James Joyce: 1923-1927

In mid-June the Joyces travelled to London, staying at 6 Montague St., W.1, and onwards to Bognor Regis with Nora’s sister Kathleen, to whom she confided: ‘He’s on another book again’. In Bognor he rewrote the “Tristam and Iseult” episode, and visited T. S. Eliot in London before returning to Paris, before which Miss Weaver demonstrated her commitment - it was be hard-tested in the ensuing seventeen years - by settling a further £12,000 on him. After an initial move to better lodgings at Hôtel Victoria Palace, 6 rue Laise Desgoffes in August 1923, the Joyces began flat-hunting an activity which provided Joyce with a pretext for drinking in which McAlmon collaborated. Joyce was still intent on winning Dujardin credit for the ‘interior monologue’ in Les Laurier sont coupés, which he had picked up at a railway kiosk during his Paris sojourn of 1903, and succeeded in convincing Larbaud in Spring 1923 with happy effects for Dujardin’s reputation. Joyce formally accredited him with the invention of ‘la parole intèriore’ in in a dedication-copy of Ulysses in 1931 and Dujardin was one of those who celebrated the publication of the French translation with him in 1929.) Ezra Pound’s enthusiasm for the American-born composer George Antheil led to Joyce’s attendance at a small production of his Ballet Mécanique and a cacophonous concert at the Ballet Suédois in early October 1923 and shortly afterwards Pound arranged a meeting between Joyce, Ford Madox Ford and John Quinn, resulting in a photograph of the four writers together. At their meeting, Joyce was stung to learn from Quinn that he intended to sell his manuscript of Ulysses, and even more so when he later heard that it has passed into the hands of A. S. W. Rosenbach for a little less than £2,000 in late January 1924, the benefit of the sale going on letters of George Meredith. Ford, on the other hand, offered to publish part of “Work in Progress” (as Ford dubbed it) in transatlantic review, where a draft of “Tristram and Iseult” appeared as a “Literary Supplement” in April 1924 - though not without first reaching Joyce in a badly botched proof in January of that year. In Autumn, T. S. Eliot’s essay “Ulysses, Order, and Myth” appeared in Dial (November 1923), announcing that the ‘mythic order’ of Joyce’s Ulysses had ‘the importance of a scientific discovery’ - a distinct compensation for the fact that Eliot had been unwilling to review Ulysses when it appeared. Joyce, meanwhile was determined to sustain his reputation as an author adept at more conventional forms of literature and permitted five poems from Chamber Music to appear in the Frankfurt magazine Der Querschnitt (1923). Notwithstanding the receipt of quarterly dividends since Miss Weaver’s capital assignment, he was obliged to seek interim assistance in mid-November, offering ‘this muddled year’ as an extenuation in his letter to her.

Shakespeare & Co. reprinted Ulysses in the first unlimited edition in January of the new year, incorporating a list of corrections supplied by Joyce himself which were not systematically applied to the text itself until the John Lane reset the Bodley Head edition thirty-six years after. At the end of February, Joyce notified Schmitz that he was using his wife’s name (Livia Veneziani) for the “Anna Livia Plurabelle” episode of his new work and succeeded in recruiting Larbaud for the promotion of Schmitz’s new novel The Confessions of Zeno in the weeks that followed. On 7 March 1924 he sent a completed draft of “Anna Livia Plurabelle” to Miss Weaver together with a letter explaining its narrative framework: ‘a chattering dialogue across the river [Liffey] by two washerwomen who as night falls become a tree and a stone’. Meanwhile Auguste Morel, a young Breton writer and translator, had set to work on the French translation of Ulysses parts of which would appear in the journal Commerce (summer 1924), though not before Larbaud had been called on to arbitrate as to whether accents on the vowels should be omitted from Molly’s soliloquy, as Joyce intended. Larbaud’s response came back from Italy on 5 July: ‘Joyce a raison / Joyce ha ragione’. By late May Joyce had completed “Shaun the Post” and composed the moving poem “A Prayer”, expressing a masochistic but not abject passion for Nora Barnacle: ‘Blind me with your dark nearness [...] beloved enemy of my will!’ Besides the pathos of his failing sight, the poem is a testament to his intense conception of the intersubjective relations and, in particular, the relations between those who share each others lives. In that month also, he sat for a portrait by Patrick Tuohy who had painted his father in Dublin on his commission the year before. (The resultant painting was formally entitled “An Irish Gentleman”.) On 10 June 1924 Joyce underwent an iridectomy, being the second to the left eye and his fifth operation, and was visited by frightening hallucinations while recuperating with dressings in a wholly darkened room during weeks after. A plan to visit Nice, where he had reserved an apartment for the family, was abandoned in favour of a sojourn at the Hôtel de France et Chateaubriand at Saint-Mâlo in Brittany at the beginning of July, with side-trips to Ernst Renan’s birthplace at Tréguier and to the megalithic tombs at Carnac. Joyce became interested in the connection between Breton and Irish languages but found folk-music played on the local bag-pipes hard to bear. A journey was made to Quimpaire in late August and a second trip to to Saint-Mâlo in early September while, in the interim between these, the Joyces moved house to 8 Ave. Charles Floquet (7ième arr.). In late September they crossed the channel to London, staying at Euston Hotel and in October Miss Weaver saw Joyce drunk for the first time. The deaths of Aunt Josephine and John Quinn both occurred in November, at the end of which month Dr. Borsch performed a further operation for a secondary cataract on Joyce’s left eye.

