James Joyce: 1920-1923

To Eileen, Nora admitted that her husband was entirely without funds though shortly Huebsch provided an advance through Pinker, a letter to Mrs McCormick imploring her to reinstate the stipend having failed. Joyce resumed teaching very limited hours at Scuola Superiore di Commercio Revoltella and socialised with Otto Schmitz, Otto Schwarz, Silvio Benco (now ed. of Piccolo della Sierra), the Francinis - though Clotilde Francini remarked ‘Joyce non è piu quello, finding his manner altered. Relations with Stanislaus were cooler also; indeed, the two brothers were never to be close again, and when Joyce moved to Paris ten months later Stanislaus did not trouble to see him off at the station. The view that Joyce had exploited his younger brother over many years, combined with a growing disappointment with the mature productions of Joyce’s literary talent, were beginning to hardening in Stanislaus’s mind. Joyce’s view of matters is sufficiently portrayed in the Shem/Shaun relationship of Finnegans Wake, in which the over-regulated and authoritarian temperament of the one is pitted against the chaotic yet creative temperament of the one. Since Stanislaus was uninterested in his writing at this juncture (or only to the extent that criticised its lack of human warmth, as he saw it), Joyce turned to Frank Budgen, still in Zurich, as his chief interlocutor, imploring him to visit and even offering to pay half the fare. In fact Budgen was soon to move to Cornwall and though he did occasionally visit Paris, his place as sounding-board would be replaced in time by Stuart Gilbert. Before departing, Joyce received the sum of money required to buy Stanislaus a Burberry raincoat in Paris, but this was spent on his own necessitates and finally reimbursed at a much reduced rate in March 1922.

In early June 1920 with a thousand hours of work on “Oxen of the Sun” behind him, Joyce accepted Pound’s invitation to meet at Sirmione on Lago di Garda, where the latter had taken his wife for the climate. Joyce set out abortively on the 5 June but was prevented from travelling by train disruptions. A quick exchange of put him back on course and on 8 June he set out again bringing his son Giorgio (by then over six feet tall), to ‘act as a lightning conductor’. The meeting was a success and Pound, who found Joyce ‘stubborn as a mule, or an Irishman’ but ‘not at all unreasonable’, persuaded him to consider moving to Paris. He also passed to him a suit and pair of boots - the latter unfortunately too small. Returning to Trieste, Joyce very quickly prepared for his departure and set out for Paris with his family and a not undue amount of luggage in the first days of July, stopping at Venice and Milan, then onwards to Dijon through Switzerland, before reaching the French capital on 8 July. The Joyces found an inexpensive hotel at 9 rue de l’Université but soon moved to a tiny flat close to the Bois de Boulogne which Ludmilla Bloch-Savitsky offered them, having been persuaded by Pound to undertake the French translation of A Portrait. (It would appear as Dedalus in March 1924.) Though without income, Joyce could not bring himself to turn to English teaching, which he was never in fact to undertake again. Pound’s personal generosity afforded a safety net as did the provision of furniture for the ‘match-box’ they now occupied by Jenny Serruy, who also volunteered to translate Exiles. New acquaintances were shamelessly touched for loans, and dining was generally at others’ expense and - again largely through Pound’s publicity skills - the arrival of the author of Ulysses in Paris afforded numerous opportunities to elicit emergency support. The world of Parisian letters began to make a place for Joyce also. Within three days of reaching the city, he had met Paul Valéry at the home of Natalie Clifford Barney (who unwisely rebuked him for his professed dislike of Racine and Corneille). In John Rodker he found a genial admirer who would become the nominal publisher of the Egoist edition of Ulysses. On 11 June at the home of André Spire Joyce was introduced to Sylvia Beach, proprietor of Shakespeare & Co. and went to visit her shop on rue de l’Odéon the day after, thus enlisting his most important supporter after Miss Weaver. In August he met up with T. S. Eliot and Wyndam Lewis at Hôtel Elysée, Eliot bearing a parcel of shoes from Pound to replace the tennis-shoes that Joyce was reduced to wearing. That semi-public gesture drove him to react by picking up the bill for an expensive meal while otherwise displaying what Eliot called ‘punctilious reserve’. The key to this and other such encounters was an air of English condescension, tipping towards contempt, that those men so readily brought to bear on Joyce the Irishman and which he would counter by showing himself a gentleman in a more gracious European tradition.

