James Joyce: 1909-1915

Once reunited with Nora and a deeply indignant brother (to whom he had forwarded news of his arrival in a telegram ending ‘Pennilesse’ in mock-Italian), Joyce’s mind turned again to money-making schemes. A chance remark from Eva - who was deeply homesick and also shocked to learn that Joyce and Nora were unmarried - reminded him that Dublin was without cinemas and so he made an approach through Vidovich to the Triestino group of businessmen who owned a small chain in Trieste and Bucharest. After convincing these that the wholly undeveloped market for cinemas in Ireland could be conquered by an enterprising venture from which he would take 10% of profits, he departed for Dublin on 18 October 1909. Settling at his father’s house, Joyce found a suitable premises at 45 Mary Street on 29 October and, having secured it with an advance from the partners, set about fitting it with electricity, gaining the necessary theatre licence, and recruiting staff to run it. When two of the partners Macnich and Rebez, came over the complete the business they lodged initially in Finn’s Hotel. A visit to Nora’s former room at the invitation of the manageress provided Joyce with occasion for a letter in an ecstatic style that clearly anticipates the fifth chapter of A Portrait. He also sent her a hand-copied text of Chamber Music with her initials inscribed on it - a recompense for the abandonment of his earlier plan to dedicate the book to her - and spoke of buying her a sable cap, stole and muff when his stories were published. As the separation lengthened, his letters expressing sado-masochistic impulses compounded by coprophiliac tendencies and an obsession with women’s underwear summoned a willing response in Nora who, catered to his erotic needs on the epistolary points that he required. (The letters unambiguously testify to a frank and ardent sex-life at this stage of their union.) In November and early December Joyce travelled with the partners to explore Belfast and in Cork before stage-managing the inauguration of the Volta Cinema in Dublin on 20 December 1909. The films shown - “The First Paris Orphanage”, “La Pourponniere” and “The Tragic Story of Beatrice Cenci” - were well-received, with some demurs about their lack of obvious appeal for an Anglophone audience and, indeed, the Volta would succomb to the influx of more exciting fare from America by July of the following year when it was peremptorily sold off at 40% loss to the investors. Before departing Joyce secured an agency from the Irish Woollen Company to import tweed to Trieste and sent a bolt of their Donegal yarn to Nora. Meanwhile in Trieste the Joyces were facing eviction for a sum of £2 back-rent. Joyce was barely able to send this although he had been observed earlier by Richard Best with a roll of notes conspicuously in hand. This had been depleted by outlays on the Joyce household in Dublin, sundry extravagance on self, and ‘loans’ to erstwhile acquaintances. When George Roberts proved unable to supplies the proof-sheets of Dubliners Joyce returned to Trieste on 2 January 1910 with his sister Eileen in tow.

Back in Trieste, Joyce resumed some teaching though passing the mornings increasingly ‘at his thoughts’ in bed (as Eva reported). Meals were uncertain fixtures, partly because of lack of funds and partly because Nora and the sisters often went out in the evening - but also because their catering skills were markedly deficient. Stanislaus, though living apart, returned for evening meals when relations were tolerable and, tolerable or not, he was constantly touched for money to support the family (sometimes by contrivances). Meanwhile Joyce’s resistance to changes in Dubliners was gradually eroded and on 23 March 1910 he agreed to make the alterations that Roberts desired. After Roberts pronounced these inadequate, Joyce wrote on 10 July threatening to communicate ‘the whole matter [...]in a circular letter to the Irish press’ and to take legal action against the publisher. Roberts did not respond. In August 1910, the Joyce family moved to 32 via Barriera Vecchia with Stanislaus’s financial aid. With relations worsening every day, Joyce neatly turned the tables on his brother in a letter - since they were not speaking - threatening to quit Trieste and leave the ‘the cattolicissime’ (Eva and Eileen) entirely in his charge. Matters were soon patched up or, as Stanislaus put it, his ‘mistake’ in taking care of Joyce was made again. A letter from Roberts in December bore a promise of publication on 20 January 1911 and gave notice that proofs for Dubliners were on the way, but these were never sent. In the same month Joyce contributed another piece on Home Rule to the Piccolo della Sera occasioned by the overturning of the House of Lords power of veto with consequent promise of Home Rule (‘It is necessary to be a voracious nationalist’, he wrote sceptically, ‘to be able to swallow such a mouthful.’) Roberts wrote again in February renewing his objections to “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” and calling for more radical revision. Joyce’s frustration reached such a pitch that he purportedly threw the manuscript of A Portrait in the fire, only to be rescued by Eileen, whom he thanked with a present saying that it contained some pages that he could never have written again. In July homesickness and conditions in the household combined to make Eva return to Dublin. At the beginning of August, Joyce had the idea of writing to George V to find out if he objected to the contested phrases about Edward VII in “Ivy Day” and received a predictably anodyne letter from his secretary. He then sent Roberts an open letter documenting the history of Dubliners to date and this was printed in Sinn Fein on 2 September 1911 while an edited version appeared a week earlier in the Northern Whig. This elicit no more response from Roberts than the previous threat, though he marked it down against Joyce for a future occasion. In masochistic humour and for purposes of writing Exiles, Joyce encouraged Nora to accept advances from other men including Prezioso, and then, in a jealous fit, confronted him in the Piazza Dante where his pupil and patron was observed weeping with mortification under the assault by another friend.

