is a short story by James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...
published in his 1914 collection Dubliners
Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. They were meant to be a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century....
Maria, a spinster with a minor job in a rescue mission for wayward women, is looking forward to a holiday evening at the house of Joe, whom she nursed when he was a boy and of whom she is still very fond. She departs for Joe's after attending a tea service with her fellow laundresses, stopping to buy cakes for the Halloween
Hallowe'en , also known as Halloween or All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31, the night before All Saints' Day...
party on the way. At the bakery, Maria is somewhat maliciously teased by the clerk, who asks whether she wishes to buy a wedding cake, mirroring a similar joke that was made at the earlier tea. On a train, Maria has a bashful encounter with an elderly and drunken man who chats with her; she later discovers he has in fact stolen her plumcake, which she rationalises as being an honest mistake by the "confused" old man. She is welcomed warmly at the house by Joe’s family, but she is saddened to realize that she has "lost" the plumcake she bought for Joe and his wife. Maria is soon enticed into playing a traditional Hallow Eve game with the children in which objects are placed in saucers and a blindfolded player has to pick among them. Each object is supposed to have a prophetic significance. One of the objects in the game is a ring, standing for marriage, which Maria failed to get during a similar game (in which objects were baked into pieces of barmbrack
Barmbrack is a yeasted bread with added sultanas and raisins.Usually sold in flattened rounds, it is often served toasted with butter along with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The dough is sweeter than sandwich bread, but not as rich as cake, and the sultanas and raisins add flavour and texture to...
) back at the laundry. At Joe's, Maria once again misses the ring and instead chooses a lump of clay. Everyone goes quiet, because clay stands for death. Maria is allowed to choose again, however, and this time fetches the prayer-book, indicating a life of spiritual vocation (service at a convent, suggests Joe's wife). After drinking some wine, Maria sings the aria "I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls" from the opera The Bohemian Girl
The Bohemian Girl is an opera composed by Michael William Balfe with a libretto by Alfred Bunn. The plot is loosely based on a Cervantes tale, La Gitanilla.The opera was first produced in London at the Drury Lane Theatre on November 27, 1843...
by Michael Balfe. She makes what the text refers to as "a mistake" by singing the first verse twice, but nobody corrects her. The omission is significant as the missing verse imagines suitors such as the ones that Maria has not had in her life:
I dreamt that suitors sought my hand,
That knights upon bended knee,
And with vows no maiden heart could withstand,
They pledg'd their faith to me.
And I dreamt that one of that noble host
Came forth my hand to claim;
But I also dreamt, which charm'd me most,
That you lov'd me still the same.
The story ends with a description of how Joe has been "very much moved" by her song, although in keeping with the rest of her visit it is possible that he was crying with laughter at Maria's "quavering" rendition of the song. Or it may be that the song has unearthed an unpleasant memory for Joe.
- "I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls" sung by Edith Chapman, from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project
The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project is a free digital collection maintained by the University of California, Santa Barbara Libraries with streaming and downloadable versions of over 10,000 phonograph cylinders manufactured between 1893 and the mid 1920s.- History :The project began...
at the University of California, Santa Barbara
The University of California, Santa Barbara, commonly known as UCSB or UC Santa Barbara, is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. The main campus is located on a site in Goleta, California, from Santa Barbara and northwest of Los...