A MAN OF HIGH MORALE
—Professor Magennis was speaking to me about you, J. J. O’Molloy said to Stephen. What do you think really of that hermetic crowd, the opal hush poets: A. E. the mastermystic? That Blavatsky woman started it. She was a nice old bag of tricks. A. E. has been telling some yankee interviewer that you came to him in the small hours of the morning to ask him about planes of consciousness. Magennis thinks you must have been pulling A. E.’s leg. He is a man of the very highest morale, Magennis.
Speaking about me. What did he say? What did he say? What did he say about me? Don’t ask.
—No, thanks, professor MacHugh said, waving the cigarettecase aside. Wait a moment. Let me say one thing. The finest display of oratory I ever heard was a speech made by John F Taylor at the college historical society. Mr Justice Fitzgibbon, the present lord justice of appeal, had spoken and the paper under debate was an essay (new for those days), advocating the revival of the Irish tongue.
He turned towards Myles Crawford and said:
—You know Gerald Fitzgibbon. Then you can imagine the style of his discourse.
—He is sitting with Tim Healy, J. J. O’Molloy said, rumour has it, on the Trinity college estates commission.
—He is sitting with a sweet thing, Myles Crawford said, in a child’s frock. Go on. Well?
—It was the speech, mark you, the professor said, of a finished orator, full of courteous haughtiness and pouring in chastened diction I will not say the vials of his wrath but pouring the proud man’s contumely upon the new movement. It was then a new movement. We were weak, therefore worthless.
He closed his long thin lips an instant but, eager to be on, raised an outspanned hand to his spectacles and, with trembling thumb and ringfinger touching lightly the black rims, steadied them to a new focus.
“That Blavatsky woman” is referring to Helena Blavatsky a Russian occultist and founder of the Theosophical Society. (source)
Gerald Fitzgibbon was an Irish lawyer and one of the original judges on the Supreme Court of Ireland. (source)
Tim Healy was an Irish politician, lawyer, and Irish nationalist (source). Healy was initially a supporter of Parnell, a politician beloved by Joyce and even more so by his father. Healy fell out though in a very public dispute with Parnell over Parnell’s affair with his wife. Joyce’s father always blamed the scandal for his own downfall and although Joyce was only 9 years old when Parnell died it affected him for the rest of his life. (source)