James Joyce: Notes - Literary Figures [1/3]

Textual History Literary Figures Joyce’s People Sundry Remarks


Ancient & Renaissance
Aristotle (Stagyrite)
Saint Augustine
Scotus Erigena
St. Patrick
Thomas Aquinas
John Chrysostom
Sir Thomas Browne
Joachim Abbas [of Flora]
Jacopone da Toda
Giordano Bruno
Dante Alighieri
Nicolas of Cusa
Giambattista Vico
Sir Philip Sydney
William Shakespeare
Neo-classical & Romantic
Jonathan Swift
J-W. von Goethe
Samuel Johnson
Percy Bysshe Shelley
S. T. Coleridge
Thomas de Quincey
Thomas Moore
C. R. Maturin
Caesar Otway
W. M. Thackeray
Thomas Carlyle
Ralph Waldo Emerson
John Mitchel
Gustave Flaubert
J. H. Newman
Benedetto Croce
Hugh Miller
Henrik Ibsen
Cesare Lombroso
Lewis Carroll
Modern & Contemporary
Sigmund Freud
Benedetto Croce
Edgar Quinet
Walter Pater
Edouard Dujardin
Oscar Wilde
George Meredith
Mme Blavatsky
William Archer
Alice Stopford Green
Somerville & Ross
John Todhunter
W. B. Yeats
Percy French
William James
Valery Larbaud
Carl G. Jung
Wyndham Lewis
Arnold Schoenberg Samuel Beckett Takaoki Katta

[ For remarks on Douglas Hyde and John Millington Syne - see under their respective files - viz., Hyde > Notes > James Joyce - supra; Synge > Commentary > Joyce - infra. ]

Extended Treatment

Giordano Bruno S. T. Coleridge W. B. Yeats Mme. Blavatsky

H. G. Wells: Richard Ellmann prints a letter from Wells in which the English man of letters boldly tells Joyce, ‘you and I are set on absolutely different courses’, and goes on to characterise their respective ‘training’ as ‘Catholic, Irish, insurrectionary’ (Joyce) and ‘scientific, constructive and, I suppose, English’ (Wells). Joyce’s obsession with ‘a monstrous system of contradictions’, his scatalogical language, and his literary ‘riddles’ are explained by these differences. (Ellmann, James Joyce, 1982, pp.607-08.)

Further [Ellmann]: ‘Joyce said to Arthur Power that the way to test a work of art is to copy out a page of it, and gave Wells as an instance of the disastrous revelations such an exercise would provide.‘ (Interview with Arthur Power, 1953; Ellmann, op. cit., 609, n.115 [Notes, p.800])

For Joyce’s plagiarism of a poem by Douglas Hyde and his echo of the phrase ‘lean unlovely English’ in reference to Shakespeare (“Scylla and Charybdis”), see under Hyde as attached.

Michael Sendivogius = Michal Sedziwój (1566-1636), a Polish alchemist best known for Tractatus de Lapide Philosophorum (1604).

Witty Aristotle (1): In Feb. 1903, Joyce translated the French versions of Aristotle’s sentences in De Anima, taking Jules Barthélemy-Sainte-Hilaire’s Psychologie d’Aristote, Traite de l’Ame (1847) - otherwise known as De Anima or the Psychology of Aristotle - as his text. Herbert Gorman copied some of these from the “Paris Notebook” in his authorised biography of Joyce, viz.,

‘The soul is the first entelechy of any naturally organic body.’
‘That which acts is superior to that which suffers.’
‘Only when it is separate from all things is the intellect really itself and this intellect separate from all things is immortal and divine.’
‘The principle that hates is not different from the principle that loves.’
‘The intellectual soul is the form of forms.’
‘Speculation is above practice.’
‘Necessity is that by virtue of which it is impossible that a thing should be otherwise.’
‘God is the eternal perfect animal.’
‘Nature, it seems, is not a collection of unconnected episodes like a bad drama.’

See the full list of Joyce’s Aristotelian sentences as given in Fran O’Rourke, Joyce’s Quotations from Aristotle: “Allwisest Stagyrite” (National Library of Ireland 2004) - under Quotations, as attached.

Note: Aristotle’s sentences, as above, are also given in W. D. Ross’s translation-edition of The Works of Aristotle - e.g.,: ‘The soul is an actuality of formulable essence of something that possesses the potentiality of being besouled.’ (De Anima, 1.2.414a); and: ‘As the hand is the instrument of instruments, so the mind [nous] is the form of forms, and sensation the form of sensibles.’ (De Anima, 1.3.423c.)

Witty Aristotle (2): Several of the sentences quoted in Gorman found their way into the “Proteus”, chapter of Ulysses, viz.,

‘Thought is the thought of thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is the form of forms. Tranquillity sudden, vast, incandescent: form of forms.’
‘Take all, keep all. My soul walks with me, form of forms. So in the moon’s midwatches I pace the path above the rocks, in sable silvered, hearing Elsinore’s tempting flood.’
See Ulysses [1922], Bodley Head Edn. [reset 1965, & edns.], p.31.

