Parnell, Charles Stewart (1846-91) - betrayed Irish leader, dead
king, sacred king, who haunts Joyce's works, appearing, this King Charles head, in "Et Tu Healy", "Gas from a Burner," "The Shade of Parnell", the
Christmas-dinner scene in Portrait, "Ivy Day in the Committee Room", Ulysses
, FW - just about everywhere. In these works Parnell is not a character, but a presence, ghost, shade, used now for a
slain god, now for a stick to beat the bad boys with. Only Bloom remembers him as a living man. There was a legend that Parnell would return magically,
like the Phoenix, Finn, Christ, on unmagically, like Ulysses, Tim Finnegan.
Parnell was an Anglo-Irish landowner, a skilled political boss who led the Irish nationalist party in the British Parliament. He frightened the British and they set out to destroy him; their first try, the Pigott affair, failed; but they succeeded when Captain O'Shea sued his wife for divorce. Parnell was revealed as an adulterer (Paris), a user of false names (Stewart, Fox), a sneaker down fire-escapes or ladders. The rest may be quoted from "The Shade of Parnell": "He was deposed in obedience to Gladstone's orders. Of his 83 representatives only 8 remained faithful.... The high and low clergy entered the lists to finish him off. The Irish press emptied on him and the woman he loved the vials of their envy. The citizens of Castlecomer threw quicklime in his eyes. He went from county to county, from city to city, 'like a hunted deer', a spectral figure. . . within a year he died...'' He died on October 6, which became, for a little while, "Ivy Day." Parnell was a secret man, whose letters to Mrs O'Shea ("Queenie") are unconsciously funny, clumsy, null; but he had, I suppose, charisma, and he steadily reminded his contemporaries of Shakespearean characters - sometimes Caesar, sometimes Mark Antony. He was by no means innocent of forging his own destruction; whether from hubris or from not changing his wet socks, he died, and note all the "idol with feet of clay" jokes in Ulysses and FW. Joyce's art often requires Parnell to have been murdered by the following, individually or severally: Captain O'Shea, Mrs O'Shea (Cleopatra), Tim Healy (Brutus), faithless Irish rabble and henchmen (Twelve, Wolves), Gladstone, English wolves and clergy, Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland. For FW, the best books about Parnell are by Barry O'Brien and Mrs O'Shea. The best account of the Pigott affair is by John MacDonald. My article, "Joyce and the Three Ages of Charles Stewart Parnell," is adequate for everything but FW. In FW, Shem is accused, derided, as Pannell was, after his fall, for small seedy sins. Shaun is Parnell as Shem's immaculate opposite, called Chuff or Chief. But Parnell is most important and pervasive as the god-king dead on dying in torment, and this is the role of HCE the father. Certain cries of Parnell's are used with terrible effect: "Do not throw me to the wolves!" "When you sell, get my price!" Most Irish poets took Cathleen Ni Houlihan for the emblem of Ireland's horrible suffering; but for Joyce suffering Ireland is the male intelligence he calls "Parnell" but who might as well be God on Man. As Irish Moses, Parnell is strongly linked to St Patrick, who suffered at Irish hands and came again to Ireland. As ghost or shade, Parnell is tied to Shakespeare; as adulterer and man of sorrow, he is tied to Tristan, and, seemingly by Tristan, to Tree and Stone. As a broken king, he ties to Roderick O'Connor. Parnell pervades and appears in moments of intensity, but he is not, after all, often named in FW. Parnell's
presence is, then, indicated by indirection, by quoting, by recreating one of his scenes, by using certain words - e.g., treeshade, chief, Fox - which call him up, even when those words are used in ways that do not directly apply to him.
Parnell was elusive. He is elusive on Joyce's pages.
Glasheen, Adaline / Third census of Finnegans wake