Flying Dutchmen

Bloom's recollection of a performance of "the Flying Dutchman, a stupendous success," adds one more narrative to the blizzard of seafaring tales in Eumaeus. Joyce loved Wagner's opera, echoing its story in all four of his prose fictions and in his play Exiles. The libretto has clear relevance to Bloom's status as a wandering Jew and also to his marital situation. But Wagner's Flying Dutchman may not be the one whose performance he recalls, probably from a production at the Gaiety Theatre in 1877. Details in Circe suggest that he is remembering a more popular English musical play that associated the phantom ship of this name with industrialism. (In Nausicaa, Bloom also thinks of phantom ships that appear at sea by a kind of "optical illusion.")

John Hunt 2020

Albert Pinkham Ryder's oil painting The Flying Dutchman, ca. 1896, held in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, showing a ghostly ship bearing down on a small boat with a tattered sail. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Table Bay, 1863, late 17th century oil on canvas painting by Aernout Smit, held in the Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, showing ships of the Dutch East India Company at a time when the Dutch merchant fleet was by far the largest in Europe. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Maurice Renaud as the captain in Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer, from the Victrola Book of the Opera (1917). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Illustration by an unknown artist in the 3 January 1843 issue of Leipziger Illustrierte Zeitung, depicting the last scene of Wagner's opera after an 1843 performance in Dresden. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

1871 photographic portrait of Richard Wagner by Franz Hanfstaengl. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Cornelius Vanderbilt in a gold-toned half-plate daguerreotype produced by Matthew Brady's studio between 1844 and 1860, held in the Library of Congress. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Cornelius Vanderbilt and James Fisk Jr. in "The Great Race for the Western Stakes," an 1870 Currier & Ives lithograph held in the Library of Congress. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The English playwright Tom Taylor, in an 1863 photographic portrait by Lewis Carroll. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The screw propeller of the Archimedes fitted in the ship's stern, as it appeared in a drawing in the November 1843 Illustrirte Zeitung. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The Archimedes proceeding under steam power from Gravesend to Portsmouth,  in an 1839 hand-colored aquatint held in the Royal Museums Greenwich. (The text to the left of the drawn cross-section notes that the vessel is "fitted with Mr F.P. Smith's patent screw propeller.") Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Photograph (believed to be the first ever taken of a ship) by William Henry Fox Talbot of the SS Great Britain fitting out along Gasworks Quay in Bristol Floating Harbour in April 1844.  Source: Wikimedia Commons.