Others are woven into the opening scene of “Circe”, where Stephen Dedalus rehashes his aesthetic philosophy for his Lynch: ‘So that gesture, not music, not odours, would be a universal language, the gift of tongues rendering visible not the lay sense but the first entelechy, the structural rhythm’ - a pronouncement that earns from Lynch the cynical rejoinder, ‘Pornosophical philotheology. Metaphysics in Mecklenburg street!’ (Ulysses, [1922] Bodley Head Edn., 1965, p.564; Corrected Edn., ed. Gabler, 1984, p.623.)

Witty Aristotle (3): Note that the term entelechy is also employed by Thomas Mann in the opening Dr. Faustus to describe Leverkuhn’s syphilitic spirochete - rendered as the specific form of his pact with the devil which enables him to live some years as a composer of genius. (See Penguin trans. edn., p.90.)

Maestro di color che sanno - The Italian phrase quoted by Stephen Dedalus in the opening paragraphy of the “Proteus” episode in Ulysses (Bodley Head. 1965 Edn., p.45) - meaning ‘the master of those who know’ is Dante’s honorific for Aristotle in the “Inferno” (Divine Comedy, Canto IV, ll.131-32.) [See also Jorn Barger’s “Advanced Notes” - online; accessed 05.10.2001; defunct 02.01.2023.]

Witty Aristotle (3): Joyce calls Aristotle the Stagyrite in Ulysses at two points: ‘Antiquity mentions that Stagyrite schoolurchin and bald heathen sage, Stephen said, who when dying in exile frees and endows his slaves, pays tribute to his elders, wills to be laid in earth near the bones of his dead wife and bids his friends be kind to an old mistress (don’t forget Nell Gwynn Herpyllis) and let her live in his villa. [Bodley Head Edn., 1968, p.261] Even the allwisest stagyrite was bitted, bridled and mounted by a light of love.’ [Ibid., 565] (See also under Coleridge, infra.)

Witty Aristotle (4): Jacques Aubert copied the sentences from Gorman in l’Esthetique de James Joyce (1973), giving the French of Saint-Hilaire also and noting that the Paris Notebook has since been lost (Ibid., p.129). However, the notebook is one of the texts discovered in the Paul Léon cache of Joyce papers acquired by the National Library of Ireland in 2002 [See NLI Papers in Notes, supra.]

Gorman’s transcriptions:

Note: the ‘sentences that he copied down in his notebook from the various works of the Stagirite show us what arrested his mind and in what direction he was travelling’, transcribed in Herbert Gorman, James Joyce, NY: Farrar & Rhinehart, 1939 [358pp.], pp.95-96, as follows:

“The soul is the first entelechy of a naturally organic body. That which acts is superior to that which suffers. Only when it is separate from all things is the intellect really itself and this intellect separate from all things is immortal and divine. [95] The principle which hates is not different from the principle which loves. The intellectual soul is the form of forms. Speculation is above practice. Necessity is that in virtue of which it is impossible that a thing should be otherwise. God is the eternal perfect animal. Nature, it seems, is not a collection of  unconnected episodes, like a bad dream (or drama?).’

Gorman remarks, ‘these utterances, perhaps not in the exact words of Aristotle, from the Psychology and the Metaphysics give us some idea of the attempt that Joyce was making to establish for himself a reasonable metaphysic for life and aesthetic for art. He was finding his way, not too slowly. By a tough reasoning process and the steps of his progression are indicated by the short original notes he set down at this time ans was to continue a year or so later in Pola and Trieste. Indeed, these notes were the loose bricks from which he was to build up the aesthetic definitions so beautifully exposited to Lynch in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Lynch was quite correct in remarking that they possessed the true scholastic stink but nevertheless they played a vast part in liberating Joyce from the musty aesthetic urges of his youthful environment.’

In what ensues, Gorman cites several familiar passages with notebook entry dates attached: ‘Desire is the feeling ...’ (James A. Joyce, 13 Feb. 1903, Paris); ‘There are three conditions of art ...’ (6 March 1903); Rhythm seems to be ...’ (25 March 1903); ‘e tekhne mimeitai ten physin (27 March 1903); Art is the human disposition ....’ (18 March 1903). (p.98).

Source[?]: James Joyce Centre in Association with The Irish Times present “Joyce Perspectives, 2001” - Lecture 3: Terry Eagleton, Joyce and Modernism (Wed. 4th Feb. 8.00p.m.; James Joyce Centre, 35 Nth. Gt. George’s St.). Series to 14 March.

[ For Oscar Wilde’s inscription on his copy of the Nicomachean Ethics, see under Wilde, infra. ]

[ top ]

Saint Augustine: ‘It is abundantly clear that neither the future nor the past exist, and therefore it is not strictly accurate to say that there are three times, past, present, and future. It might be correct to say that there are three times, a present of past things, a present of present things, and a present of future things. Some such different times do exist in the mind, but nowhere else that I can see. The present of past things is the memory; the present of present things is direct perception; and the present of future things is expectation.’ (The Confessions of St. Augustine, Bk XI No. 20; Penguin Edn.)

