Bloomsday for Cab Drivers / 11: Time and Setdown / 1
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A Quet Rebuke. Cartoon by John Leech (1817-1864), Punch, 1864.

Fare (who has driven a hard bargain and is settling), "But why, my good man, do you put that cloth over the horse's head?" Cab-Driver, "Shure, yer honour, thin -- I shouldn't like him to see how little ye pay for such a hard day's work!"

Punch readers in 1864 would readily identify the stereotypical Irishman from the brogue in the caption, his carefully delineated facial features and the ragged state of his clothes, but it's the jaunting car that places the scene in Ireland rather than in an English city.

Cartoonist Leech's sympathies are obviously with the cabby in keeping with the magazine's early radical-reform posture. But as Punch became more successful its politics increasingly reflected the interests of the cab riding as opposed to the cab driving class. Out of 26 cab cartoons in the Pictures from Punch collection (1894), at least 18 make disreputable drivers, emaciated horses and/or dilapidated cabs the butt of the joke.

Pictures from "Punch", volume 1 (London: Bradbury, Agnew & Co., 1894), p. 19.

Bloomsday for Cab Drivers / 11

Time and Setdown / 1

The phrase "time or setdown" in the "drifting cabbies" quotation is an example of the way Joyce peppers his text with odd words, providing an inexhaustible happy hunting ground for academics in search of topics to write about:

All weathers, all places, time or setdown, no will of their own. [5 223 / 3485]

Michael Higgins in Notes and Queries (June, 1989) took a crack at explaining the phrase, pointing out that "time" in J.C. Hotten's The Slang Dictionary (1887) is defined as

cabman's slang for money. If they wish to express 9s. 9d. they say that 'it is a quarter to ten'; if 3s. 6d., half past three; if 11s. 9d., a quarter to twelve. Cab drivers exultingly say the police cannot comprehend the system.

Similarly, according to Eric Partridge's A Dictionary of the Underworld, "setdown" meant "a square meal" in British tramp slang prior to 1920. From these definitions, Higgins concluded that:

'time or setdown' refers to the day to day existence of the cabmen Bloom notes as he passes their shelter; either the cabbie collects his fare (time) or he has to scrounge for a meal (setdown).... Bloom's sympathetic reaction while he passes the cabmen's shelter develops both the compassionate side of his nature and the idea of the drifting cabbie as almost vagrant or tramplike.

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