James Joyce: 1915-1917

Joyce had not received a salary from the Commercial School since Summer of 1914 when the teachers were called up in such numbers that the management was obliged to close though in January 1915 he had taken on work as English correspondent to the Gioachino Venezinani paint factory for a hundred crowns per month. On entering Switzerland, however, he was virtually without funds (and no Stanislaus to turn to). Nora’s uncler Michael Healy sent £15 for their support on 29 June, and with this in hand they were able to move to 7 Reinhardstrasse two weeks after their arrival. By 15 October they were more comfortably esconced at 10 Kreutzstrase when Nora’s uncle sent a further £9. Through the solicitude of Pound and Yeats, who recognised Joyce’s plight, he also received £75 Royal Literary Fund in in three quarterly installments, commencing in July 1915. (Yeats faced down Edmund Gosse’s indignation at the idea of proposing support for a pro-German writer, as he thought him.) An encounter with the pacificist Prof. Siegmund Feilbogen, editor-proprietor of the bilingual International Review, resulted in Joyce’s taking on editorial work for some months at the end of 1915 before the journal folded. In March 1916 the Joyces moved to 54 Seefeldstrasse, the first flat of any size that they occupied in Zurich, though not much to their liking, and subsequently to a nearby address at 73 Seefeldstrasse, the former flat of Paul Ruggiero’s father in early 1917. Although he never managed to retain funds for long, his financial position went from strength to strength during the war years due the indulgence of his pupils (who often paid for lessons that they did not actually receive) and the munificence of patrons. The sum of £100 reached Joyce from the Civil Pension List in August 1916, while Pound secured a further sum of £2 weekly from Society of Authors. In late February 1917, Joyce received notification from an English solicitor that he was the recipient of a quarterly income of £50 from an anonymous admirer, who later proved to be Miss Weaver. During 1 March 1918-October 1919, he was the beneficiary of a monthly stipend of 1,000 francs p.m. from Mrs Edith Rockefeller MacCormick, then living in Zurich. The payments ended after he had failed to comply with her request that he allow himself to be psychoanalysed by Karl Jung. In May 1919, while at Lake Maggiore, he received a telegram from Nora to say that the the sum of £5,000 in War Loan Bonds has been settled on him at 5% per annum (also from Miss Weaver as he soon learnt). All of this Joyce accepted as his due, spending his time increasingly at operas and concerts with friends such as Ottocaro Weiss. At first Joyce frequenting the Club des Étrangers, the Restaurant zum Roten Kreuz and Café Terrasse; later he dined much at the Zimmerleuten Restaurant with Frank Budgen - a former sailor and painter whom he met in 1918 and who subsequently wrote The Making of Ulysses (1934) guided by Joyce himself. At the height of such these regalements the Joyce children used complain that they were being left at home ‘like pigs in a sty’.

There were mad-cap schemes in Zurich also: in Spring of 1917, Joyce was caught up in a plan concocted by one Jules Martin, who proposed that they form a film company for the covert purpose of extracting funds from wealthy women intent on appearing in their films. Before the year was out, however, Martin had been arrested for embezzlement and was finally revealed as Juda de Vries, the son of distinguished gynecologist who wrote to Joyce in gratitude for his very real kindness when the miscreant was imprisoned at Lausanne. Irregular living - Joyce was drinking absinthe at the time - led to increasingly frequent attacks of iritis which he had first experienced in Trieste and later in Dublin during the Summer of 1912. In mid-August he was diagnosed with glaucoma and synechia and on 24 August 1917 Ernst Sidler performed an iridectomy on his right eye. During convalescence Joyce suffered a nervous collapse and was adviced to visit Locarno where he stayed from October 1917 to January 1918, chiefly at the Pension Daheim. Yet throughout this period writing of Ulysses went on relentlessly. Friends were constantly drawn in as conversational sounding boards, or else used as couriers and typists. One such was Claud Sykes, an actor whom he met through the abortive film-company scheme. During November-December 1917, Joyce sent back to Zurich the first three chapters of Ulysses. Sykes was sent to borrow a typewriter from Joyce’s pupil Goldschmidt and with it produced the typescript which was forwarded to Pound for serial publication..