A ten-day sojourn with conjunctivitis at Dr. Borsch’s clinic at rue Cherche Midi in late February and an operation in April fast on the heels of a dental operation to remove a tooth-fragment and followed by ten more days at the clinic with notice of further operations in September, successfully deferred to December, did not prevent Joyce carrying “Work in Progress” forward dramatically during 1925. A four-page section on ‘the Earwickers of Sidlesham in the Hundred of Manhood’ [FW I.ii] appeared in McAlmon’s Contact Collection of Contemporary Writers in May, while a sample of the “Mamafesta” chapter (FW I.v) appeared in Eliot’s Criterion in July 1925. “Anna Livia Plurabelle” (FW 1.viii) made her first appearance in Navire d’Argent (1 October 19250, having been refused by the printer for Criterion). Ernest Walsh published a draft of the “Shem” chapter (I.vii) in The Quarter (1925/26). In early June the Joyces moved to 2 Robiac, a square off rue de Grenelle, there to remain till 1931, and for longer than any other address in Paris. In July the travelled to Normandy again, staying at Grand Hôtel des Bains et de Londres in Fécamp until driven by storms to Rouen at the end of the month, travelling on Archachon with nights spent at Niort and Bordeaux. A parody of Eliot’s “The Waste Land” sent by Joyce in a letter to Miss Weaver on mid-August reflects the constant downpours: ‘Rouen is the rainest place, getting / Inside all impermeables [...]’. By November he was near the end of the “Fourth Watch of Shaun” (FW III.iv). February saw the first English-language production of his play Exiles at the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York, to be followed by a London premier by Stage Society at the Regent on 14-15 February 1926, after an inordinately long delay during which the script had lay in their hands. In 1925, also, Giorgio met Helen, the estranged wife of Leon Fleischmann, Paris agent for Boni and Liveright who had briefly shown interest in publishing Ulysses. Helen and Giorgio (now called George) would marry in December 1930 and Helen, though ten years older than him - occasioning initial doubts - would become a good friend of his mother.

No new sections of “Work in Progress” were published during 1926. For much of the year, although often compelled by eye-troubles to resort to large letters, and always working with a magnifying glass - a tenth operation was performed on the left eye in June - Joyce was busy revising the “Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies” amd the other three chapters of Part II (FW, II.i-iv). Besides that he produced the new episodes “Triangle” - later part of “Nightlessons” (FW II.ii) - and the opening pages of Finnegans Wake arising from an ‘order’ placed by Miss Weaver in September, accompanied by a photograph of the “Giant’s Grave” at Penrith - and signed ‘Henriette Véavère’. This somewhat larky commission had a placatory air about it as following on exchanges in which she expressed increasing puzzlement and he a wish to mollify her. In the spring of 1927 she would tell him, ‘I do not care much for the output from your Wholesale Safety Pun Factory’ (4 February 1927), but she quickly apologised for interfering and encouraged him to continue in his own way. Among those who had no reservations about expressing their dismay at the direction he was taking was Stanislaus, who told him during a visit to Paris in April 1926: ‘You’ve done the longest day in literature, and now you are conjuring up the deepest night’. About this time Ezra Pound gave it as his opinion that ‘nothing short of divine vision or a new cure for the clapp’ could be worth ‘all that circumambient peripherisation’. Apparently The Book of Kells was not universally considered an apt model for modern literature. Some satisfaction was to be had from the appearance of a reset edition of Ulysses from Shakespeare & Co. in January with some errors corrected, while Exiles, which had had its first English-language production at the Neighbourhood Theatre in New York in February 1925, was finally produced by the Stage Society in London on 14-15 February 1926. George Bernard Shaw spoke up for the playwright in the subsequent discussion session, which was also attended by Ettore Schmitz and Miss Weaver.