Echoes of Augustine in the works of Joyce

Felix culpa! O fortunatissimum Adae peccatum! (O happy fault!) - the sentence is repeatedly echoes in Finnegans Wake - including the variant ‘O foenix culprit!’

—Securus iudicat orbis terrarum [the world judges securely - i.e., generally held opinion is sound].

This was accessible in John Henry (Cardinal) Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua, where he writes: ‘Who can account for the impressions that are made on him? For a mere sentence, the words of St. Augustine, struck me with a power which I had never felt from any words before. To take a familiar instance, they were like “Turn again, Whittington” of the chime; or to take a more serious one, they were like the "Tolle, lege; tolle, lege" of the child which converted St. Augustine himself. "Securus iudicat orbis terrarum". By these great words of the ancient Father, interpreting and summing up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theory of the Via Media was immediately pulverized.’ (q.p.)

Newman met with the Augustinian sentence in an essay on the Donatists by Bishop [later Cardinal] Nicholas Wiseman in the Dublin Review during 1836. The full sentence in Augustine that Wiseman cites reads: ‘Quapropter securus judicat orbis terrarum, bonos non esse qui se dividunt ab orbe terrarum, in quacumque parte orbis terrarum.’ This is taken to mean that the judgement of one’s peers in the Church - i.e., other communicating bishops - should be taken as the just measure of the truth of a given doctrine and hence anyone with whom the others no longer communicate is de facto not a member of the Catholic Church. Wiseman wrote:

‘By the Fathers the question was essentially considered one of fact rather than of right: that is to say, the very fact of one particular Church being out of the aggregation of other Churches, constituted these judges over the other, and left no room for questioning the justice of the condemnation.’ Of meeting the article and the application of Augustine in it, Newman wrote: ‘ It has given me a stomach-ache’ - reflecting the fact that Augustine’s judgement on he Donatists was parallel in essence with the position of the Anglican Communion in relation to the aggregate of Christian churches as represented by the Roman See. [See further under Newman > Notes 2 - as infra.

The above notice combines the information made available at Idle Speculations blogspot - online; and James Joyce Encyclopaedia - online; both accessed 21.12.2020.

Johannes Erigena - otherwise known as Scotus Erigena (1): In his essay on “Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages” of 1907, Joyce would write: ‘Scotus Erigena, Rector of the University of Paris, was a mystical pantheist, who translated from the Greek the books of mystical theology of Dionysius, the pseudo-Areopagite, patron saint of the French nation.’ [CW, 160.] He goes on to him accredit him with a large influence on European thought. Almost in the same breath he refers to him as ‘John Duns Scotus’ (CW160); whilst, in the so-called “Trieste Notebook”, he calls ‘Duns Scotus’ [sic] a compatriot of S. Fiacre (see The Workshop of Daedalus, p.101; under “Ireland”.) Such confusion, apparently, was also the lot of Ezra Pound and William Butler Yeats, as appears from Canto LXXXIII where the neo-Platonic sentence, omnia quae sunt lumina sunt, is attributed at once to Scotus and Erigena. The proximate source is said to be Grosseteste. [Bruce Stewart, Excomologosis, TCD 1979].

Scotus Erigena (2): In Finnegans Wake, Joyce arrays Erigena against Aquinas in the battle of his Archdruid Balkelly - a composite of Irish pantheism and Berkeleyan Idealism - against Aristotle, the classical exponent of Realism. [See Finnegans Wake Notebooks, VI.B.14.50.]

Johannes Erigena (3): Professor John J. O’Meara irons out of the anomalies associated with the name of Ireland’s greatest theologian. ‘The best manuscripts of which his writings are preserved [...] are attributed to “Eriugena” – “Irish-born”.’ Archbishop Ussher referred to him as “Scotus Erigena” to his Veterum epistolarum Hibernicarum sylloge (Dublin, 1632), and to this tautology subsequent errors are chiefly due. O’Meara himself uses “Jonannes Eriugena”, especially to avoid confusion with Joannes Duns Scotus, the 13th nominalist theologian from Scotland.’ (O’Meara, Eriugena [Cultural Relations Committee of Ireland in the Thomas Davis Lecture series] Cork: Mercier Press 1969), p.vii-viii. [Bruce Stewart, Excomologosis, TCD 1979].

