Boxing in Joyce's Ulysses: Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway

In our recent visit to Special Collections, I noticed a transcribed letter written by Ernest Hemingway on 9 March 1922, addressed to Sherwood Anderson, in which Hemingway cites Joyce’s Ulysses as “a most god-damn wonderful book” and refers to Michaud’s, Joyce’s favorite restaurant at the corner of rue Jacob and rue des Saints-Pères, where Hemingway visited once a week. In the midst of the letter, Hemingway declares that he is teaching Ezra Pound how to box. He describes Pound as having “the general grace of the crayfish or crawfish,” which suggests clumsiness in movement. He mentions Pound’s habit of leading with his chin, which is a common mistake in boxing leaving him vulnerable to punches. Hemingway remarks that Pound is “willing” to learn boxing but he is “short-winded,” becoming soon out of breath, and also “sweats” a lot. Despite Pound's physical shortcomings in boxing, Hemingway acknowledges Pound's willingness to engage in an activity that he knows nothing about, even at the risk of losing his “dignity” and “critical reputation”. Hemingway concludes by expressing admiration for Pound as “a good guy” and praises the review he wrote on Joyce’s Ulysses, under the title of “Paris Letter” in the June 1922 issue of the Dial. Interestingly, boxing is also referenced in “Cyclops,” episode 12 of Ulysses, in which Joe Hynes, the unnamed narrator, the citizen, Alf Bergan, and Bloom meet at Barney Kiernan’s pub and engage in conversations on various topics including traditional Irish sports. Bloom reveals that the citizen had previously excelled as a shot-putter, being renowned as “the man … that made the Gaelic sports revival … [t]he champion of all Ireland at putting the sixteen pound shot”. The men's conversation abruptly transitions to boxing when Bergan brings up a recent match (Keogh-Bennett) promoted by Blazes Boylan. Despite Bloom's efforts to “cut[] in” and redirect the conversation towards lawn tennis, his interjections are disregarded. Subsequently, the novel breaks into a depiction of a boxing match:

“It was a historic and a hefty battle when Myler and Percy were scheduled to don the gloves for the purse of fifty sovereigns. Handicapped as he was by lack of poundage, Dublin’s pet lamb made up for it by superlative skill in ringcraft. The final bout of fireworks was a gruelling for both champions. The welterweight sergeantmajor had tapped some lively claret in the previous mixup during which Keogh had been receivergeneral of rights and lefts, the artilleryman putting in some neat work on the pet’s nose, and Myler came on looking groggy. The soldier got to business, leading off with a powerful left jab to which the Irish gladiator retaliated by shooting out a stiff one flush to the point of Bennett’s jaw. The redcoat ducked but the Dubliner lifted him with a left hook, the body punch being a fine one. The men came to handigrips. Myler quickly became busy and got his man under, the bout ending with the bulkier man on the ropes, Myler punishing him. The Englishman, whose right eye was nearly closed, took his corner where he was liberally drenched with water and when the bell went came on gamey and brimful of pluck, confident of knocking out the fistic Eblanite in jigtime. It was a fight to a finish and the best man for it. The two fought like tigers and excitement ran fever high. The referee twice cautioned Pucking Percy for holding but the pet was tricky and his footwork a treat to watch. After a brisk exchange of courtesies during which a smart upper cut of the military man brought blood freely from his opponent’s mouth the lamb suddenly waded in all over his man and landed a terrific left to Battling Bennett’s stomach, flooring him flat. It was a knockout clean and clever. Amid tense expectation the Portobello bruiser was being counted out when Bennett’s second Ole Pfotts Wettstein threw in the towel and the Santry boy was declared victor to the frenzied cheers of the public who broke through the ringropes and fairly mobbed him with delight”.