In 1926 Joyce received visits from Mrs Sheehy-Skeffington, Michael Healy, Harry Sinclair, and James Lyons (a kinsman of Nora) all from Ireland. He himself travelled with Nora to Ostend on 11 August, staying at Hôtel de l’Océan. His good intentions in that period embraced ‘runs’ along the strand over distances of (6-7 kilometres and Flemish lessons. Moving on through Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels, he renewed his acquaintance with Juda de Vries, now a dentist, and visits Waterloo, gleaning there material for the “Museyroom” eipsode of “Work in Progress” (FW, I.i). Returning to Paris in September, he spent some time discussing the German translation of Ulysses with Georg Goyert, whose version would appear in the Rhein-Verlag imprint in 1927. During the summer he had received the news that Samuel Roth, a professed admirer who was now planning to serialise Ulysses in his Two Worlds magazine, as he did from September 1926. A Spanish translation of A Portrait of an Artist from the hand of Dámaso Alonso (as pseud. ‘Alfonso Donado’) appeared in autumn 1926 while a fragment of Morel’s translation of Ulysses appeared in 900: Cahiers d’Italie et d’Europe (autumne 1926); but Dial refused to publish any part of “Shaun” after initial acceptance, then calls for cuts. The sudden death of Frantisek Schaurek in Trieste while Eileen was passing through Paris found Joyce unable to break the news - all the harder since the cause was suicide - and this reached her on return to Trieste. She was so incredulous that she insisted that her husband be disinterred.

Joyce took legal action against Roth through Benjamin Cotter, an American solicitor in Paris who emplooyed the firm of Chabourne, Stanchfield and Levy in New York to such effect that the piratical publisher, who was effectively protected from copyright law by America’s non-signatory status in regard to the Berne Convention and, more practically, by the banned character of the book, and who made a voluntary payment of $200 and, in spite of promised, no more afterwards. Joyce mobilised a host of distinguished writers including Yeats, George Russell (“Æ”), James Stephens and Seán O’Casey as well as T. S. Eliot, John Masefield, Luigi Pirandello, Paul Valéry, and others, to sign a petition which he issued on his birthday in 1927, thus conferring on it something of the emotional charge that he usually reserved for his creative works. Pound thought the gesture futile though he contemplated a scheme in which his own father would sue the rogue publisher in America. In the event, Roth did not desist until injuncted by Justice Richard Mitchell on 27 December 1928.

Almost exactly a year before that date, however, Joyce meet up with the greatest of his literary allies in advancement of “Work in Progress”, Eugene and Maria Jolas. Jolas was born in America of French parents from Lorraine and returned in adolescence; his wife Maria was from Kentucky and the proprietor of a bilingual school in Paris. Together, they adopted Joyce’s new book as the icon of their “revolution of the word”, a ‘mantic’ conception of language which, since free from any positive metaphysics, proved easier to combine with Freudianism, surrealism, and ultimately post-structuralism than with religion or theosophy, to the great convenience of some contemporaries and even more so subsequent generations of Joycean commentators. Between April and November 1927, the Jolases published the first eight sections of “Work in Progress in their ‘international quarterly for creative experiment’ called transition, resuming again in February, March and Summer issues of 1928, and February and November issues of 1929. During the latter period they printed “Night Lessons” (II.ii), and the “Four Watches of Shaun” (III.i, iii, and iv). With a definite literary forum, Joyce began to gather around him a support group that would come to include Stuart and Mune Gilbert, Paul and Lucy Léon, Louis Gillet, Nino Frank and Samuel Beckett (who arrived from Dublin on an exchange lectureship in October 1928) while older friends dropped away. Such a friend was Wyndham Lewis who, in autumn 1927, published Time and Western Man which included an unflattering ‘analysis of the mind of James Joyce’ whom he accused of introducing a ‘suffocating, neotic expanse of objects, all of them lifeless’ into his work. Joyce retaliated in a scathing portrait of Lewis in his role as anti-semite, pro-fascist authoritarian woman-hater in his fable of “The Ondt and the Gracehoper” (in III.i), but expressed his own misgivings to McAlmon, and had been stung somewhat earlier when Pound dismisses his new poems as vieux jeu. (They would published by Sylvia Beach in July 1927 with illustrations by Lucia.) Invited to London as guest of honour at a PEN Club dinner on 5 April 1927, Joyce made no speech and when he met Miss Weaver he mooted the idea of handing “Work in Progress” over to another writer, following up this notion with a psoitive suggestion in late May 1927 that the chosen successor should be James Stephens whom he understood shared a birthday with him (though Stephens, as a charity child, was quite un certain about his own birth date). An attack by dog on beach at Scheveningen near The Hague, where he travelled in May upset him also, as did the failure to find a buyer for the proofs of Dubliners which he had hoped that Rosenbach would buy. In the summer of 1927 he wrote the “Questions” section of “Work in Progress” (I.vi), and at the end of October Anna Livia Plurabelle came out in a pamphlet from Crosy Gaige in New York, bearing a preface by Padraic Colum (FW, I.viii). A visit from Vincent Byrne in November brought the news that Cosgrave, his betrayer in 1909, had drowned himself in the Thames. Joyce thought it a fulfilment of the allusion to the Vulgate in “Circe”: ‘Exit Judas. Et laqueo se suspendit’.

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