James Joyce: 1927-1932

In May 1927 Stuart Gilbert, a former judge in the British Colonial Civil Service in Burma, had arrived in Paris with his French wife Moune and made contact with Syvlia Beach to whom he pointed out some errors in the French version of Ulysses, shown to him in the review 900. His written offer to assist with the translation, which Joyce accepted, resulted in a convocation known by Joyce as the ‘Treaty of Trianons’ because of the restaurant where it took place. The arrangement reached there was to be reflecting in the wording on the title-page of the French version that appeared under the imprint of Adrienne Monnier’s Maison des amis des livres on the accustomed day in February 1929: Ulysse: traduit de l’anglais par M. Auguste Morel assiste par M. Stuart Gilbert. Traduction entièrement revue par M. Valery Larbaud avec la collaboration de l’auteur’. When Miss Weaver came over on a visit on Joyce’s birthday in 1928 he managed to sing some songs including his favourite, “Oh, the brown and the yellow ale” - though handicapped by an attack of intestinal inflammation which foreshadowed the ultimate cause of his death in 1942). The visit did much to bolster his confidence in her continuing support in the difficult years head. (It did not fail in his life-time and even extended to his family afterwards.) In March Joyce completed “The Ondt and the Gracehoper” while staying at Dieppe and afterwards at Rouen, before returning to Paris at the end of the month in good time for a visit from George Goyert. At the end of the April he accepted the use of Ford Madox Ford’s house in Toulon, remaining there a month. On 8 July he travelled to Salzburg with the Gilberts. When, during this period, Joyce suggested to Gilbert that he write his biography, the Englishman declined but soon set his mind to a study of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1930) based on Joyce’s information. Stanislaus Joyce, who just married Nellie Lichtensteiger on 13 August 1928, travelled to Salzburg with her to meet his brother directly after the ceremony.

In Salzburg Joyce consulted Dr. A Toldt, an opthalmologist, before moving to Frankfurt and Munich and onwards to Le Havre, returning to Paris in September - the month in which Ettore Schmitz died in a car crash. Joyce’s eyes were now set on a course of deterioration that would virtually prevent him from working in 1931. On collapsing at his arrival in Paris he received arsenic and phosphorus injections from Dr. Borsch. A hostile review from Sean O’Faolain in Criterion in the Autumn upset him greatly also, especially as he feared that T. S. Eliot was turning against him. Further strictures from O’Faolain in The Irish Statesman and Hound and Horn that winter may not have come to his attention but when O’Faolain sent him a copy of his own novel, Bird Alone, in 1936 the elder writer professed not to read novels other than those by close friends any longer. A friendly visit from H. G. Wells in Paris was followed by a fulsome letter refusing to help with ‘propaganda’ for Joyce’s ‘literary experiment’ in a letter of 23 November 1928, written after he had had time to examine the issues of transition with which Syvlia Beach had plied him. In November, also, Nora underwent exploratory surgery for cancer and this was followed by radium treatment. In February of 1929 she had a hysterectomy. Joyce took a bed at the American Hospital in Paris on both of these occasions to remain with her. It was in February 1929 that the French version of Ulysses came to publication. In the circumstances no celebrations could attend the happy event and those involved in the protracted history of the translation - Benoîst-Méchin, Auguste Morel, Adrienne Monnier, Valéry Larbaud, Stuart Gilbert and Léon-Paul Fargue, together with Paul Valéry and Edouard Dujardin - were obliged to defer their fête until 27 June, when they were joined by Joyce for a ‘déjeuner Ulysse’ at Les Caux de Cerney near Versailles. The party travelled to the aptly-named Hôtel Leopold by chartered bus, Samuel Beckett being ‘ingloriously abandoned’ in a drunken state on the return journey. Meanwhile, Joyce had the compilation of a book that appeared in May 1929 under the title Our Exagmination round his Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress with essays from Beckett (notionally the editor), Budgen, Gilbert, McAlmon, Thomas MacGreevy, Marcel Brion, Victor Llona, Elliot Paul, John Rodker, Robert Sage and William Carlos Williams, as well as letters of protest from G. V. L. Slingsby and Vladimir Dixon - the latter an illiterate complainant long thought to be an alias of Joyce himself. In August the Black Sun Press in Paris issued Tales Told of Shem and Shaun comprising “The Mookse and the Gripes” (FW 152-59), “The Muddest Thick That Was Ever Dumped” (FW 282-304), and “The Ondt and the Gracehoper” (FW 414-19) - the first and last being fables contra Wyndham Lewis. The little book appeared with a foreword by C. K. Ogden and a frontispiece ‘symbol’ of Joyce by Brancusi which caused John Stanislaus Joyce to remark dryly, ‘the boy seems to have changed a good deal’. Joyce’s own son George made his debut as a singer at Prof. George Cunelli’s Studio Scientifique de la Voix on 25 April 1929 while Lucia made the last of several appearances as a a dancer at Bal Bullier on 29 April, having undertaken quite intensive training with distinguished teachers in the three preceding years. In spite of acknowledged promise she now abandoned dancing ostensibly since she lacked the strength for that taxing profession but more likely because of the increasing self-doubt that was beginning to eroded her personality. (Nor was this reversed by an unsuccessful operation for strabismus.)