Roland McHugh, The Sigla of Finnegans Wake: McHugh reads Joyce’s notebook entry VI.B.14.50 as referring to Duns Scotus, whilst finding that the clerical conjunctions suggested by ‘greysfriarfamily’ (FW611.09) occasion difficulties: ‘This parallel is not to be pushed.’ (McHugh, op. cit., p.110.) He adds sensibly: ‘if we take the conflict simply as that of Aristotelianism and Platonism there is sense to be uncovered.’ (Idem.) In fact, Johannes Eriugena, sometimes called Scotus, fits this pattern better than the other as being the translator of Dionysius the pseudo-Areopagite. Again the pairs, Patrick-Archdruid, Aquinas-Eriugena, suits the context very well since it involves a mutual opposition of foreign and native, territorial and extra territorial, elements. [BS]

Johannes Erigena: Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th edition) under “Erigena, Johannes Scotus” (pp.742-44)- portrays the Irish theologian notes that Eriugena put philosophy or reason above authority or religion (p.743); that he barely countenances the idea of Original Sin (p.744), and that he expounds a doctrine of deification or theosis – the resumption of divine being. Quotes: ‘The ideas are manifest themselves in their effects, the individual created things. Manifestation, however, is part of the being or essence of the causes, that is to say, if we interpret the expression, God of necessary manifests himself in the world and is not without the world. Further, as the causes are eternal, timeless, so creation is eternal, timeless.’ (Idem.)

Johannes Erigena, in G. H. Lewes, Biographical History of Philosophy from Its Origins in Greece [...], Part II [Modern Philosophy] (London 1852 Edn.): ‘There is no separation at all until the ninth century, when, in the person of Scotus Erigena, Philosophy timidly claimed the privilege. And even Scotus Erigena said, “There are not two studies, one of philosophy and one of religion true philosophy is true religion, and true religion is true philosophy.” In the eleventh century appeared Roscellinus, who, in advocating the philosophic doctrine of Nominalism, not only separated Philosophy from Religion, but placed placed it in direct antagonism with the fundamental dogma of the Trinity. [...; 343] He escaped to England’ (pp.343-44.)

[ top ]

St. Patrick - Joyce’s opinion of him (as related by Padraic Colum): ‘One evening at dinner the talk turned to saints, but Joyce would have none of them except St. Patrick. He dismissed St. Francis. He declared that he took little interest in Augustine. Aquinas, then, whose aesthetic the young hero of Portrait of the Artist promoted? Joyce would have none of the great Doctor either, or of Saint Ignatius, despite his Jesuit training. The only saint he would praise was Saint Patrick; him he vaunted above all the other Saints in the Calendar. “He was modest, and he was sincere”, he said, and this was praise indeed from Joyce. And then he added: “He waited to long to write his Portrait of the Artist” - Joyce meant Saint Patrick’s Confession.’ (See Colum, [untitled] memoir of Joyce, in Ulick O’Connor, ed., The Joyce We Knew, Mercier Press 1967, p.87.).

Joyce’s sources for the Colloquy of Saint and Sage (FW611-14)
1] Whitley Stokes, The Tripartite Life of Patrick (1877) contains a bilingual version of the Bethu Phatraic in which the events at events at Tara are given at p.55 of the body-text - online.
2] The same are also available in a variant translation in Stokes’ edition of Three Middle Irish Homilies on Saint Patrick, Saint Brigit and Saint Columba (Calcutta 1877) - as attached.
3] Stokes opens his Introduction to the Tripartite Life (1887) with the remark that there were 4 MS copies in the 17th century, three of which Colgan calls “exceedingly old” (pervestuta) - the word that Joyce uses on his [?dubious] family crest. See online.

Note: The Latin phrase ‘Tunc dixit ... [Then spake]’ is recurrently interpolated in the narrative of Bethu Phatraic to introduce the speeches of Patrick, Leary and the Druid.

St. Patrick - Joyce, in a letter to George and Helen Joyce (19 Feb. 1935) writes that he has ‘sent the Cry of the Deer (St. Patrick at Tara). This consists of 1) the invocation of the Trinity (the shamrock); 2) the so-called Breastplate (Corazza) of. S.P. a prayer to Christ. The former is good oratorio style, the latter somewhat tedious and theatrical. The composer’s name is Harold White a Dublin man who wrote an opera called Shaun the Post.’ (Letters, III, p.344.) Note: Harold Robert White (1872-1940?) based his play on Boucicault’s Arrah-na-Pogue.

See also Joyce’s letter to Frank Budgen of 20 Aug. 1939 explaining the importance of the “Colloquy of Saint and Sage” in the Ricorso of Finnegans Wake - as infra.

St. Patrick - in the same letter (19 Feb. 1935), after various other topics have been mentioned, Joyce returns abruptly to St. Patrick in the following interpolated Italian sentences: ‘Tara era il Mecca o Gerusalemme degli antichi irlandesi. L’isola era una pentarchia = 5 re. Uno per ognuna della 4 provincie, Ulster, Munster, Leinster, Connaught ed il quinto il re supremo (ard ri [Gl. chars.]) era incoronato a Tara. S. Patrizio andò là a confrontare i preti druidici, come fece Moisè in Egitto. Fece ogni genere di miracoli anche. Ogni [345] fuoco doveva spegnersi in Irlanda salvo il fuoco reale a Slane, credo. Patrizio suscitò l’ira dei druidi accendendo il fuoco pasquale. Era il sabato santo. [Tara was the Mecca and Jerusalem of the ancient Irish. The island was a pentarchy = 5 kings. One for each of the our provinces, and the fifth, the high king, (ard ri), was crowned at Tara. He did every kind of miracle, too. Every fire in Ireland was supposed to be extinguished except the royal fire at Slane, I think. Patrick roused the druids ire by lighting the Paschal fire. It was Holy Saturday.’ (Letters, III, p.345-46; trans. given in ftn.)