Joyce’s reputation as a writer of stature was advancing steadily all the while through the dogged literary networking of his supporters. In May 1914 Grant Richards had regretfully passed up on the option to publish A Portrait due to the dwindling wartime market and in July 1915 the novel was rejected by Secker. By this time Joyce had the services of the literary agent, J. B. Pinker, who also worked for H. G. Wells and who had offered his services in a letter of 10 February 1915. Pinker submitted Exiles to the Stage Society who rejected it in July, then asked to see it again; it would be a year before he could get them to return the typescript. Through Pinker, too, Joyce secured an account of Richards’s sales of Dubliners: disappointingly, by mid-1915 only 525 copies had been sold. On 30 November 1915 Miss Weaver offered to publish A Portrait if no other publisher can be found and six weeks later sent Joyce £50 in payment for the serialisation of his ‘wonderful book’ in The Egoist. In January 1916 Edward Garnett - who later promoted writers of a more conventionally Irish sort - radically misjudged the originality of A Portrait, regarding it as a formless piece of work, and rejected it for Duckworth. Reeling from this, Pinker and Pound made plans to approach Laurie T. Werner and John Lane but Miss Weaver still seemed the best option; and, following an advance of £25, Joyce instructed Pinker to place A Portrait with her on her own terms. Although she was determined that it should appear without the lacunae that the willing printer imposed on the serialised version, no printer could be found in the wake of Lawrence’s The Rainbow. At this juncture Huebsch agreed to publish Joyce’s novel in New York if Miss Weaver would take 750 set of sheets from him and, with this agreement in place by October, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man appeared on 29 December 1916 in New York and 22 January 1917 in London.

In A Portrait Joyce had brought to its furthest development the ‘embryological’ method of tracing the development of his hero’s ‘soul’ that he had dimly glimpsed in the “1904 Portrait” essay. A good deal of pseudo-Aristotelian pondering of quidditas and entelechy - the latter a term that was to exercised Thomas Mann in Doctor Faustus also - stood between the first halting steps in this direction and its convincing achievement. In the end it was a stylistic rather than a philosophical invention. In successive chapters of A Portrait of the Artist, the style follows the contours of the young man’s mind as he embraces by turns religious ardour and literary aestheticism and finally discovers in himself the capacity and the will to ‘forge in the smithy of [his] soul the uncreated conscience of [his] race’. This sentence, serving as a climax in the last chapter of the novel, is very like another that Joyce actually wrote to Nora during his struggles with George Roberts in 1912 when he spoke of ‘creating a conscience’ of this ‘wretched race’ despite the perfidy that surrounded him. A Portrait embodies the idea of the artist as a hero - in fact, ‘the hero as man of letters’, in Thomas Carlyle’s famous phrase. To draw out the line of his own artistic development any further, however, Joyce had to wrench himself free from the unlimited egoism of Stephen Dedalus. It is for that reason that he told Frank Budgen, during the writing of Ulysses, that Stephen has ‘a shape that can’t be changed’: in other words, by 1914 (at the latest) he was already a dead letter. It is difficult to know exactly when Joyce arrived at this new estimate of the character whose creation and development had engaged him for ten years before he penned ‘1904-1914’ at the bottom of the last page of A Portrait. Certainly there are signs in that text that he regarded the messianic self-exaltation of his alter ego as a dangerous show of hubris. What other intention could he have had, for instance, when he counterpointed Stephen’s moment of destiny on Dollymount Strand with the off-stage cries of his fellow school-boys: ‘Look out!’ ‘Oh, Cripes, I’m drownded!’ These ironic cries comically foreshadow the ‘lapwing poet’ that Stephen will become in the opening chapters of Ulysses where he is to to be met with more in the character of Icarus than the masterful ‘old artificer’ Daedalus. (Likewise, the veiled etymological precision of ‘Cripes’ - from corpus Christi -suggests a lethal messianic mission.)

Yet, along with the shift in values that brought Leopold Bloom into existence as a counterbalance to the youthful hero, the abandonment of a privileged standpoint from which the social world could be surveyed and judged, plunged Joyce into an epistemological maelström. He was, of course, never seriously tempted to adopt the narratorial voice of an urbane, knowing author - the standpoint conventionally espoused by the gentleman English author. Besides its inherent factitiousness as an intellectual posture, such a position would be fatal in a writer who was neither English nor, in the received sense of the term, a gentleman. (Joyce explicitly declared that he had nothing to learn from the English novelists.) Somewhat to the contrary: the fissional structure of the colonial world from which he sprang dictated that the only authentic representation of reality in language must follow the contours of a divided world, a riven Logos. In Ulysses, he played out the logic of this inheritance in an absolutely remorseless manner. None of Joyce original supporters - Pound, Eliot and Miss Weaver - were able to accept that stylistic experimentalist should be taken so far and there was a parting of the ways after the “Sirens” chapter in which his fuga per canonem struck Pound as wilful and absurd. Joyce on the other hand was perfectly earnest in his perception that what we know as reality, like religious doctrine, is founded ‘on the incertitude of the void’ - the void being the phenomenal diversity of human perceptions, points of view, Weltanschaungen, habits of expression, intentionalities and ideolects. This idea, in its intense relativity, is not sustainable without a corresponding belief that the relativised order of experience stands in some way for an underlying spiritual unity which is only accessible through the multiplex channels of living language. Just as A Portrait led out into the radically socialised world of Ulysses, Ulysses led on to the cosmic universe of Finnegans Wake, in which all diversity is bound up again into a vast system of correspondences: mythic, stereotypical, accidental, homophonic, but always testimony to the ‘continual affirmation of the human spirit’. The plot and execution of Ulysses makes it clear that the human spirit can be affirmed by two means, thought and action; and by two types, the artist and the citizen. When, in the penultimate chapter, Joyce represents Stephen and Bloom at the moment before parting pouring out their ‘sequent, then simultaneous urinations’ by the faint glow of a bedroom window, he is able to square the circle by demonstrating that what seems divided is actually united and what seems united is perpetually falling into division. Significantly, the two are standing in the garden, dimly lit by ‘[t]he heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit’ - an arrangment that recalls the end of Dante’s Purgatori, which is marked by a similar astrological allusion: ‘Puro, e dispto a salire alle stelle [purified and prepared to ascend to the stars].’ At the same time the faintly limned presence of Molly in the position of a moon - and hence triggering the question: ‘what special affinities appeared [...] to exist between the moon and woman?’ - serves as a symbol of the eternal female whose sensual affirmation in the last word of the novel (‘yes’) stands for the continual exitus et reditus of human love, ‘the word known to all men’. From that symbolic trope to the ‘vicus of recirculation’ that governs Finnegans Wake is but a difference of technique, not of conception.

