HyC Adventures
The Poetics of Perception
HCE in Finnegans Wake

 

 

 

 

HCE in Finnegans Wake

 

My initials, HC, are just one letter short of HCE, the initials of the innkeeper of James Joyce’s final work, Finnegans Wake. Indeed, I sometimes sign off in correspondence as Hyatt Carter, Esquire, to fill in the missing piece. While Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker is sometimes in the background, he is symbolically omnipresent in the novel by way of the many incarnations of his initials—HCE—that appear on page after page in this book of the dark that reveals (Joyce would say “reveils”) the dreamscape of one Dublin night.

 

Once you become aware of this, the letters HCE turn up all over the place, Imagine, then, how culious an epiphany it was, when I beheld the three letters in the formula that gives the fine structure constant, one of the fundamental constants of physics . . .

 

α = 2πe2/hc

 

. . . where e = charge of electron, h = Planck’s constant, and c = speed of light.

 

As Here Comes Everybody, HCE shows his archetypal colors.

 

Protean? Very! We are invited to wonder who this archetypal presence really is, this fellow who seems to be more mob than man:

 

But, to speak broken heaventalk, is he? Who is he? Whose is he? Why is he? Howmuch is he? Which is he? When is he? Where is he? How is he? And what the decans is there about him anyway, the decemt man? FW, 261-62

 

Joyce does the same with the innkeeper’s wife, Anna Livia Plurabelle, with ALP flashing forth from the quantum froth of the Wake in one transformation after another.

 

Harking back to HCE, I remember an essay, by a French writer, who drew a parallel with IHS or Iesus Hominum Salvator and JHV (omitting the final H of the tetragrammaton) and cleverly extending the parallel (to infinity, where the lines meet?) to include ABC, CBS, NBC, and the BBC with Joyce as master HAM broadcaster and the Wake, which during its composition was known as Work in Progress, or WIP, as an omnidirectional radio or television signal taking to the waves.

 

A line from the Wake: I am amp amp amplify . . .

 

Joyce, who once signed a letter as Jeems Jokes, invites us to have mercy on this kind of play.

 

“Loud, heap miseries upon us yet entwine our arts with laughters low!”

 

From the over 400 variations on the theme of HCE that readers of Finnegans Wake have found thus far, here come exemplars:


Howth Castle and Environs

Hush! Caution! Echoland!

hence, cool at ebb

hive, comb and earwax

Here Comes Everybody

hotel and creamery establishments

High Church of England

How charmingly exquisite!

he can eyespy

Hocus Crocus, Esquilocus

Holiday, Christmas, Easter

hids cubid rute being extructed

habby cyclic erdor

Howe cools Eavybrolly!

Hermyn C. Entwhistle

Hung Chung Egglyfella

Haveth Childers Everywhere

H2 C E3

Homo Capite Erectus

He Can Explain

Huffy Chops Eads

he could talk earish

Hwang Chang evelytime

her calamity electrifies

Hircus Civis Eblanensis!

hulm culms evurdyburdy

heroest champion of Eren

His Christian’s Em?

Helpless Corpses Enactment

Ho, croak, evildoer!

home cooking everytime

Hosty’s and Co, Exports

How culious an epiphany!

Heinz cans everywhere



 

 

 

HyC

 

 
Meta-Fours
An Odyssey in Space and Time
Curves of Thought
Ken Wilber's Mandalic Model of Reality
Slender Gold: Emperor Huizong's Brush with Beauty
HCE in Finnegans Wake
The Happiness of Fish
Urrutia’s 1767 Map of Santa Fe
Evolution of the Word
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