In July 1929 the Joyces travelled with the Gilberts to Torquay, where work went on with Gilbert’s book - expressly conceived by Joyce as part of the reception of Ulysses. Miss Weaver came to visit Joyce at the Imperial Hotel. In London Joyce met with Eliot at Faber to discuss the a two-shilling edition of Anna Livia Plurabelle which would come to publication in and took time to make a recording from the same for Ogden at the Orthological Institute, reading in what Harold Nicholson would later call his ‘Anna Livia voice’. In August a trip was made to Bristol with some thought of its relation to Dublin whose charter Henry II had granted to ‘his subjects of Bristol’ in 1172. A meeting with George Moore resulted in the presentation of the French edition of Ulysses to the older novelist in exchange for The Brook Kerith and some correspondence in which Moore dismissed the fuss about monologue intérieure on the grounds that ‘in England we think it existed from time immemorial’. A characteristic letter to Louis Gillet makes much of the idea that Joyce’s writing must be metaphysics since it is not art as Moore understands it. When Moore died in january 1933, Joyce sent a wreath and was indignant that it was not mentioned in the press among others; an apology was then supplied by the executors. He also visited Stephens at his home in Kingsbury home and secured his undertaking to complete Finnegans Wake if his own capacity or interest failed. Stephens assured him it would not. (In Summer 1932, Joyce would translate some poems of Stephens in several languages.) On the return journey to Paris the Joyces stayed some days at the Lord Warden Hotel in Dover where they had discovered an Irish manager who had read Ulysses, making the place a congenial stopping over point. (Calais was also used as a halting-ground on occasion.) Before the end the year, Joyce embarked on a campaign in support of the singer John O’Sullivan, of Kerry extraction though French-educated, who was then the leading tenor at the Paris Opéra under the professional name of Jean Sullivan. Readily accepting Sullivan’s opinion that he was hindered from progress on the opera-circuit in England and America by the machinations of ‘the Italian ring’, Joyce drew on all his press connections to promote the idea of a positive conspiracy against the singer and in particular a dishonest partiality to the tenor Giacomo Lauri-Volpi. Joyce computed the range of notes involved in the role of Guillaume Tell which both sang at that time and concluded that nobody else could do it but Sullivan. In September 1930 he persuaded Nancy Cunard to bring Sir Thomas Beecham to hear the opera in Paris and encouraged George Antheil to write music for the singer, taking Byron’s Cain and Abel as the libretto. In spite of all his advocacy, however, Sullivan made no great advances, his own temperament contributing amply to his difficulties. Joyce’s advocacy culminated in the pamphlet “From a Banned Writer to a Banned Singer” which first appeared in the New Statesman and Nation on 27 February 1932. To his friends, Sullivan was Joyce’s idée fixe and a surrogate for his own artistic paranoia.

The appearance of the “Fourth Watch of Shaun” in transition in November 1929 marked a change of tempo, since the Jolases were obliged by finances to discontinue until 1933. In June Henry Babou and Jack Kahane brought out Haveth Childers Everywhere in Paris and New York. In early 1930, however, had Joyce received the strongest recommendation from George Borach to put himself in the hands of a Professor Vogt in Zurich (Dr. Borsch having recently died). After a preliminary trip by Miss Weaver, Joyce travelled Zurich where his tenth eye operation was conducted on 15th May, with others in June and September 1930. The result was a marked improvement in his reading sight. Joyce’s guarded attitude to psychoanalysis and his systematic denial of influence was put to the test when C. G. Jung, on being asked to write foreword for the third German edition of Ulysses, produced a piece that was both off-the-subject and offensive. (The Rhein-Verlag editor Daniel Brody suggested to Joyce that Jung was stung by the semantic ressemblance of Joyce and Freud.) Jung subsequently published his offering as an article and wrote to Joyce in terms that mollified him, calling the “Penelope” chapter a ‘non-stop run of psychological peaches’ and accrediting him with a better understanding of women than ‘the devil’s grandmother’. Nora could not agree. Mary Colum, visiting about this time, taxed Joyce with his denial of Freudian influence and was subjected to his expressions of distaste for intellectual women, which she also challenged. In late December Joyce found a willing biographer in the shape of Herbert Gorman, an American student of the historical novel whom he set to writing a biography that appeared in 1935, keeping him strictly to the task of hagiography in the process, much to the writer’s frustration. In Paul Léon, a Russian emigré and man of letters (with a study of Benjamin Constant and another work in print), Joyce gained a good-natured friend who made no pretense of reading his work but admired his mind immensely and proved indispensable assistant. Tragically, he would later fall into the hands of the Gestapo on returning to Paris to safeguard Joyce’s papers. The French critic Louis Gillet (who had received letters from George Moore dismissing Joyce in distinctly otiose if exuberant terms) became a convert to “Work in Progress”, having written ill of Joyce in 1924. A stern letter from Miss Weaver’s solicitors respecting the use of capital for which she later apologised in a visit for the purpose. Joyce nonetheless economised to the extent of foregoing his accustomed birthday party. In the event he was rescued by Giorgio and Helen, just then returning from their honeymoon after their marriage on 10 December 1930, and the Joyces dined at Trianons.

