James Joyce: 1907-1909

The Joyces first settled at via Frattina but were evicted in December and moved to fifth-floor rooms 51 at via Monte Brianzo (the second being added by Nora). Hours at the bank were long and the work entirely unsympathetic. Unsurprisingly, since his trousers had worn through, Joyce was upbraided for his appearance and asked Stanislaus to draw an advance from Artifoni for their replacement. He also touched the English consul for 50 lira and found a private pupil before taking on part-time hours at the École des Langues in late November 1906. He dined out much and drank out no less often without coming to like the Eternal City any better, comparing its denizens to a man who makes his living by exhibiting his grandmother’s corpse. No progress was made with Stephen Hero at this time, and his interest in the Dubliners stories - which John Long rejected in February 1907 - began to wane. “A Painful Case” and “After the Race”, in particular, now seemed to him poor stuff. In Trieste he had contemplated a collection called Provincials to fellow Dubliners; yet in Rome, he conceived several new stories in the urban vein: “The Last Supper”, “The Street”, “Vengeance”, “At Bay”, “Catharsis”, and one other to be called “Ulysses”. This would concern Mr. Hunter, Joyce’s good samaritan in Nighttown during the summer of 1904, and was apparently sparked by his indignation at the ranting anti-semitism that Oliver St. Gogarty, then recently married into a Galway county family, had published in Arthur Griffith’s paper Sinn Féin. It never ‘got forrarder than the title’; by Christmas, however, Joyce was working on a “The Dead”, a final story for the stalled collection. This classic example of the genre was inspired by a growing sense that he had underrated the tradition of hospitality in his native city and would supply a redemptive air at the end without in anyway diminishing the emphasis on ‘paralysis’ that governs each story of the collection. News from Dublin of a theatrical riot against Synge’s Playboy of the Western World in January 1907 came as a distraction, causing him to feel like a man who ‘hears a row in the street and voices he knows shouting but can’t get out to see what the hell is going on.’ His work on “The Dead” would not be resumed until he returned to Trieste.

Joyce’s drinking placed a heavy strain on both parlous family finances and his relationship with Nora. Although unable to send the £1 that his father request for the season, Joyce arranged that Stanislaus would do so and managed to take the credit for himself. Ekeing out his misspent salary, they dined on pasta on Christmas Day in Rome. Slights from petty officials, and in one instance a physical injury suffered by Giorgio (who was accidentally caught under the eye by a cabman’s whip), intensified Joyce’s contempt for modern Italians. Among other failings, the Joyces found them no less affectionate towards children in the street than relunctant to let their property to young families. On 7 January 1906, the publisher Elkin Mathews wrote to propose terms for Chamber Music which he would publish without royalties on the first 300 copies sold, and 15% thereafter. Joyce took this as a good omen and abruptly resigned from bank with effect on 5 March. He made a desultory attempt to locate work in Marseilles but quickly opted to accept Artifoni’s open offer of a post at the Berlitz School in Trieste should he return. Rome had not yet finished with Joyce: Dubliners was rejected by John Long of London on 21 February and, shortly before his departure he was mugged in the street, losing 200 crowns. On 7 March 1907, he arrived with family in Trieste, his mouth ‘full of decayed teeth’ and his soul full of ‘decayed ambitions’. In addition, Nora was pregnant - notwithstanding their practice sharing the bed head-to-toe (the method of contraception also practiced by Leopold and Molly in Ulysses).

Stanislaus found them a room at short notice and for some days they stayed with the Francinis in spite of having ducked out of their share of the rent on leaving for Rome. (Stanislaus was instructed how the finesse the matter on that occasion.) The Joyces next settled at Via S. Catarina, sharing cramped quarters there until a row over debts that resulted in Stanislaus moving out in autumn 1908. Under duress, Joyce reluctantly accepted teaching hours from Artifoni, who initially refused and then offered a lowly rate out of apprehension that the returning prodigal would steal the better-off pupils whom Joyce was always able to draw to his side by his genial if unorthodox class-room manner. Soon afterwards, he received a commission from Prezioso to write three articles on Ireland in Italian for Il Piccolo della Sera, and these duly appeared as “Il Fenianismo: L’Ultimo Feniano” (22 March), “Home Rule Maggiorenne” (19 May) and “L’Irlanda alla Sbarra” (16 September 1907). (Translations purportedly by one of Stanislaus students but more likely to be Joyce’s own transcribed by Stanislaus are extant.) As a result of this departure Dr Attilio Tamaro, another pupil, invited Joyce to present three lectures at the Universita del Popolo where Francini was also giving lectures. Rather than speak ex tempore (as Prezioso advised), Joyce carefully prepared two papers which he delivered in April-May 1907, “Irlanda, Isola dei Santi et die Savi”, “Giacomo Clarenzio Mangan” (May 1907), and a third on the Irish literary revival - now unfortunately lost - a little later.