[ top ]

Thomas Aquinas (1) - Thomas takes Aristotle’s as his point of departure: Nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensibus fuerit [There in nothing in the mind which was not first in the senses] (Aristotle, De Anima, 432a, 7-8; but Aquinas’s Commentary on De Anima cites the line at a.16.) And cf. Nihil in intellectu [... &c.] / ‘Those things which do not fall under the senses cannot be apprehended by the human mind except in sofar as knowledge of them can be gathered from the senses.’ (Contra Gentiles, 1.3).

Cf. ‘The world, mind [is forever] falling under the ban of our infrarational senses’ [FW 019.35-020.01]. And see Hugh Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce (London: Chatto & Windus 1955), p.46: ‘The possibility of epiphanies depends on the composite structure of things, signate matter plus intelligible form.’ (p.46); and see footnote alluding to St. Thomas’ epistemology as ‘the only metaphysic in which the theory of epiphanies is meaningful’ (idem.).

J[acques] Aubert, Letter to the Editor, in James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Spring 1971), p. 273 - available in JSTOR [online].

Professeur Aubert followed this notice of the work to be found in the Bibliothèque Ste. Geneviève in Paris - where Joyce read nightly in 1902-03 - with his Introduction a l’esthetique de James Joyce (Didier 1973), which he later translated into English as The Aesthetics of James Joyce (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP 1992).

Thomas Aquinas (2)

In the Summa Contra Gentiles - which Joyce read in Paris, and Stephen Dedalus purports to have glossed in the original Latin - Thomas seeks to demonstrate ‘that the truth of reason is not opposed to the truth of the Christian Faith’. (Medieval Philosophy: Selected readings from Augustine to Buridan, edited by Herman Shapiro (NY: The Modern Library 1964) [Chap. 7: “On the Truth of the Catholic Faith”], p.346.

[Aquinas:] ‘For just as the light of the sun is the principle of all visible perception, so the divine light is the principle of all intelligible knowledge; since the divine light is that in which intelligible illumination is found first and in the highest degree.’ (SCG, 10.6; ibid.)

St. Thomas cites St. Paul: ‘So the things that are of God no man knoweth but the spirit of God.’ (1. Cor. 2:11), and, ‘But to us God hath revealed them by His Spirit.’ (1. Cor. 2:10) [see full verses, infra].

‘Truth must be the ultimate end of the whole universe, and the consideration of the wise man aims principally at truth.’ (SCG, 1.2.)

The foregoing from Bruce Stewart, Excomologosis, 1979.
St. Paul 1st Letter to the Corinthians - Chap. II [King James version]
7. But we speak the wisdom of god in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8. which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they know it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear head, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
16. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor., 2:7-16.)


 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I become a man, I put away a childish things.
 For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor. 13:11-12.)

Thomas Aquinas (3): ‘Because the first principle of our knowledge is sense, it is necessary that we reduce to sense in some way all things about which we judge.’ (De Verititate , 12. 3, ad.2.)

Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (London 1955): ‘When Augustine read the Divine Name he understood it to mean “I Am Who never changes”. When Thomas read the same words he understood them to say, “I am pure act-of-being”.’ (p.93; translated from 3rd Edition of Le Thomisme by Edward Bullough [Cambridge 1929], p.86).

Thomas Aquinas (4) - his definition of beauty:
Nam ad puchritudinem tria requiruntur. Prima quidem integritas, sive perfectio; (quae enim diminuta sunt hoc ipso turpia sunt), et debita proportio, sive consonantia; et iterum claritas habent colorem nitidus, pulchra esse dicuntur. (Summa Theologica, q.39, a. 8.)
[...; see further - attached.]

See Hugh Kenner’s remarks: ‘The “three things required for beauty” in St. Thomas Aquinas’s definition of beauty which Stephen Dedalus takes up in Stephen Hero and A Portrait are integritas consonantia claritas. Joyce seems to have met with them not in the “gorebellied tomes” of the original, as Stephen alleges, but in Rickaby’s General Metaphysics, which was required reading for philosophy classes at the Royal University, as Con Curran [points out].’ (Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce, Bloomington: Indiana UP 1955, p.144f.; Curran, James Joyce Remembered, 1968, p.64 [recte 35-36].)

Note: COPAC lists John Rickaby, SJ, General Metaphysics [1st Edn. 1888; Stonyhurst Philosophical Series] (Longmans 1898 [3rd edn.]; other edns. in 1902, 1909, 1912, 1930 - all being reiss. of 3rd edn.), ix, 398pp.

