Two Gallants

Synopsis of Two Gallants

Corley and Lenehan walk through the streets of Dublin. They are no longer young but they do not have steady jobs or settled domestic lives.  Corley describes his latest sexual conquest, a servant girl who works at a large house in the city and whom he is on his way to meet.  The two men separate and agree to meet again later in the evening.  Meanwhile Lenehan carries on walking, stopping only to eat a very cheap meal and to chat to friends.   When Corley reappears, accompanied by his girlfriend, Lenehan follows them to the house where she works.  She goes in and quickly comes out again and when Corley rejoins Lenehan it turns out that Corley has persuaded his girlfriend to steal some money from her employers on his behalf.

Commentary on Two Gallants

rotundity A Dublin in-joke.  The two men are passing the Maternity Hospital, known as the Rotunda because one of its buildings is circular and is therefore appropriate to the shape of the women who enter it.

recherché (French) Something that is difficult to find, exclusive and of excellent quality.

racing tissues Newspapers about horse racing printed on thin paper.

slavey The lowest level of domestic servant, a maid of all work who would undertake the dirtiest and least pleasant household jobs. 

the real cheese A slang phrase meaning the real thing.

up to the dodge Another slang phrase which, in the context of the story, could mean either that the young woman knows how to avoid getting pregnant or that she is prepared to steal from her employers.

hairy Slang for cunning.

inspector of police Corley almost certainly serves in the Dublin Metropolitan Police, which operated in the city, the rural areas being policed by the Royal Irish Constabulary.

about town An ironical use of a phrase that usually suggests someone with a good income and with the leisure to take part in social activities.  In the case of Corley, however, it suggests someone who spends a lot of time walking the streets, making half-hearted attempts to find work and looking for opportunities of obtaining money, either legally or illegally.

give him the hard word Tell him that a job is available.  ‘Hard’ presumably means that this is reliable information, but it is also something that Corley finds it difficult and unwelcome to hear, since he is not very fond of work.

walking … talking earnestly This suggests that one of the ways in which Corley makes some money is by acting as a police informer.  In Dublin at this period he could be passing on information either about ordinary criminal activities or about Irish nationalists working against the British government.

he aspirated … Florentines Citizens of Florence in Italy pronounce ‘c’ as ‘h’, so Corley’s way of speaking his name would be ‘Horely’, a short step from ‘Whorely’, appropriate in view of his behaviour.  

Lothario A character in the play The Fair Penitent (1703) by Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718), a cheerful man and a seducer of women.  The name is generally applied to men who exhibit these characteristics and particularly carries the implication of being a sexual libertine.

girls off the South Circular A road notorious as the haunt of prostitutes.

on the turf A slang phrase for being a prostitute.

on a car An Irish jaunting-car, an open horse-drawn carriage.

harp Often used a symbol of Ireland’s past and popularised by its use in Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies.

heedless … knees Ireland, suffering under British rule, is often represented as a grieving woman. 

strangers The English, regarded as the colonisers of Ireland.

Silent O Moyle One of Moore’s Irish Melodies (see note above).

a blue dress and a white sailor hat Blue and white are colours associated with the Virgin Mary in Christian iconography.

Are you … inside me? Slang for ‘are you trying to take my place?’

stems upwards  The servant girl does what she can to dress smartly, but actually presents a rather vulgar, even comical appearance.  The finishing touch is that she is wearing her corsage upside down, with the flowers at the bottom.  

curates A popular term for assistant barmen, likening them to the curates who assisted parish priests.  

Three halfpence  Lenehan eats a very cheap meal, indicating how short of money he is.

ginger beer In spite of its name this is a non-alcoholic fizzy drink flavoured with ginger.  Lenehan lacks the money to buy anything stronger. 

pulling … the tail  A slang term for someone who is living on the edge of poverty.

a little of the ready Slang for a small amount of money.

Basement rooms accessthe area of a house The space in front of a house giving access to the basement rooms, usually containing the kitchen and other rooms where servants worked. No doubt the slavey spent much of her time in this underground location. 

A small gold coin The only gold coin in circulation at this time was a sovereign (£1 or twenty shillings).  If this comes out of the servant woman’s stock of money it would have represented a significant percentage of her annual income, which was likely to have been somewhere between £4 and £8 a year.  The other possibility is that she has somehow stolen it from her employer.

Investigating Two Gallants...

  • Compare Corely and Lenehan with the men in After the Race.
    • What differences can you find?
    • Why do you think Joyce put After the Race and Two Gallants next to one another?
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