In addressing a Triestino public with strongly irredentist leanings, Joyce showed himself surprisingly unwilling to advance the claims of Irish nationhood against those of British Unionism. This was not so much because he was unaware of a temperamental ‘gulf’ or and ‘moral separation’ stand between the two countries. Quite to the contrary, he took the view that Ireland was not so much a new country asserting its independence as ‘a very old country’ trying ‘to renew under news forms the glories of a past civilisation.’ He doubted that Irish nationalists in this mood could establish a modern state of the sort he might wish to inhabit. In addition, he bore the old Parnellite grudge against the Irish parliamentary party and, while clearly admiring its determination, he discounted the military capacity of Fenianism, the ‘physical force’ movement which he expressly identified with Sinn Féin in his lecture on the topic. Joyce called attention to a struggle between constitutional and physical-force nationalists as bitter if not more so than that between nationalists and the English government. In so doing his intention was diagnostic more than therapeutic. The question of Irish independence per se did not interest him so much as the historical cause of Irish paralysis, as he understands it. If he readily grants that the ‘soul’ of Ireland has been ‘weakened by centuries of useless struggles and broken treaties’, he also asserts that what remains is nothing more than a ‘hysterical nationalism’ and that all attempts to revive the original Irish nation are doomed: ‘Ancient Ireland is dead just as ancient Egypt is dead’. What concerns him most is that ‘the conomic and intellectual conditions do not permit the development of individuality’ in the country, and hence (as he puts it with obvious reference to himself) ‘[n]o one who has any self-respect stays in Ireland, but flees afar as though from a country that has undergone the visitation of an angered Jove’.

In his journalism of 1907, Joyce showed himself to be out of step with his Irish contemporaries of the same background, and to prefer to remain so even at the cost of being out of step with his new Triestino neighbours. Addressing Irish history the chief point that Joyce chose to underscore was a contradiction at the very heart of Irish nationalism stemming from the fact that an Irish king (Dermot MacMurrough) had invited in the Norman conquerors while the ancient Irish had equably submitted to intellectual conquest in the shape of a ‘Syriac religion’ refashioned by the authoritarian mentality of Roman law. (He meant Christianity, of course.) From Joyce’s standpoint, the English and Roman Catholic authorities in Ireland were equally ‘foreign powers’, and he challenged Home Rulers to dispute that point before he would ‘change his position from that of an unprejudiced observer to that of a convinced nationalist.’ In his lecture on Mangan - a version of the one he gave in Dublin five years earlier - he similarly warns that ‘[t]he poet who would hurl his lightning against tyrants would establish upon the future a crueller and more intimate tyranny’, thus revealing his suspicions of the form of stateship that an independent Ireland might embody. Mangan he sees as the figure whom the Irish would accept ‘as their national poet on the day when the conflict will be decided between my native country and the foreign powers’; but at the same time he calls him ‘the prototype of a nation manque’ and the exponent of a ‘hysterical nationalism’ on the brink of extinction. Yet the difference between ‘flight’ and the notion of the artist-in-exile that he cultivated in Trieste is less significant than that between Joyce’s insistence that Ireland remain the hamstrung nation which he left and the attempts, constitutional or otherwise, of those at home to remedy the situation. The well-known pacificism of certain episode in Ulysses has its origins in such differences - as has the vagary that Bloom keeps a furled Union jack behind his living-room door. Neither of these can be simply treated as the handiwork of an ‘objective observer’.

