He looked down at the boots he had blacked and polished. She had outlived him. Lost her husband. More dead for her than for me. One must outlive the other. Wise men say. There are more women than men in the world. Condole with her. Your terrible loss. I hope you’ll soon follow him. For Hindu widows only. She would marry another. Him? No. Yet who knows after. Widowhood not the thing since the old queen died. Drawn on a guncarriage. Victoria and Albert. Frogmore memorial mourning. But in the end she put a few violets in her bonnet. Vain in her heart of hearts. All for a shadow. Consort not even a king. Her son was the substance. Something new to hope for not like the past she wanted back, waiting. It never comes. One must go first: alone, under the ground: and lie no more in her warm bed.
—How are you, Simon? Ned Lambert said softly, clasping hands. Haven’t seen you for a month of Sundays.
—Never better. How are all in Cork’s own town?
—I was down there for the Cork park races on Easter Monday, Ned Lambert said. Same old six and eightpence. Stopped with Dick Tivy.
—And how is Dick, the solid man?
—Nothing between himself and heaven, Ned Lambert answered.
—By the holy Paul! Mr Dedalus said in subdued wonder. Dick Tivy bald?
—Martin is going to get up a whip for the youngsters, Ned Lambert said, pointing ahead. A few bob a skull. Just to keep them going till the insurance is cleared up.
—Yes, yes, Mr Dedalus said dubiously. Is that the eldest boy in front?
—Yes, Ned Lambert said, with the wife’s brother. John Henry Menton is behind. He put down his name for a quid.
—I’ll engage he did, Mr Dedalus said. I often told poor Paddy he ought to mind that job. John Henry is not the worst in the world.
—How did he lose it? Ned Lambert asked. Liquor, what?
—Many a good man’s fault, Mr Dedalus said with a sigh.
Prince Albert died in December of 1841, after that Queen Victoria spent the rest of her life in mourning, leading to the diminishment of public sentiment for the monarchy and growth of the Republican movement. (source) Bloom’s thoughts on a queen obsessed with the death of her husband fits well into the narrative of death in this chapter. He also thinks about her vanity in putting violets in her bonnet toward the end of her life.
I liked the thought of putting Albert on the wall behind her looking down while she puts the flowers in her bonnet, while Edward looks on. A distant shadow on the wall looming over her.