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02-Nov-2017 10:12

The few clear facts about Powell’s life that can be ascertained reveal that his rise to the officer class came relatively early in his career.

Although his obituaries stated he had been born in Thomastown, Co.

Writing to his aunt, Josephine Murray, from Paris in 1921, James Joyce made clear where the inspiration for Molly Bloom’s father had come from, referring to, ‘Major Powell – in my book Major Tweedy, Mrs Bloom’s father.’ Joyce sought out the characteristics for his old soldier closer to home.

Nevertheless, as this paper will show, there does turn out to be an unexpectedly fraudulent background to his use of this honorary title in Dublin during his retirement years.But did Powell, like Tweedy, make outlandish claims about his own career? Historically – although I do not think this would have bothered Joyce – he could not have been a drum major since that ancient title was abolished in 1881, although it was reintroduced in 1928.Some scholars, starting with Ellmann, have questioned whether or not his rank was that of a proper major. My guess is that Joyce intended Tweedy to be, like Powell, an ex-sergeant major posing in retirement as a major, just as the jingling bed shipped from Gibraltar was supposed to have belonged to General Napier but was in reality purchased secondhand from old Cohen.In contrast, the officers lived in great comfort, reflecting the wide gap that still prevailed between the upper and lower ranks of the army.Three years later he saw the opportunity for further promotion on the formation of the new and short-lived Land Transport Corps in 1855, which was designed to facilitate supplies to the Crimean front and which sought to attract new recruits by the promise of transfers at higher ranks.

Nevertheless, as this paper will show, there does turn out to be an unexpectedly fraudulent background to his use of this honorary title in Dublin during his retirement years.But did Powell, like Tweedy, make outlandish claims about his own career? Historically – although I do not think this would have bothered Joyce – he could not have been a drum major since that ancient title was abolished in 1881, although it was reintroduced in 1928.Some scholars, starting with Ellmann, have questioned whether or not his rank was that of a proper major. My guess is that Joyce intended Tweedy to be, like Powell, an ex-sergeant major posing in retirement as a major, just as the jingling bed shipped from Gibraltar was supposed to have belonged to General Napier but was in reality purchased secondhand from old Cohen.In contrast, the officers lived in great comfort, reflecting the wide gap that still prevailed between the upper and lower ranks of the army.Three years later he saw the opportunity for further promotion on the formation of the new and short-lived Land Transport Corps in 1855, which was designed to facilitate supplies to the Crimean front and which sought to attract new recruits by the promise of transfers at higher ranks.On the surface he appears as Bloom sees him in the Circe episode: ‘a most distinguished commander, a gallant upstanding gentleman’; but, as Quick points out, this image is not to be trusted, as Tweedy’s claims to heroism were fraudulent at best: Tweedy’s statements about his past in Gibraltar form a pattern of glamorizing lies.