Before leaving Rome, Joyce had written to his father with assurances that he was not forgetting him now that he had a ‘some kind of position’ in the world, and received back in April a letter expressing the old man’s devastation at what he called his son’s ‘incredible mistake’ in running away with Nora. In May, Elkin Mathews published Chamber Music and Joyce became a published author, but not before he had mooted the idea of withdrawing the thirty-six poems in view of their archaic air and literary slightness. Stanislaus’s counsel to the contrary prevailed. The book was generously reviewed by Arthur Symons but largely ignored by readers, less than two hundred copies selling in the ensuing five years, though a request for permission to set them to music reached him from Geoffrey Molyneux Palmer shortly after publication. As Nora’s term approach, Joyce drank more than previously and - always prone to fall over when inebriated - was rescued from the gutter on one occasion by Francini. Financial hardship drove him to consider returning to Dublin either to teach or as the Dublin correspondent for Corriere della Sera, an idea which did not meet with the editor’s approbation. He even applied for a post with the South Africa Colonisation Society in early July but by mid-July he had fallen ill with rheumatic fever, necessitating immediate admittance to the Ospedale Civico. On 26 July 1907, while he lay in one bed, Nora gave birth to their daughter Lucia in another - in fact in the pauper’s maternity ward. The child had a perceptible squint in one eye, as had her mother and her mother’s sister. It was a flaw that would occasion great self-conscious as she grew older, making her adolescence difficult and possibly precipitating her descent into schizophrenia.

Joyce’s illness appears to have functioned as a profound catalyst to creative activity. He emerged from hospital with a manuscript of “The Dead” and brought it to completion on 6 September 1907. A lengthy convalescence supplied him with time to work out a definite plan for future writings including - at least in embryo - the novel Ulysses which he conceived of as a Dublin Peer Gynt. On September 8 he told Stanislaus that he would rewrite Stephen Hero in five long chapters, leaving out the sections leading up to school-days. By 29 November he had finished the first chapter of A Portrait of the Artist, and by 7 April 1908 the third chapter was written also. When Artifoni leased the Berlitz School to two of his former employees, Joyce took the opportunity to take on his own pupils as private clients among them Ettore Schmitz, the proprietor-manager of a paint factory who wrote as Italo Svevo and received crucial encouragement from his friend Joyce. (The transaction was less comfortable for Stanislaus since the new owners acquired his debts to Artifoni.) During this period Joyce attended performances by Eleanore Duse and Ermete Zucconi - the latter eliciting his enthusiastic accolade in full hearing of the audience, ‘Di questi artisti nessuno se ne sogna da noi [no one at home knows there are such artists as this]’. In November 1907 Mathews surrendered the option on Dubliners that Joyce had earlier given him and passed the manuscript on to Joseph Hone of Maunsel & Co. Joyce believed that he should hold out for a London publisher but drew blank responses from Hutchinson., Alston Rivers and Edward Arnold in the ensuing twelve months. In the summer of 1907 Joyce found an attractive apartment at 8 via Scussa and arranged a lone from Schmidt to secure it but was blocked by his landlady at via Catarina who threatened to impound his furniture until back rent was paid. On August 4, Nora miscarried at three months leaving Joyce to feel that he was the only one to regret the ‘truncated existence’. Later in the month, the planned change of home was effected. By then Stanislaus was in post as assistant director at the Berlitz School (Artifoni once again holding the reins) but still taxed to maintain his brother’s family, inspite of having taken a room at 27 via Nuova in the wake of a row in which Joyce had scoffed at his honest notion of repaying students who had lent him money for the inevitable reason.