Unable to find an apartment that he could afford in November, Joyce was obliged to take his family back to the rue de l’Université. Soon after, however, he moved to a luxurious apartment at 5 Boulevard Raspail using £200 supplied by Miss Weaver pending the arrival of income from the larger sum £2,000 she had recently settled on him and which she had just received in a legacy from an aunt. Budgen would not come to Paris though Joyce continued to try out ideas for “Circe” on him before its completion in late December 1920. In Spring, on the other hand, Ettore Schmitz arrived with the notes that Joyce needed for “Penelope” whose whereabouts in the Schaurek flat he carefully identified in a letter to him. On Christmas Eve Sylvia Beach arranged a meeting between Joyce and the influential critic and translator Valèry Larbaud, resulted in the recruitment of a powerful proselyte. In February 1921, after a close examination of the serialised portions of the novel, Larbaud announced that he was ‘raving’ about Ulysses and henceforth acted as the chief publicist in France, giving the book an immense impetus by means of a pre-launch lecture at La Maison des Amis des Livres on 7 December 1921. In the interim, however, the “Nausicaa” episode became the object of a formal complaint on the part of the Society for the Prevention of Vice in New York and issues of The Little Review were confiscated and burnt by the US Post Office in September 1920, others having been previously sequestered in January and May 1919. In the ensuing hearing at the Court of Special Sessions in February 1921, the editors of the magazine were obliged to pay a fine of $50 in place of a prison-sentence at on the understanding that the lapse would not be repeated. Although John Quinn believed that the entire book might be more easily defended than a single episode, the Huebsch was sufficiently rattled to withdraw his undertaking to publish Ulysses in America.

Joyce’s despondency at these events induced Sylvia to offer to publish the book in Paris. In March she asked him rather formally if he would permit Shakespeare & Co. to ‘have the honour of bringing out your Ulysses’. It was soon agreed that an edition of one thousand copies would be produced using the Dijon printer Maurice Darantière recommended by Adrienne Monnier, the proprietor of the Maison des Amis des Livres adjacent to Miss Beach’s shop and her closest ally. Of these, 100 copies printed on Holland paper would be signed by author and sold at 350frs each; a hundred and fifty more on vergé d’arche and sold at 250frs., and the remainder on linen, priced at 150frs. It was simultaneously agreed that the Egoist Press in London would buy the Darantière plates to publish a London edition as soon as the Paris imprint was sold out; and, while Beach offered Joyce 66% of profit after costs as royalties, Miss Weaver offered him 25% of the revenue until costs were covered and 90% thereafter. Yet the book had still to be completed; and though Joyce confidently predicted that he would do so by the summer - at first April seemed a not unreasonable projection - iritis and other difficulties intervened in the months ahead.

Calamity struck when a Mr. Harrison, employed in the British Embassy, indignantly grabbed a portion of the “Circe” episode of Ulysses from his wife, who was typing it from manuscript, and thrust it in the fire. Most reluctantly John Quinn repaired the loss with a photostat of the fair copy which he was purchased, chapter by chapter, as Joyce produced it. Joyce’s health problems now began to take a more dramatic form. In July and again in August, he lost consciousness in public places: once at the Brassière Lutétia with Robert McAlmon, and once at the Alhambra Music Hall with Giorgio. In both instances fear of rats was the proximate cause, though drinking bouts stood behind each occasion also. McAlmon, who had just departed for America on the second occasion, had been on the ‘rampage’ (as Nora called it) with Joyce on numerous evenings at the Gypsy Bar, where Joyce was called as ‘the poet’ by the resident prostitutes from his habit of reciting Dante and Verlaine in extenso. No doubt he had behaved similarly in Dublin in 1903-04; certainly Stephen Dedalus plays the poète maudit in “Circe” in just this fashion. Ironically, when McAlmon collapsed from inebriation on one occasion, Joyce was able to accuse him of a weak constitution though clear it was Joyce who was more susceptible to lasting damage. A serious attack of iritis requiring local applications of cocaine prevented work for five weeks in July-August. Early in July, however, while passing an evening with Richard Wallace at Châtillon, he hear Mrs Wallace repeatedly employ the ‘yes’ in conversation, giving him the final word for his novel. That inspired idea would be confirmed by Jacques Benoîst-Méchin, the young admirer appointed to translate the passage in question for Larbaud’s conférence when he added ‘oui’ after ‘je veux’ to the end of a sparer version of Molly’s English phrases that Joyce supplied him with for the occasion.

Richard Wallace, along with Myron Nutting, were both friends of Dr. Joseph Collins, an American admirer who sent them to look Joyce up in Paris on his behalf with cash gifts to help the starving writer. Collins later joined them in Paris himself. McAlmon, as the son-in-law of a shipping magnate (though the marriage was soon to end in divorce - after which he was sometimes called McAlimony) provided Joyce with a monthly stipend of $50 dollars throughout 1921 and assisted with some typing. Another boon companion was Arthur Power, the Irish painter whom Joyce met at the Bal Bullier in Montparnasse and who carefully recorded their conversations for posterity after each evening spent together. A visit from Con Leventhal, who later introduced Samuel Beckett to him, soon resulted in the sole enthusiastic notice that Ulysses would receive in Dublin in his life-time. Djuna Barnes and Wyndam Lewis drank with him at the Gipsy Bar, Les Deux Magots, and elsewhere.