In mid-February 1912 the Joyces were threatened with eviction for non-payment of rent and, though this was deferred, the landlord Picciola retain the right to execute without notice in view of that transgression. Joyce acccepted an invitation to give a second series of lectures at Universita del Popolo on the topic “Verismo ed idealismo nella letteratura inglese: Daniele De Foe & William Blake” in March. His account of each maps out the diametrical terrritories in which he was coming to stake his own claim as a writer as well as prefiguring the mind and temperament of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus in complex and interchangeable ways, but it did not solve his financial problems. One answer was to become a teacher in the state-operated schools system. To this end he travelled to Padua in late April and sat examinations for the licence of an English teacher, with oral exams after. Although he scored near perfect marks aside from Italian composition, where he fell down a little, his admittance to the profession was blocked by the unwillingness of the authorities to acknowledge his university degree. (In fact, the United Kingdom had no reciprocal arrangement with Italy at this period.) Sympathetic and indignant Triestinos sought to place him in a post at the Scuola Revoltella Superiori de Commercio, but Joyce chose to wait until the present incumbent actually retired. The appearance of a characteristic piece entitled “L’Ombra di Parnell” in Il Piccolo della Sera gives token of a reconciliation with Prezioso in May 1912. Using a spectral method of rebuke also favoured by W. B. Yeats in this period, Joyce forewarned that ‘the ghost at the banquet” of Home Rule on the terms now contemplated would be ‘the shade of Parnell’.

In July, Joyce conceived the idea of sending Nora to Ireland to extract money from her uncle Michael Healy while introducing Lucia to her Irish kin and pressurising George Roberts into bringing forward the publication of Dubliners. On reaching Westland Row on 8 July 1912 she was met by his father and siblings and taken to Finn’s Hotel, this time as a guest. Roberts easily shrugged off her assault, made in company with John Stanislaus Joyce and Joyce’s brother Charlie, after which she travelled on to Galway to renew contact with her mother (from whom she hid her lack of marriage lines, though Joyce forbade her to wear a wedding ring to complete the deception). Matters with Roberts having gone so badly, Joyce arrived with Giorgio a week later. By way of approach, he first descended on Joseph Hone with the words, ‘I have crossed Europe to see you’ and was sent on to Roberts, who was irritated since Joyce knew his sphere or responsibility in the firm quite well. He now proposed the deletion of the disputed passages, with the addition of an explanatory preface, or else the wholesale publication of the book under the author’s own name. Joyce went away to ponder this, taking Giorgio to Galway where he joined up with Nora. Together they visited grave of Michael Bodkin at Oughterard, the young boy who had ‘died for her’ as related in “The Dead”. Joyce, who was astonished to find a nearby grave inscribed for one ‘J. Joyce’, wrote the moving poem “She Weeps for Rahoon”. They also spent two days on the Aran Islands, resulting in an article for Piccolo della Sera in which he evinced a new interest in native Irish life and folklore.

