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Mulligan boldly tells Stephen to go to his job and earn money so they can all go out drinking later. Haines shares his plan for the day — a trip to the National Library — and Stephen shares his unusual approach to personal hygiene.
Specifically, it is one of the final communications he made to the English fleet before the Battle of Trafalgar, where he was killed. And yes, he said “England” instead of Ireland on that occasion. We’ll be hearing more about “Nelson’s Pillar,” a monument erected to him in the middle of Dublin, but for now it’s interesting to note that the tower the gentlemen are living in is a souvenir of the Napoleonic wars in which Nelson was so instrumental. The design is copied from one that his navy found in the Mediterranean. And Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar is what made the tower largely superfluous.
So what are we to make of Stephen’s dislike of bathing? In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen experiments with mortification, and this could be seen as a revisiting of that experience. It also goes along with his mourning, and with what certainly looks like a diagnosable depression. It will also set a sharper contrast with Leopold Bloom, who we will see bathing later in the day.