Joyce’s chronic accommodation problem - given the cramped and quarters at rue de l’Université - was temporarily solved by Larbaud’s offer of his fashionably-located flat at 71 rue du Cardinal Lemoine near the Jardins Luxembourg between June and October 1921. While in residence there Joyce start to receive galley sheets from Darantière and embarked on the habit of marginal revision that characterises so much of the textual history of Ulysses. In places he added one-third as much again to the margins, poring over his notebooks for additional material. The patience of the printer supplied an ironic recompense for the trouble Joyce had had with Dubliners, and those passages which had driven The Egoist’s printer to resort to asterisks (such as the prostitutes allusion to ‘a short time’ in “Circe”) were all installed with the indifference of a foreign-language compositor. On Larbaud’s return to Paris, the Joyces have to return to rue de l’Université where work on Ulysses continued notwithstanding poor conditions. On 7 October “Penelope” was sent off to Darantière and on 29 October “Ithaca” was posted after it, though misgivings about some details in it soon led Joyce to enquire of Aunt Josephine in Dublin if an ‘ordinary person’ could safely execute Bloom’s manoeuvre in lowering himself down into the area at Eccles St.. Ulysses was now complete excepting changes that Joyce would add to the galleys of the final chapters. Larbaud’s séance on 7 December brought two hundred and fifty people to La Maison des Amis des Livres, where several passages including the end of Molly’s stream-of-consciousness were read out in carefully-scrutinised translations made by Jacques Benoîst-Méchin, Jimmy Light, an American actor, read passages from “Sirens” in English, after which the lecture. In it, Larbaud pronounced that, with Joyce, Ireland had made a ‘sensational return to European literature’, attributing the greatest importance to his development of the ‘monologue intèrieur’ - an epithet he borrowed from Paul Bourget. Joyce would afterwards insist that Eduard Dujardin’s novel Les laurier sont coupé had inspired the method and thus effected a resurrection of the elderly symboliste’s reputation though their literary purposes were almost diametrically different in other respects, and the resemblance of method in any case quite tenuous.

Darantière managed to get two copies of the book to Sylvia Beach through the service of a guard on the Dijon-Paris train which she met at seven o’clock in the morning of 2 February 1922. Straightaway she brought one copy to Joyce and placed the other in the window of Shakespeare & Co. Thus Ulysses, in its distinctive cobalt blue covers with white lettering (a scheme adopted from the blue and white of the Greek flag), was published on Joyce’s fortieth birthday. Though promised to Miss Weaver, Joyce inscribed his copy to Nora, who never read it and added insult to injury by failing to grasp that the anniversary party held on 16 June 1923 was arranged because, as Joyce told her, ‘that is the day on which the book is supposed to be taken place.’ (She offered to sell the book to Arthur Power soon after.) As a result of Larbaud’s advocacy, subscriptions for the first edition of Ulysses make up a veritable almanac of leading French and English authors, though some such as Gide in France and George Bernard Shaw in England pointedly abstained from joining. In a letter to Miss Beach, Shaw offered - and afterwards reiterated - the view that while he himself would not buy such a book, its authenticity was such that every young man in Dublin should be forced to examine the ‘blackguardly’ moral character so painstakingly reflected in it. (Given the price of copies, he admitted that the scheme would be frustrated.) On 12 October the Egoist edition was published in London using the Darantière plates and bearing the title-page imprint ‘Published for the Egoist Press, London, by John Rodker, Paris’. Within four days the agreed print-run of 2,000 was fully subscribed. Actual delivery of the book gave rise to problems in spite of a variety of means employed - including postal parcels and individual carriers, some actually smuggling the book across borders in their clothing. Confiscations accounted for some 400-500 copies in America while the British customs seized 499 at Folkestone shortly after a further run of 500 had been printed in 23 January to make up for the American losses. An incinerator was the destination of confiscated books in both instances, with obvious effect on the current value of a first-edition copy of Ulysses.

Joyce celebrated the publication of Ulysses on the evening of 2 February 1922 with the Nuttings, the Wallaces and Helen Fieffer at Ferrari’s Restaurant, moving on to Café Weber afterwards before Nora led him home protesting that he should be spare such public treatment. In the following weeks he found McAlmon and Power ready to drink with him, together with a new associate, the writer Ernest Hemingway, who came looking for him at Sylvia Beach’s shop though unable to afford the expense of Joycean carousals. A visit from Desmond Fitzgerald, the Irish Free State Foreign Minister, brought an invitation to return to Ireland which Joyce, believing himself at physical risk there, refused politely. He told his brother in a letter that he thought the offer would cost Fitzgerald his job if he had accepted and later dilated on the theme of Irish independence in speaking with Frank Budgen: ‘Ireland is what she is and therefore I am what I am because of the relations that have existed between England and Ireland. Tell me why you think I ought to wish to change the conditions that gave Ireland and me a shape and a destiny?’ (He particularly objected to the inclusion of Northern Ireland on the Free State stamp.) He also refused Fitzgerald’s offer of nomination for the Nobel Prize for literature which W. B. Yeats was to win in 1923.

In March 1923 he received a further gift of £1,500 from Miss Weaver, bringing the total so far received to £8,500. In April, following a period of domestic tension, Nora decides to takes her children to Galway, threatening not to return. She spent some time in London before sailing to Ireland where she travelled directly to Galway after meeting John Joyce and Michael Healy in Dublin. Having showed off her children at Presentation Convent Galway (where she had formerly worked as a menial), she came face-to-face with the Irish Civil War in the shape of a machine-gun unit that set up shop in her lodging-house window. Letters back to Joyce galvanised him into arranging a plane rescue but instead she boarded the Dublin train, which was fired on by combatants on both sides. Writing of his fears, Joyce told her said ‘I am like a man looking into a dark pool’. Before Nora could return he suffered an acute attack of iritis in late May 1922 and was observed to be living in considerable squalor at rue de l’Université by a young physician acting for Dr. Victor Morax, the ophthalmologist he was then seeing. Meanwhile Pound had arranged for him to visit an endocrinologist, Dr Louis Berman, and this resulted in the recommendation that all of his teeth be extracted to avoid infection, an operation which took place after some delay in April 1923. This was followed directly by a sphincterectomy on his left eye performed by Borsch, the specialist to whom he was directed by Sylvia Beach and who would look after his eyes thereafter. He received a complete set of false teeth in June 1923.

On 16 June 1922 Joyce celebrated the first “Bloomsday” - as the day of Ulysses was to be known from that time forth - with an opera invitation from Gilbert Seldes, the editor of The Dial (the event which occasioned Nora’s blank response). Joyce was now determined to visit Miss Weaver in England and discuss the pending Egoist edition. In August 1922, he travelled to London with Nora, meeting Kathleen & Alice Murray, daughters of Aunt Josephine. Hearing from them her view that Ulysses was unfit to read, he answered, ‘If Ulysses isn’t fit to read, life isn’t fit to live.’ The ensuing coolness did not end until he wrote a letter of exceptional warmth when news of her impending death reached him in November 1924. Joyce’s meeting with Miss Weaver went well. The Englishwoman was charmed though anxious about his lavish habit of travelling by taxi on all occasions. In answer to her query, Joyce told her that he was thinking of writing ‘a history of the world’ - the first intimation of the ground-plan of Finnegans Wake. An attack of conjunctivitis and warnings of glaucoma from London doctors drove him back to Paris and to Dr Borsch in mid-September. Before the operation, planned for autumn but actually conducted on 4 April 1923, the Joyce’s travelled to Marseilles and onwards to Nice, staying at Hôtel Suisse in the third week of October. There his eye was drained with leeches by Dr Louis Colin. Joyce returned to Paris on 12 November in time to attend the Proust’s funeral. A quarrel arose with Sylvia Beach over Joyce’s haste to see a new edition of the Shakespeare & Co. edition (which was not to appear until 1924) and her fears of appearing to publish a bogus first edition. Before the end of the year, Joyce also alienated Frank Budgen by tricking him into handing over his wallet for safe-keeping while inebriated in order to remove from it a compromising letter - permanently injuring the friendship in the process. At Christmas he sent Miss Weaver a copy of Sir Edward Sullivan’s Studio edition of The Book of Kells, which he was to claim in conversation with Arthur Power had been his constant inspiration as a writer and which he thought ‘the most purely Irish thing we have’.

In February 1923 Joyce showed signs of bestirring himself for a new writing when he sorted out twelve kilos of notes for Ulysses. About this time he also commenced a notebook later published as Scribbledehobble (1961), consisting largely of unused material recuperated from the earlier writing under headings based on the titles of his earlier works or parts therefore. It was to be the first of nearly seventy such compilations which would go towards the making of “Work in Progress” and now known as the Finnegans Wake Notebooks. Though Joyce may had shown Valéry Larbaud a very early draft of the “Tristram and Iseult” passage of the Wake in March 1922, it was not until 10 March that made a formal departure in writing a sketch of the “King Roderick O’Conor” episode - the so-called “First Fragment” of Finnegans Wake - on 10 March 1923, writing to Miss Weaver on the morrow, ‘Il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio. ... the leopard cannot change his spots’.

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