Having left the tower, Mulligan, Haines, and Stephen walk towards the sea.
Mulligan is beating the grass with his towel, seeming playful, but when Haines asks about the rent, he quickly inserts himself into the conversation. In an early version of this drawing, we had attributed the statement about the rent to Stephen–it seems like a logical thing for him to say, since he makes that following comment about paying the rent to the Secretary of State for War. But Joyce clearly puts those words in Mulligan’s mouth. What this does is to remind us of Mulligan’s interest in money, particularly in making some money off of their gentleman houseguest. He needs to make sure that Haines knows what the rent is–perhaps in order to set up an “ask” later on–and doesn’t want Stephen to step in the opportunity again.
Richard Ellmann’s biography of Joyce has a surprising amount to say about Joyce’s life in the actual Martello tower. It also has a great image of the original lease from the government, which was signed by Oliver St. John Gogarty, and was for 8 pounds, not 12. Ellmann describes Gogarty as wanting the tower to seem a a “haven of unrespectability in ‘priestridden godforsaken’ Ireland” a “temple of neo-paganism” where “Nietzsche was the principal prophet, Swinburne the poet laureate” (172).
Skipping back to Ulysses for a moment–Mulligan also has these dreams of the tower being an “omphalos,” a kind of center of bohemian and free thought. But his credibility depends on Stephen, who’s the real artist. But Stephen doesn’t look like he’s going to want to play this part.