Needle – ‘Phall if you but will, rise you must’ (FW 4.15) – doubling for the ‘overgrown milestone’ (FW 36.18) of the Wellington Monument obelisk in Phoenix Park, Dublin.

'to obelise on the spout' - Ivy Bridge Lane is marked by the gap between the largest building and the smaller one on the left of the picture. Wikimedia Commons

‘to obelise on the spout’ – Ivy Bridge Lane is marked by the gap between the largest building and the smaller one on the left of the picture. Wikimedia Commons

This ‘pint of porter place’ (FW 260.6) leads inexorably on to the last image of Stephen Crowe’s I was going to share here, concerning the ‘Prankquean episode’ in Finnegans Wake, in which the Prankquean poses the riddle, “why do I am alook alike a poss of porterpease?” (FW 21.18-19), continuing the cycle of collapse and renewal on Page 23: And they all drank free


 All images (except The Fox-Under-the-Hill) ©Stephen Crowe 2010

Fox Adelphi

%d bloggers like this: