James Joyce: 1918-1919

The serialisation of Ulysses commenced in issues for March, April and May 1918 with the opening chapters (“Telemachus”, “Nestor” and “Proteus”) that send Stephen Dedalus off on his hegira from the Martello Tower in Sandycove, where he has slept, to the school in Dalkey where he teaches for the last time and onwards to the city, ‘walking into eternity along Sandymount Strand’. “Calypso” and “Lotus-Eaters”, appearing in June and July, introduced the reader to Leopold and Marion Bloom (the latter at first a mere pronoun in the former’s mind), starting the day at their terrace house in Eccles Street, and subsequently traced Bloom’s trip across the city to the Westland Row post office to collect a letter from his clandestine correspondent Martha - who writes revealingly ‘I do not like that other world’ for ‘other word’ - before following him into the precincts of the Turkish Baths at Lincoln Place adjacent to the Trinity’s College Park. It is in the course of the second episode that Bloom accidentally pronounces the name of the race-horse Throwaway that is to win the Ascot Gold Cup in the hearing of Bantam Lyons, who therefore promulgates the rumour that Bloom has had the ‘hot tip’ up his sleeve all day. The “Hades” episode, set at Glasnevin Cemetery where after a cab-drive with several other mourners Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam, was published in September 1918; “Aeolus”, in which he visits the newspaper offices on an advertising errand and crosses paths with Stephen for the first time, appeared the month after. “Lestrygonians”, the lunch-time episode in which Leopold traverse the commercial centre of Dublin observing all around him before consuming a sandwich and burgundy in Davy Byrne’s on Duke Street, appeared in January-March 1919 and was the first episode to raise real misgivings about the ‘arsthitic’ tendency of Ulysses, as Pound called it - though to Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf were beginning to think the author ‘low-bred’ and a ‘literary corner-boy’ for all his self-evident genius. “Scylla and Charybdis”, printed in April-May 1919, takes Stephen Dedalus to the National Library where, much as Buck Mulligan has foretold in the Tower, he ‘proves by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father’. In sober truth, he tries to demonstrate that the playwright’s narratives were spun from his own entrails and that - as Stephen later asserts under the form of a rhetorical question: ‘What went forth to the ends of the world to traverse not itself [...] which it itself was ineluctably preconditioned to become[?]’ The same process of artistic self-realisation presumably applies to Stephen while no alert reader can miss the smuggled allusion to Leopold Bloom - Joyce’s second alter ego - in the commercial traveller of Stephen’s unwitting formula.

”Wandering Rocks”, serialised in June-July 1919, is a tour-de-force exercise in literary logistics by means of which sundry characters including Stephen, Bloom, Simon Dedalus, Corny Kelleher, the Lord Lieutenant proceeding to Sandymount to open Mirus’s Bazaar, and the blind stripling make their dutiful and undutiful hegiras from point to point across the city, carefully timed by Joyce with a sort of literary stop-watch. He actually sought to know from friends in Dublin how long the different itineraries would take and the chapter is one of those in which his intense reliance on Hely Thom’s Dublin Directory for 1904 is most tellingly apparent. In “Sirens”, printed in the August and September issues, stylistic experimentalism begins in earnest. Moving as the chapter must seem in the light of Bloom’s anguish over the assignation between his wife and Blazes Boylan just then occurring, or in the way Joyce makes songs and arias that clung around the hearts of Dubliners of his father’s class do the work of transmitting that anguish and its erotic counterpart, the technique of fuga per canonem which dominates the chapter remains a transparent artifice based in a questionable analogy between the musical and literary arts. It was, however, the suffuse eroticism - focussing on all the attributes and activities of lips - that alarmed some contemporary readers and thrilled others. “Cyclops”, appearing between November 1919 to March 1920, is a brilliant parody of Irish nationalism in the personage of Michael Cusack, founder of the GAA (here called ‘the citizen’) and the Irish-Ireland mania of which he is a prime representative. The thersitic manner of the unidentified narrator and the ‘gigantism’ of the mock-heroic passages in which the heroic style of ancient Irish legends are subjected to hilarious and heterogeneous inflation, amounting to a satire on ill-judged Celtic and Catholic enthusiasms, serves ideally to frame Bloom’s honest if simplistic advocacy of ‘love [...] the opposite of hatred’ as a redemptive force in human societies, and hence a critique of narrow nationalism.

After “Cyclops” came “Nausicaa”, serialised in April to August 1920. Joyce commenced the chapter in Zurich and continued it in Trieste following his removal there in October 1919. Following a period of three weeks during which he neither read, wrote or spoke (by his own account), he resumed working on the chapter in November and finished it in time for his thirty-eighth birthday in February 1920. The episode centres on Gerty McDowell, a crippled girl (like Marthe Fleischmann) who leads Leopold Bloom on through the ‘wondrous revealment’ of her ‘nansook knickers’ and other attractions from the lingerie department. For this portrait of Irish-accented feminine false consciousness, Joyce evolved the technique that he characterised in a letter to Frank Budgen as a ‘namby-pampy jammy marmalady drawsery (alto là) style’, examples of which he solicited from Aunt Josephine in the form of novelettes and hymbooks sent from Dublin. The “Oxen of the Sun”, coming next, remained on hand until May 1920 when he rewrote an earlier version that he had sent to Pound in October 1919. Published in September to December 1920, the episode proved to be the last serialised portion of the novel. In it Joyce took Stephen and Bloom to the National Maternity Hospital on very different pretexts and there enacted the embryological development of English. The pastiches that Joyce wrote of successive samples in George Saintsbury’s A History of English Prose Rhythm (1912), doubled as tenors for the narrative in which the medical students argue the pros-and-cons of contraception and other matters obstretical and historical in their common room before reeling out to the dives of Nighttown. The result is a literary fabric which he frankly admitted to be the ‘most difficult [...] to interpret and to write’ in his odyssey of style so far. It is also the most resolutely Aristotelian. T. S. Eliot thought of it as a revelation of the ‘futility of all styles’ - a judgement related to his own conviction that the ‘mythic method’ of Ulysses was intended as ‘a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history’. It is far from certain that Joyce shared this High-Church fretting about the relativism which he visited on the English language.

The composition of “Circe” - a Walpurgisnacht in which Stephen and Bloom confront their inner demons in the brothel quarter of Dublin-engaged Joyce from June 1920 to December 1920, spanning the period of his removal with his family to Paris in October 1920. Along with the remaining three chapters of the novel it was not to appear in print until the publication of the completed novel in February 1922. “Eumaeus” follows Stephen and Bloom from Nighttown to the cabman’s shelter where questions of history and politics visit their tired minds. It is, in effect, Joyce’s nearest approach to Bouvard et Pecuchet of Flaubert in the novel, a sampler of clichés and misleading information from the social and political consciousness of contemporary Ireland together with peculiarly Joycean vision of Charles Stewart Parnell and the Invincibles. “Eumaeus”, “Ithaca” is conducted in cathetical form - a jejune encyclopaedia crossed with family charades and tinged with cosmological awe. It brings Stephen and Bloom to the kitchen of Bloom’s house, where cocoa is consumed before the younger man goes out into the night to become (presumably) the author of Ulysses ten years after. In “Penelope”, Joyce created a virtually unpunctuated stream of consciousness in which the unexpurgated contents of her mind flow around the days events and those of earlier days, finally returning to Leopold who she recalls choosing because he ‘understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him.’ Her life-affirming ‘yes’ added in October 1921, is therefore conditional but none the less an affirmation for all that. After long meditation, Joyce had written Ulysses in four years, most of it in Zurich during the First World War - giving Tom Stoppard grounds for the retort he puts in the novelist’s mouth in Travesties (1974), where he rebuts the usual question about his contribution to that event with the answer, ‘I wrote Ulysses. What did you do?’

When Joyce returned to Zurich in January 1919, he settled at 38 Universitätstrasse with his family. At the end of February, he received notice from a Zurich bank that a monthly deposit of 1,000 francs had been set up in his favour. Charlotte Sauermann, a soprano at the Zurich opera who used to visit to sing with him at home, was able to inform him that the donor was Mrs Harold Edith Rockefeller MacCormick, reputedly the wealthiest woman in Zurich - and one whom Joyce had wished, with Martin and Sykes, to recruit to to play the part of Bertha in Exiles. In the event the support continued into late 1919 but was abruptly terminated when Joyce refused to by psychoanalysed by her other protegée Karl Jung. Joyce was always sceptical about psychoanalysis and rudely caricatured its chief exponents as the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Zurich. In Finnegans Wake, which is arguably based on Freudian dream-language, he has more fun at their expense when he describes Earwicker’s daughter Issy as ‘jung and easily freudened’. At other times he objected to all the talk about the unconscious: ‘what do they know about the conscious mind?’ (In the Wake, again, the bully says, ‘Get yourself psychoanolised!’ and artist answers, ‘I can psoakoonaloose myself any time I want’).

Claud Sykes now persuaded Joyce to help him form a theatrical company which began by mounting a production of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at Theater zur Kaufleuten, Pelikanstrasse on 29 April 1918. Joyce payed 30 frs to the professional actors in involved and 10 frs to the amateurs to cover their expenses. But the success of the evening, which left the partners in profit, was considerably due to the acting of Henry Carr, an Englishman with a minor post in the Consulate. Carr was upset to receive so small a share and became involved with Joyce in a litigious round involving the value of the tickets Carr was charged with selling, the expense of the trousers he wore to play Algernon, and insults traded in the process. In keeping with his principle of going to the top, Joyce wrote to Sir Horace Rumbold, the head of the diplomatic corp in Switzerland, and to Asquith, the British Prime Minister, complaining at the conduct of their Zurich representatives. Doggedly pursuing the legal suits to their conclusion, Joyce won the first case on 15 October 1918 but lost the second on 11 February 1919, with costs and damages to the tune of 120frs. (These were ultimately collected by bailiffs at his apartment.) Fortunately there soon arrived gifts to the value of $1,000 from millionaire-friends of Padraic and Mary Colum in New York, of which Joyce paid $200 towards the upkeep of English Players, with an offer to support them further. In Spring 1919 also, he attempted to mount Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at the Municipal Theatre but was predictably hindered by the British Consulate, confirming him in his contempt for the officials whom - as he boldly informed them - were paid by his father to look after his interests in Switzerland.

The Carr affair in all its ramifications provided Joyce with an array of enemies in the foreign office whom he would later pillory in Ulysses, Carr serving as a model for the coarse and belligerent soldier in the “Circe” episode and Rumbold as the semi-literate the hangman whose letter of tender is read out in the “Cyclops” episode. (Carr was a private soldier not an officer, as he purported, before being invalided out of the British Army.) Notwithstanding Carr’s defection from the ranks of the English Players, Joyce took the Players on tour to Lausanne, Geneva, Montreux and Interlaken with a stand-in playing Algernon. In mid-June the company staged Synge’s Riders to the Sea, with Nora as Maurya, in a triple-bill with Barrie’s The Twelve-Pound Look and Shaw’s The Dark Lady of the Sonnets. In September Mrs Warren’s Profession was produced also. At the hour when his court case with Carr was approaching, Joyce choses not to play the part of Richard Rowan in his own play Exiles which Sykes had offered to direct but which the company were less sure of. It was thus deferred in favour of Stanley Houghton’s play Hindle Wakes, which went up on 3 December 1918 and lost money mainly due to the strictures of martial law then prevailing in Zurich. Joyce next attempted to organised a production of Purcell’s Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at the Municipal Theatre in Zurich, but this was hindered by lack of support from British Consulate. In 1919 he hoped that Martyn’s The Heather Field and Yeats’s Land of Hearts’s Desire would be produced by the Players but in the event the piece played was The Mollusc, a comedy by Hubert Henry Davies. His own play Exiles reached the stage in a German translation by Hannah von Mettal, made at the instigation of Stefan Zweig. Produced as Verbannte in Munich on 7 August 1919, it sayed up one night only was adjudged ‘a flop’ by Joyce to forestall criticism.

In December 1918 Joyce had seen an attractive young woman with a slight limp entering an apartment house near his own in Universitätstrasse. He was so strongly reminded of a girl he had seen on the strand at Clontarf in 1898 (the model for the Dollymount episode of A Portrait) that he felt compelled to contact her by letter, begging her to meet him. As a flimpsy disguise he carefully employed Greek “e’s” in the flirtatious correspondence that ensued - doubtless thinking of Parnell’s famous rejoinder, ‘I have not written an “s” that way since ’78’. In February 1919 Joyce borrowed August Suter’s studio (then at the disposal of Frank Budgen), for a candle-lit assignation on his birthday. It appears that Marthe was glad of his attentions but did not welcome physical contact either from him or her protector, Herr Rudolf Hiltpold. When Joyce eventually came to meet this personage in June, the latter blamed him for unsettling her - she was now in a sanitorium - and demanded the return of all her letters. (Joyce called him ‘Mr. Vortmund’ in his blow-by-blow account to Budgen.) In May he and Budgen made a trip to Locarno. This was made memorable by an encounter with an aged Anglo-Irish “Circe” in the shape of the Baroness St. Leger living on Isola da Brissago in Lago Maggiore who presented Joyce with parcels of erotica formerly the property of a Greek lover. Though fascinated by the contents, Joyce was unable to accept the gift. When a telegram arrived from Nora announcing that £5,000 in War Loan Bonds had been settled on him, he quit Locarno and Budgen without notice. The gift - which would start to flow in the form of an interest of 5% per annum - was from Miss Weaver again, as she admitted in a letter of July 1919 in response to his probings (the solicitors having used a female pronoun in his letter of enquiry). Before that income became available, however, Mrs McCormick abruptly terminated her support in early October, remaining adamant in spite of her former protegés epistolary pleadings. Unjustly blamed Ottocaro Weiss for the change of heart, Joyce broke off his friendship, though not before they had discovered the white wine Fendant de Sion which they called “The Archduchess” for scatological reasons. Renewed acquaintance with poverty in the lapse between the receipt of Mrs McCormick’s money and the arrival of Miss Weaver’s dividends accelerated Joyce’s plans to leave Zurich and on 19 October he returned to Trieste with his family, moving in with the Schaureks at 2 via Sanità, where Stanislaus was already esconced having been released from internment shortly before.

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