Thomas Aquinas (5): - Joyce held in Trieste a copy of Michael Maher, S.J., Psychology [Catholic Manuals of Philosophy Ser.] (NY: Benziger [num. edns. in 1890s], in which the Thomistic author writes: ‘[...] essence points to the reality of which the being is constituted’. Joyce has annotated this remark in the margin with the pencilled phrase, ‘acting totality’. (See Sheldon Brivic, Joyce the Creator, Wisconsin UP 1985, p.6.)

Note: Brivic makes ref. to Michael Patrick Gillespie, Catalogue of Joyce’s Trieste Library [UMC; see Joyce Online Notes - online].

Thomas Aquinas (6) - Sentences on Being:

‘Because God by virtue of his essence is existence itself, therefore the existence of what He has created is necessarily a producing peculiar to His essence; just as flaming up is the effect peculiar to the essence of fire. [...] Therefore God must be in all things, and in the most intimate manner [oportet quod Deus sit in omnibus rebus et intime] (Summa Theologica, 1. 8. i.) Quoted by Josef Pieper in Introduction to Thomas Aquinas (London: Faber & Faber 1963), p.141f.

Summa Theologica (Ia. [5] iii. 11]: ‘This name, He Who Is, is the most proper name for God and for three reasons. First, for denotation; it does not signify a kind of form, but being itself. Second, for universality; it determines no mode of being, but names the boundless sea of substance. Third, for connotation; it intimates being entirely present, free of past and future.’ (St. Thomas Aquinas, Philosophical Texts, selected and translated by Thomas Gilby (London, NY & Toronto: OUP, Geoffrey Cumberlege, 1951), p.97 [art. 288)].

Summa Contra Gentiles: ‘Now, if there were an infinite regress among efficient causes, no cause would be first. Therefore, all the other causes, which are intermediate, will be suppressed. But this is manifestly false. We must, therefore, posit that there exists a first efficient cause. This is God.’ (SCG, 13.33; glossing Aristotle, Metaphysics [De Anima], 11.)

Thomas Aquinas (7) - on friendship: Amplius. In societate humana hoc est maxime necessarium ut sit amicitia inter multos [Besides. It is most necessary in human society that friendship be among many]. (Summa Contra Gentiles, 1.3, 125 [i.e., Vol. 1, Bk. 3, Ch. 125]; given thus in Latin in Ulysses [9.769-72], and so cited in John Simpson, ‘Aquinas and Friendship’, James Joyce > Allusions - online.) Simpson notes that the sentence is not given in Gifford, Ulysses Annotated (1984) and that Joyce quotes the Summa Contra Gentiles elsewhere in Ulysses at 9.430-1, and refers to the Summa at 9.1089-90.

[ top ]

F.C. Copleston, Medieval Philosophy (London: Methuen 1952):

‘We cannot predicate being univocally to God and creatures since they do not possess being in the same way, nor do we predicate being in a purely equivocal sense, since creatures have being though their being is not like the divine being but is dependent, participated.’(p.353).

‘God knows his divine essence not only as it is in itself but as imitable outside itself in a plurality of creatures [so that] we can and must speak of the plurality of the ideas in God, for idea signifies, not the divine essence itself, but the divine essence as exemplar for this or that object.’ (Copleston, op. cit., p.359.)

‘According to Thomas the most appropriate name for God is the name he gave to Moses at the burning bush, Qui Est. (Exod. 3.14)’ (Copleston, op. cit. p.362.)

All quoted in Excomologosis, 1979 [BS.]

Thomas Aquinas (8) - see C. S. Lewis on Aquinas’s view of sexual intercourse in The Allegory of Love (1936): ‘[...] It will be seen that the medieval theory finds room for innocent sexuality: what it does not find room for is [17] passion, whether romantic or otherwise. It might almost be said that it denies to passion the indulgence which it reluctantly accords to appetite. In its Thomist form the theory acquits the carnal desire and the carnal pleasure, and finds the evil in the ligamentum rationis, the suspension of intellectual activity. This is almost the opposite of the view, implicit in so much romantic love poetry, that it is precisely passion which purifies; and the scholastic picture of unfallen sexuality - a picture of physical pleasure at the maximum and emotional disturbance at the minimum may suggest to us something much less like the purity of Adam in Paradise than the cold sensuality of Tiberius in Capri. It must be stated at once that this is entirely unjust to the scholastics. They are not talking about the same kind of passion as the romantics. The one party means merely an animal intoxication; the other believes, whether rightly or wrongly, in a “passion” which works a chemical change upon appetite and affection and turns them into a thing different from either. About passion in this sense Thomas Aquinas has naturally nothing to say - as he has nothing to say about the steam-engine. He had not heard of it. It was only coming into existence in his time, and finding its first expression in the poetry of courtly love.’ (p.17; for longer extract, see under C. S. Lewis, q.v., and attached.)

