Tenebrosity of the interior

New Style. "This tenebrosity of the interior, he proceeded to say, hath not been illumined by the wit of the septuagint.... the whatness of our whoness hath fetched his whenceness." At the end of a paragraph drawing on other 17th century English writers, a passage of seven densely packed sentences evokes the distinctive style of Sir Thomas Browne. The parodic effect is exaggerated, and only a few words appear to come from Browne's works, but for anyone familiar with those works the style is immediately recognizable, and close study suggests that Joyce made sensitive and ingenious use of passages in three of them. The writing in these sentences elaborates a thought that Stephen has voiced in the previous one: "thou hast left me alone for ever in the dark ways of my bitterness." Indulging metaphysical fancies as Browne likes to do, Stephen now locates this idea of interior darkness in cosmic contexts: prelife, birth, growth, decay, death, afterlife, heaven, hell, and purgatory.

John Hunt 2024

Ca. 1641-50 oil on panel portrait of Lady Dorothy Browne and Sir Thomas Browne attributed to Joan Carlile, held in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Man as Microcosm, a drawing in Robert Fludd's Utriusque Cosmi Maioris scilicet et minoris Metaphysica, Physica atque Technica Historia (1617-21). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Title page of the Roman Septuagint published under Sixtus V in 1597, which remained the standard edition until the 1930s. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Photograph of a cougar, or catamount. Source: www.elephantjournal.com.

Photograph of an ossifrage. Source: faithbaptistwh.org.

2015 photograph by 松岡明芳 of workers cremating bodies along the Bagmati River in Pashupatinath, Nepal. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Some of the royal tumuli of Gamla Uppsala in Sweden, in a ca. 2000 photograph by OlofE. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Irish burial mounds at Knowth near the River Boyne in Ireland.
Source: travelingmel.com.

A very large tumulus in modern-day Turkey, the Tomb of King Alyattes at Bin Tepe in Lydia, photographed by Jona Lendering in 2018. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Douglas Robertson's illustration of Bede's Sparrow, a poem by Isobel Dixon. Source: amouthfulofair.fm.