From late 1917 Ezra Pound’s preferred literary venue was the Little Review edited by Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, and it was this journal which brought out Ulysses in between March 1918 and December 1920, serialising rather more than thirteen of the eighteen chapters of the novel in monthly issues with hardly an intermission. There is no doubt that the process of serialisation itself contributed to the rapid complexification of stylistic methods that bestowed on Ulysses its contemporary character as the work of literary experimentalism par excellence. In each episode Joyce plainly sought to carry formal invention further than before and was increasingly obliged to explain to his patrons and supporters the reasons for those methods which were so much at variance with the Pound’s promotion of him as the nearest thing we have to Flaubertian prose in English’. In August 1919, Joyce wrote to Miss Weaver: ‘I understand that you may begin to regard the various styles of the episodes with dismay and prefer the initial style’, continuing: ‘But in the compass of one day to compress all these wanderings and clothe them in the form of this day is for me possible only by such variation which, I beg you to believe, is not capricious.’ In September 1920, he took up the case for the defence again: ‘[Ulysses] is my epic of two races and at the same time the cycle of the human body as well as a little story of a day’, adding: ‘[i]t is also a kind of encyclopaedia. My intention is not only to render myth sub specie temporis nostri but also to allow each adventure (that is, each hour, every organ, every art being interconnected and interconnected and interrelated in the somatic scheme of the whole) to condition and even to create its own technique.’ June 1921 found him still struggling to justify the daunting texture of the novel: ‘The task I set myself technically in writing a book from eighteen different points of view and in as many styles, all apparently unknown or undiscovered by my fellow tradesmen, that and the nature of the legend chosen[,] would be enough to upset anyone’s mental balance.’ In speaking with Frank Budgen, Joyce nevertheless insisted that though the methods were complicated, the thought was always simple.

Apart from his governing theme - the necessary place of love in human society - a leading sign of this was his steady adherence to the robust idea of a Homeric parallel, taking the simplified narrative in Charles Lamb’s The Adventures of Ulysses as a template for a very modern novel. Behind this lay a very real conviction that Odysseus, not Jesus Christ (or any other hero) was the proper model for modern man: sceptical yet able, longing for home when away and aching to wander when at home; uxurious but not immune to erotic stimulus and female blandishment. Such a conception involved an imaginative and occasionally jejune review of the Odyssey and all related texts, in antiquity and later times. Hence Joyce was studiously interested in the researches of Victor Bérard among other pioneers of modern archaeology and classical exegesis. At times his hermeneutic method was unashamedly whimsical as when he turns the brand that Odysseus employs to blind the one-eyed giant into a ‘knockmedown cigar’. At times it he parlayed questionable etymology as when he glossed Odysseus’s name as ‘Outis’, No-man, and hence ‘Everyman’, or read the the term ‘syphilis’ as deriving from swine-love (su philos - rather than the etymologically orthodox syn phileis) for purposes of the “Circe” episode; but all of that simply demonstrates that he kept his gaze fixed on the image of a kind of modern man who, though unaided by anything more dogmatically assured than his own temperate belief in the superiority of kindness to cruelty, tolerance to hatred, and pacificism to war, can face life’s challenges with adequate understanding and practical assurance. Framing this idea in the “Ithaca” chapter, Joyce proffered his most ingenious, perspicacious and light-hearted contrivance when he places Leopold Bloom in the predicament of a man who has left his latch-key in his other trousers and must therefore resort to letting himself in at the unlocked kitchen door by dropping into the front area of his terrace house. Just when Stephen is affirming his own nature as ‘an animal proceeding syllogistically from the known to the unknown and a conscious rational reagent between a micro- and a macrocosm ineluctably constructed upon the incertitude of the void’, Bloom finds himself ‘comforted’ by the apprehension ‘that as a competent keyless citizen he ‘had proceeded energetically from the unknown to the known through the incertitude of the void.’

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