At the new year too Joyce, who had been complaining of the noise at Square Robiac, made signs of moving, dispatched the manuscript of Ulysses to Sylvia Beach. Joyce felt unable to write a blurb for the English translation of Ettore Schmitz’s second novel As a Man Grows Older (originally Senilità) and this was provided by Stanislaus instead.Adrienne Monnier arranged a séance for the French version of Anna Livia Plurabelle which was now in preparation under various hands, chiefly Samuel Beckett and his Sorbonne friend Alfred Péron, with revisions by Jolas, Paul Léon and Ivan Goll. The event, held at her shop on 26 March 1931 afforded the occasion for a misunderstanding when Eduard Dujardin received the impression that McAlmon was ridiculing his his wife’s ankles. At the same period Joyce was attacked by Judge Michael Lennon, writing in the magnificently illiberal Catholic World in Dublin. The Joyces now quit Square Robiac and briefly stayed at Hotel Powers at 52 rue François Premier before travelling to London to execute a plan for some time in the making. For testimentary reason it was necessary to establish legal domicile in England to and to marry. After a staying at Hotel Belgravia in Grosvenor Gardens, an unfurnished flat was found at 28a Campden Grove, Kensington in April 1931. It was not much liked by Joyce, who called it ‘Campden Grave’, but serviceable and near to Slater’s, a restaurant on Kensington High Street that he liked well enough. Furniture was acquired in Kensington department stores and literary contacts soon established. On 4 July 1931 - a date chosen as his father’s birthday - Joyce married Nora, though offering a circumstantial story of a previous marriage between them entered into Trieste which was for some reason not legally sufficient. Emerging from Kensington Registry Office, they eluded some reporters and reached Slater’s, later celebrating in the Robert Lynd’s home at 5 Keat’s Grove where Joyce sang “Phil the Fluther’s Ball” and “Shule Aroon”. A trip was made to Stonehenge and, when Nora’s sister Kathleen (now Mrs. Griffin) came to visit and revealed that she had pawned the watch he gave her in Bognor much to his amusement (‘That’s just what I would do’). Unfortunately Lucia was unhappy in London, her growing unease in this period beginning to manifest itself as something more than teenage insecurity. On the occasion when she visited the Stephenses, finding they had company, she fled in confusion. In August she returned to Paris before her parents, who first when to Llandudno in Wales before returning in September, setting the flat on a short term letting.

Shortly after his departure the English man of letters Harold Nicholson stirred up a controversy by mentioning Joyce with D. H. Lawrence in a broadcast series on contemporary writers. Reaching a compromise with the Director-General Sir John Reith, he was permitted to speak of him but not to mention the banned book Ulysses by name. The glowing account he gave of Joyce’s contribution to literature and to modern consciousness drew fire from conservatives such as Alfred Noyes and was defended by Micheal Sadlier. Eliot wrote to Joyce in Paris assuring him that Nicholson had done the best possible in the circumstances and Nicholson - who afterwards came to agree with Reith’s decision in point of legal principle - came to visit at 2 ave. St. Philibert where the Joyces briefly stayed before settling at 4 ave. Pierre Premier de Serbie, in Passy in December. Increasingly troubled by Lucia at this period and commencing with the children’s section, “Mime of Nick, Nick and Maggies” for which he had been reading comics and related material, Joyce arranged for her to makes lettrines for “A Chaucer ABC” which would appear in 1936 - though not before the Albatross Press managed to lose them in the interim in 1934. Joyce signed a contract for the English edition of Finnegans Wake with Richard de la Mare of Faber in 1931 and another with the Viking Press adding a special clause in favour of B. W. Huebsch. Faber issued Haveth Childers Everywhere in May. In March 1932, Joyce signed a contract with Bennett Cerf of Random House, the successful bidder for the rights of Ulysses, the book actually appearing in 1934 following a successful suit to overturn the ban before Judge John M. Woolsey in the US District Court on 25 November 1932. Sylvia Beach accepts Ulysses MSS in lieu of world rights. A pirated Japanese translation appeared in February 1932. On 29 December 1932 John Stanislaus died, having written to his son almost exactly a year before reminding him of ‘Baby Tuckoo’ and the ‘moo-cow’ - both characters in the opening of A Portrait. Surprisingly, the old man left an estate of £665-9-0, of which £32 remained to Joyce after debts were paid. He was executor and sole heir in the will. At his father’s death Joyce experienced great ‘self-accusation’ and ‘prostration of mind’ in his own account, but this was palliated by when Helen and George provided him with a grandson, Stephen, in 15 February. Joyce marked the occasion with the concise and poem “Ecce Puer” in which the lines, ‘New life is breathed on the glass / The world that was not comes to pass [...] Oh father forsaken / Forgive your son’. Contrary to his wishes, the child was secretly baptised. Sadly however Lucia mood behaviour continued to deteriorate and on Joyce’s birthday, 2 February, she threw a chair at her mother and was removed by George to a maison de santé - her first entry into medical care.

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