At Christmas, Joyce’s father sent a begging letter in which he pronounced that he believed the coming festive season would be his last: he was wrong. In April of the new year, Joyce posted the manuscript of Dubliners to George Roberts at Maunsel - incidentally a creditor from Dublin days. A review-article by Joyce on Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, then playing in Trieste, appeared in the Piccolo della Sera in late March 1909 and Joyce soon received permission from Robert Ross to translate The Soul of Man under Socialism into Italian though he did not proceed with it. His mind was turning on the matter of getting a post at the Royal University, Dublin. A plan to send Giorgio to Dublin with Stanislaus to meet his family was now amended: Joyce would make the journey. On arriving at the pier in Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) on 29 July, he saw Gogarty waiting for another passenger but avoided him before going to the Joyce household at 44 Fontenoy Street where the family were surprised not to see Stanislaus. In the course of an afternoon walk that ended in a village pub, John Stanislaus Joyce played the aria from Traviata in which Alfredo’s father sings the lines, ‘Ah foolish old man! Now I see the harm I did!’, which Joyce took as a token of reconciliation. There was to be no reconciliation with Gogarty, who sent messages by his chauffeur and, when he eventually met Joyce by accident on Merrion Square, dragged him to his fine house on Ely Place nearby and plied him with hospitality which Joyce refused. In Joyce’s version of the exchange, Gogarty ended by assuring him that he could write anything about him he wished ‘so long as it is literature.’ Joyce shook hands ‘on that understanding’. A still more painful colloquy awaited him when he met Cosgrave, who claimed to have enjoyed Nora’s favours while Joyce was courting her in Dublin. This triggered an acute attack of jealousy in Joyce, who bombarded Nora with letters questioning her virginity, his paternity and the trust upon which their relationship was founded, asking her, ‘is it all over between us?’ When, after a day of torment, he visited Byrne who was then living at 7 Eccles Street with an aunt, he was a clearly shattered. Byrne sent him off on the following morning in good humour having assured him that the whole episode was the result of a plot between Cosgrave and Gogarty to break his spirit. A letter from Stanislaus revealing that he had once encounter Cosgrave when the latter had recently been rebuffed by Nora sent Joyce on the opposite tack and his next letters to Nora were full effusive self-abasement of erotic longing. The event had however sparked off a train of thinking on the question of jealous which would make the subject of his play Exiles.

That, in conjunction with another piece of business on which he was engaged: the attempt to secure a lectureship at University College, Dublin, through the good offices of Tom Kettle, who had been elected to Westminster for Tyrone in 1906 and now held the Chair in Economics at the university. In place of the post he sought for Joyce, Kettle managed only to secure an offer of Italian evening classes at £100 per annum, which Joyce refused. (Another strand had been added to the narrative of Exiles). In view of Kettle’s forthcoming marrage to Mary Sheehy in September, Joyce presented the couple with a copy of Chamber Music, which Kettle had already reviewed for the Freeman’s Journal calling it ‘distinguished playing’ amid flattering reminiscences of Joyce, while commenting that it equally lacked the ‘national feeling that [has] coloured the work of practically every writer in contemporary Ireland’ and the ‘modern point of view which consumes all life in the language of problems’. The irony that Joyce, as poet, was more archaic than the revivalists themselves - adopting, as he did, a Jacobean style of verse - is difficult to square with his remorseless realism as a prose writer.

For Joyce, the chronic problem of his siblings elicited the plan of bringing Eva (at first it was to be Mabel) to Trieste, and training Eileen to sing, both adventures to be funded by Stanislaus. Eva was also deemed to need a tonsilectomy before departure. With Prezioso’s assent, Joyce represented himself as the correspondent for the Piccolo della Sera at the Abbey and reviewed the premier of Shaw’s The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet. A business card printed in that character secured him a return ticket to Galway on the proviso that he would write about that city. On 26 August he travelled there for a weekend, pushing Giorgio before him into the little house at Bowling Green, uncertain of his welcome. Happily he hit it off with Mrs Barnacle and learnt much of Nora’s early life, sending letters of passion and abasement back to her. A visit to the Evening Telegraph while awaiting funds from Stanislaus on his return to Dublin supplied material for the “Aeolus” chapter of Ulysses. After an initial meeting with Roberts he signed a contract for Dubliners with Hone, and managed to secure an advance of £300 against royalties from Roberts on the day when his article on Shaw appeared in the Triestino paper (8 September). Armed with a copy of this publication, he got the editor to print a reference to his status as an international journalist in the Evening Telegraph and promptly sent this back to Stanislaus for Prezioso’s consumption. Before leaving Dublin Joyce visited Byrne once again, the latter lowering himself into the front area of the house to access the kitchen door just as Bloom does in the “ Ithaca “ of Ulysses. Roberts’ money enabled Joyce to pay for Eva’s tonsilectomy and on 13 September 1909 he returned with her to Trieste along the route that he had used on his earlier departure with Nora. Like Nora, too, Eva (then eighteen) was made to wait in parks with Giorgio while Joyce went about his business en route - in this case including the recovery of a ring from Nora which he had fallen into the drain of a Paris vespasian (public urinal).

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