professor MacHugh near a Roman Bathroom

—Wait a moment, professor MacHugh said, raising two quiet claws. We mustn’t be led away by words, by sounds of words. We think of Rome, imperial, imperious, imperative.

He extended elocutionary arms from frayed stained shirtcuffs, pausing:

—What was their civilisation? Vast, I allow: but vile. Cloacae: sewers. The Jews in the wilderness and on the mountaintop said: It is meet to be here. Let us build an altar to Jehovah. The Roman, like the Englishman who follows in his footsteps, brought to every new shore on which he set his foot (on our shore he never set it) only his cloacal obsession. He gazed about him in his toga and he said: It is meet to be here. Let us construct a watercloset.

—Which they accordingly did do, Lenehan said. Our old ancient ancestors, as we read in the first chapter of Guinness’s, were partial to the running stream.

—They were nature’s gentlemen, J. J. O’Molloy murmured. But we have also Roman law.

—And Pontius Pilate is its prophet, professor MacHugh responded.

—Do you know that story about chief baron Palles? J. J. O’Molloy asked. It was at the royal university dinner. Everything was going swimmingly …

—First my riddle, Lenehan said. Are you ready?

Mr O’Madden Burke, tall in copious grey of Donegal tweed, came in from the hallway. Stephen Dedalus, behind him, uncovered as he entered.

Entrez, mes enfants! Lenehan cried.

—I escort a suppliant, Mr O’Madden Burke said melodiously. Youth led by Experience visits Notoriety.

—How do you do? the editor said, holding out a hand. Come in. Your governor is just gone.


J.J. O’Malloy mentions the story about chief baron Palles, which is a reference to Christopher Palles who served as an Irish Attorney General and Judge (source) although I can’t find any references to any incident involving him at the royal university dinner.