[ top ]

Thomas Aquinas (9):

See The Thomistic Philosophy by Joseph J. Magee [webpage]


For Thomists, Natural Theology is the study of what can be known about God apart from revelation. It tries to show that certain truths about God (e.g. that God exists, that there is only one God, that He is Good) are demonstrable by reason. In a sense, the things even belonging to Natural Theology are contained in Scripture insofar as Scripture speaks of many things which could be discovered by humans without God revealing them.

Sacred doctrine essentially treats of God viewed as the highest cause, for it treats of Him not only so far as He can be known through creatures just as philosophers knew Him - ‘That which is known of God is manifest in them’ (Rom. 1:19 - but also so far as He is known to Himself alone and revealed to others. (S.T. Ia q. 1, a. 6)

Thus, for Aquinas, on the one hand, there are things that God has revealed about Himself which could be known by reason alone (Natural Theology), and on the other hand, there are things that He Himself alone knows about Himself, which He reveals to others, and which are, and must always be in this life, objects of religious belief (Sacred Doctrine). The light of reason can provide the warrant for holding the former as true; only the authority of God provides the the warrant for believing the latter. Implicit in this distinction is the understanding that the same thing cannot be the object of knowledge and belief at the same time. If one knows, i.e. has discovered by the use of natural reason, that God exist, then one cannot at the same time believe this truth as something that God has revealed. Aquinas calls what reason can know about God, i.e. the object of Natural Theology, preambles to faith:

‘The existence of God and other like truths about God, which can be known by natural reason, are not articles of faith, but are preambles to the articles; for faith presupposes natural knowledge, even as grace presupposes nature and perfection the perfectible.’ (S.T. Ia, q. 2, a. 2)


In fact, Aquinas generally believed that the prospects were pretty poor for unaided human reason to achieve very much success even in its own sphere of Natural Theology.

For truth about God, such as reason can know it, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. (S.T. Ia, q. 1, a. 1)

The pursuit of Natural Theology, while not directly leading to religious faith, nevertheless is of benefit to believers in their faith. First of all, it gives one better insight into nature of revelation, for it shows to what extent the things contained in Scripture could have been discovered by human reason. For the Christian this really shows how little knowledge about God can be gained apart from His self-disclosure, and how much grace is given as an utter mystery. The Christian can, thus, marvel at how much more God reveals (that He is Three Persons, that the Son became Man to save us from our sins, that He gives us the promise of the Resurrection) than we would ever have suspected had He not told us. [...; &c.]

—Available at Thomistic Philosophy Page maintained by Joseph Magee (Center for Thomistic Studies, Houston, Texas - online; accessed 14.08.2012]. Dr. Magee is the author of Unmixing the Intellect Aristotle on Cognitive Powers and Bodily Organs (NY: Greenwood Press 2003), a study of Aristotle’s views on the senses and the intellect in the light of recent philosophies of mind with special particular emphasis on St. Thomas’ teaching about the “spiritual” nature of sensation in the context of Aristotle’s philosophy. [See further details online.]

[ top ]

St. John Chrysostom [or Chrysostomos] - the prelate whom Stephen prob. recalls in “Telemachus” - was a fourth-century father of the church and patriarch of Constantinople famed for the remark: ‘For where there is death, there too is sexual coupling; and where there is no death, there is no sexual coupling either.’ (See Marina Warner, First of All Her Sex, p.50 [in another connection] quoted in Susan Purser, UUC MA Diss., 2008.) In Weldon Thornton, Allusions in Ulysses (1961, 1968), the reference to Chrysostomos is conjecturally limited to the application of the literal meaning of his name - “golden-mouthed” (i.e. eloquent) to Malachi Mulligan/Gogarty and the resemblance of there names - viz., St. John Gogarty. (See Thornton, op. cit., Carolina UP 1968, p.12; Ulysses, 3.28.)

[ top ]

Sir Thomas Browne (Religio medici, 1643): ‘For, as though there were a metempsychosis, and the soul of one man passed into another, opinions do find, after certain revolutions, men and minds like those that first begat them. To see ourselves again, we need only look for Plato’s year: every man is not only himself; there have been many Diogeneses, and as many ... Timons, though but few of that name; men are lived over again; the world is now as it was in ages past; there was none then, but there hath been some one since, that parallels him, and is, as it were, his revived self.’

Note: this passage is quoted in Richard Kain, Fabulous Voyager: James Joyce’s Ulysses (Chicago UP 1947), and therein offered as an expression of the philsophy of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake with the prefatory assertion that ‘it is probably that Joyce read the following passage’ while also noting ‘the thematic importance and the recurrence of some words.’ (Kain, op. cit., p.214; see further under Commentary, Richard M. Kain, supra.)

[Note: There is an essay on Sir Thomas Browne by Pater (1878) - in Appreciations; with an Essay on Style (London: Macmillan, 1910), p.161.]