On returning to Dublin on 17 August, he moved into Aunt Josephine’s home on North Strand while Nora and children stayed on in Galway, joining him later. At first Joyce busied himself with Trieste matters, making contact with William Field, MP, the President of the Irish Cattle Traders’ Association, to whom he brought a letter on foot and mouth serum treatment methods in Austria from Henry Blackwood Price, assistant manager of the Eastern Telegraph Company branch in Trieste, who modelled for Mr. Deasy in Ulysses (especially as regards his eccentric Orangeman’s view of Irish history). Having delivered Price’s letter, Joyce obliged with a sub-editorial on the vetinary topic for the Freeman’s Journal. A plan to find work for Charlie as tenor at Sandymount Church fell down, as did the attempt to get permission from Yeats to publish a translation of The Countess Cathleen which Joyce had made with Nicolò Vidacovich earlier that year. (Yeats wished him to use the revised version.) Face to face with Roberts again, Joyce’s arguments in favour of the collection as it stood resulted in a demand for a bond of £1,000 to indemnify the publisher against libel. Joyce had consulted his friend Tom Kettle who examined the stories and decided that they were harmful to Ireland and promised to ‘slate’ it if it appeared. He particularly disparaging “An Encounter” while admitting of the child molester in it that ‘we all knew him’. Joyce now considered his options alone in Roberts’s back room and agreed to delete the story. On 18 August he took Padraic Colum with him to Roberts’s office for support and suffered a definite set-back when Colum, reading “An Encounter” on the spot, called it ‘a terrible story’. Fortified by this, the Maunsel publisher demanded the wholesale omission of several other stories.

Joyce next engaged George Lidwell, a solicitor, who wrote a damning legal opinion warning that the Vigilance Committee would set upon the collection. He afterward modified this, suggesting that probably no one would risk suing; but since his letter was not addressed to Roberts, the latter could safely ignore it and Lidwell - who wrote it in a pub - proved unwilling to make good the error. Roberts then got his own opinion from Charles Weekes in London who warned of libel charges by the businesses named and advised two sureties of £500. At this point Joyce pawned his watch and chain to stay in Dublin. On 30 August, Roberts - by now toying with him - responded to Joyce’s point-by-point defence by demanding that he rewrite whole paragraphs in “Grace”, “Ivy Day” and “The Boarding House” as well as changing every proper name in the book. When, on 5 September, Roberts finally offered to sell the galleys of Dubliners for £30, Joyce accepted on a ten-day bill to be paid from Trieste, planning to publish the collection under his own imprint which he would call The Liffey Press. (He had thought of Jervis Press but had been warned off by Roberts, who ran his printing-house in the street of that name.) At this point Joyce appears to have secured one set ‘by a ruse’, as he latter wrote. In the event, the printer, Falconer, refused to part with the galleys when asked on 10 September, and on the morrow he destroyed 1,000 sets of the so-called 1910 Maunsel Edition of Dubliners by guillotine. Joyce left Dublin with Nora and Lucia on the same evening, stopping briefly in London to offer the book to the English Review and Mills & Boon.

At Flushing Station in Holland he wrote “Gas from a Burner”, a verse-invective replete with allusions to fatuous and supine practices of Dublin publishers and literati, to be printed in Trieste shortly after his return there. In the meantime Stanislaus had dealt with a new crisis when the landlord decided to evict the Joyces more or less immediately. He cabled to Joyce ‘Come without delay’ on 25 August. Faced with the imminent eviction of Eileen, he rented a new apartment at 4 Via Donato Bramante and moved their possessions into it on 1 September. Arriving back on 15 September 1912, the Joyces moved into the the flat where they would spend the remainder of their time in Trieste. In Spring of 1913, Joyce was able to furnish it with the family portraits which his father had passed over to him and which the son had first had restored by Daniel Egan of Ormond Quay in Dublin. Taking up the proffered post at the Scuola Revoltella Superiori de Commercio, he was able to continue afternoon lessons at the homes of private pupils - among them Amalia Popper, the daughter of a Jewish businessman called Leopoldo. The girl had already become the object of those yearnings which supplied the subject of a new collection of ‘epiphanies’ carefully inscribed on eight large sheets between 1911 and 1914 and ultimately to be published in 1968 as Giacomo Joyce - the ironic name he used to compass the idea of the slightly-aged lover faced with the bitter-sweet discovery that ‘youth has an end’. Another student was the lawyer Paolo Cuzzi, who introduced Joyce to Freud’s acount of verbal slips in Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis, which he was then reading. Lessons with Cuzzi’s younger sister and her teenage friends ended abruptly when Signora Cuzzi caught Joyce sliding down the bannisters at the end of the lesson with the girls descending by the same means.

