Father Conmee

"Father John Conmee" is mentioned 72 times in Ulysses, most of them in the opening section of Wandering Rocks, which features him at great length. Conmee was an actual Jesuit priest who held positions of authority at Clongowes Wood College and Belvedere College when Joyce attended those institutions (ages 6-9 and 11-16, respectively), and A Portrait of the Artist records the fact that he did him good turns at both. But while the tenth chapter of Ulysses shows the priest engaged in still another charitable deed, it paints an unflattering picture of the man: he is suave, friendly, and well-meaning but floats in a sea of divine complacency, smug about his clerical authority, equally besotted with the lay aristocracy, and seemingly deaf to human suffering. The narrative describes Conmee in a light tone suited to his breezy walk on a fine summer day, but its wicked ironies can fairly be called scathing. In them, Joyce expresses hostility to the hierarchical authority of the Catholic church.

JH 2021

Photograph of Father John Conmee, date unknown. www.goodreads.com.

19th century line drawing of Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare, held in the college's archive. www.exploreyourarchive.org.

Clongowes today. Source: www.clongowes.net.

Pencil on paper drawing of Belvedere House, Belvedere College, Great Denmark Street, Dublin, date and artist unknown. Source: www.desmondmccarthy.com.

Belvedere College today. Source: wfl.ie.

The Malahide castle today. Source: www.irishshop.com.

Small dining room in the Malahide castle, photographed by Francesca Petracca in 2015. Source: www.flickr.com.

Front page of 15 June 1904 issue of New York City's The Evening World. Source: stuffnobodycaresabout.com.

The Prayer and Act of Perfect Contrition prescribed for repentant sinners who lack access to a priest. Source: www.westpointstmary.org.

Detail from a painting of Saint Peter Claver, by an unknown artist. Source: www.dominicanablog.com.

Another painting of Saint Peter Claver, date and artist unknown. Source: www.wordonfire.org.

Title page of Father Castelein's Le Rigorisme (1899). Source: joyceimages.com.