Joyce returned to lecturing with a series of ten Monday-night talks on Hamlet at the Università Popolare given between 11 November 1912 and 11 February 1913. Refusals from Martin Secker and Elkin Mathews, to whom he sent Dubliners, came in respectively in December 1912 and April 1913. Throughout 1913 his preparatory work on Exiles and Ulysses continued alongside Giacomo Joyce (several epiphanies from which would be employed in the novel when he had resolved against issuing it as a discrete literary text). Joyce had ceased looking for a publisher for Dubliners when Grant Richard wrote from London on 25 November asking for another sight of the book. This unexpected change of heart resulted in his using page-proofs from the Maunsel edition as copy-text (though not the last that Falconer had printed for Roberts) to produce the first edition. Richards’s page proofs reached Joyce in April 1914 and the book was published in 1,250 copies on 15 June 1914. In the month following Richards’s letter, Joyce also heard from Ezra Pound to whom W. B. Yeats had mentioned him. Joyce had written to Yeats a year before asking for help in persuading Martin Secker to publish his collection and subsequently reopened discussions about a translation of The Countess Cathleen. Shortly after Pound’s open invitation to send anything he had arrived, Joyce heard from him against with the news that Yeats had dug up a copy of “I Hear An Army” which Pound liked it so much he wanted it for his Imagiste anthology. Joyce set about revising the first chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and sent it to Pound in mid-January 1914, along with the manuscript of Dubliners. Pound was so impressed that, even before sending an appreciative response, he set about placing the novel with The Egoist, an originally feminist and now generally progressive journal edited by Dora Marsden and Harriet Shaw Weaver (the latter taking over wholly after June 1914). Pound’s alacrity was such that Joyce’s explanation of the publishing history of Dubliners, which included his letter to Sinn Féin written in August 1911, appeared as “A Curious History” in the January issue of The Egoist. The first chapter of A Portrait began to appear in the next, actually coming out on Joyce’s birthday and thus establishing a tradition that he would adhere to for the rest of his career.

All of this enabled him to ask Richards for an immediate decision in a letter of 19 January, resulting in an undertaking to publish Dubliners between boards given on 29 January 1914. The agreement signed in March 1914 committed Joyce to taking the first 120 copies and gave Richard first option on his next work. Meanwhile serialisation of A Portrait in The Egoist proceeded apace between February and August 1914, in which issue there occurred a hiatus marked by asterisks in place of a passage that offended the printer (viz., ‘Fresh Nelly is waiting on you’) before serialisation resumed under a different printer in November 1914. Joyce sent the final episode of the novel to Pound in August 1915 and this duly appeared in The Egoist on 1 September 1915. On the other side of the Atlantic, Pound managed to place “A Boarding House” and “A Little Cloud” in H. L. Mencken’s Smart Set (May 1914), though B. W. Huebsch, the publisher, expressed no interest in bringing out the collection as a book when Joyce contacted him. On 1 March 1914 - St. David’s Day - he began the long-prepared writing of Ulysses though without abandoning the composition of Exiles, which had developed its own momentum by this time. 1914 was thus Joyce’s annus mirabilis, yet it was also the year in which European war broke out. In January 1914 Stanislaus was arrested as an outspoken irredentist; with the outbreak of war in August, he was interned. Notwithstanding their British citizenship Joyce and Nora remained unaffected until Italy declared war on Germany on 15 May. The Austrian authorities then began a partial evacuation of Trieste. Eileen had married Frantisek Schaurek, a cashier at the Zivnostenska Banka, in April 1915 and now they moved to Prague where the authorities suggested that the Joyces join then. Joyce reluctantly secured visas from the US Consulate then catering for British citizens and, armed with these, he was permitted to leave Austria by train on condition of remaining non-combatant, through the influence of his pupils Baron Ralli and Count Sordina. The Joyces went to Switzerland leaving most of their possessions behind. Reaching Zurich on 30 June 1915, they lodged at the Gasthaus Hoffnung where Joyce and Nora had first share a bed together eleven years before. With him he had “Calypso”, the first episode of Ulysses to be written, complete in manuscript up to ‘kidneys of wheat’, according to his first biographer Herbert Gorman.

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