[ top ]

Joachim Abbas of Fiore [aka Father Joachim of Floris or Flora] (?1145-?1202): an Italian mystic; Franciscan and Abbot of San Giovanni in Fiore; at first appointed to abbacy of Currazo in 1177, against his will; resigned and formed his own monastery at Fiore in Calabria; his works not censured in his lifetime but some were condemned by the Lateran Council of 1215. When Gherardhino of Borgo represented his “Everlasting Gospel” as true prophecy in 1254, the University of Paris produced 31 condemnatory propositions against him, and in 1255 a papal commission censured Gherardino and the Joachimites but not Joachim, who was officially venerated as beatus - though not canonised. [The above note derives from Don Gifford & Robert Seidman, Ulysses Annotated [2nd rev. edn.], California UP 1984, p.50.)

[Note var.: proclaimed the New Gospel by a Franciscan [Gherardino] in 1254, resulting in Joachim’s being proclaimed a heresiarch by the Synod of Arles, c.1260.]

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910)

Dante voiced the general opinion of his age in declaring Joachim one “endowed with prophetic spirit.”; But he himself always disclaimed the title of prophet. The interpretation of Scriptural prophecy, with reference to the history and the future of the Church, is the main theme of his three chief works: Liber Concordiae Novi ac Veteris Testamenti, Expositio in Apocalipsim, and Psalterium Decem Cordarum. The mystical basis of his teaching is the doctrine of the “Eternal Gospel”, founded on a strained interpretation of the text in the Apocalypse (14:6). There are three states of the world, corresponding to the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. In the first age the Father ruled, representing power and inspiring fear, to which the Old Testament dispensation corresponds; then the wisdom hidden through the ages was revealed in the Son, and we have the Catholic Church of the New Testament; a third period will come, the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, a new dispensation of universal love, which will proceed from the Gospel of Christ, but transcend the letter of it, and in which there will be no need for disciplinary institutions. Joachim held that the second period was drawing to a close, and that the third epoch (already in part anticipated by St. Benedict) would actually begin after some great cataclysm which he tentatively calculated would befall in 1260. After this Latins and Greeks would be united in the new spiritual kingdom, freed alike from the fetters of the letter; the Jews would be converted, and the “Eternal Gospel”; abide until the end of the world.

Although certain doctrines of Joachim concerning the Blessed Trinity were condemned by the Lateran Council in 1215, his main teaching does not seem to have excited suspicion until the middle of the century. Many works had meanwhile come into being which were wrongly attributed to Joachim. Among these the De Oneribus Prophetarum, the Expositio Sybillae et Merlini, and the commentaries on Jeremias and Isaias are the most famous. The sect of the Joachists or Joachimists arose among the “spiritual”; party among the Franciscans, many of whom saw Antichrist already in the world in the person of Frederick II, nor was their faith shaken by his death in 1250. One of their number, Fra Gherardo of Borgo San Donnino, wrote a treatise entitled Introductorium in Evangelium Aeternum, of which the contents are now known only from the extracts made by the commission of three cardinals who examined it in 1255. From these it is clear that the Joachists went far beyond what the abbot himself had taught. They held that, about the year 1200, the spirit of life had gone out of the two Testaments and that Joachim's three books themselves constituted this Eternal Gospel, which was not simply to transcend but to supersede, the Gospel of Christ. The Catholic priesthood and the whole teaching of the New Testament was to be rendered void in a few years.

This work was solemnly condemned by Alexander IV, in 1256, and the condemnation involved the teaching of Joachim himself. His central doctrine was confuted by St. Thomas in the Summa Theologica (I-II, Q. cvi, a. 4), and its Franciscan exponents were sternly repressed by St. Bonaventure. Another blow was given to the movement when the fatal year 1260 came, and nothing happened. “After Frederick II died who was Emperor”; writes Fra Salimbene of Parma, “and the year 1260 passed, I entirely laid aside this doctrine, and I am disposed henceforth to believe nothing save what I see.” It was revived in a modified form by the later leader of the spiritual Franciscans, Pier Giovanni Olivi (d. 1297), and his follower, Ubertino da Casale, who left the order in 1317. We hear a last echo of these theories in the letters of Blessed Giovanni dalle Celle and the prophecies of Telesphorus of Cosenza during the Great Schism, but they were no longer taken seriously.

[Available online.]

Note: The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) is quoted on Joachim of Floris [sic] in Don Gifford and Robert Seidman, Ulysses Annotation (California UP 1988; pb. 1989), p.50 - cited Vol. 8, p.407(a).

Scholes & Kain - note to “Extravagances [... &c.]” (Workshop, p.63):

Joachim Abbas seems to be Joyce’s name for Joachim, abbot of Floris (1145-1202), an Italian mystic theologian who divided history into three periods according to the Trinity (the past, an age of Law, associated with the Father; the present age of the Gospel, associated with the Son; and the future age of the Holy Spirit, which would be a contemplative striving toward ecstasy and would bring the ages of man to an end.) This theory and Joachim’s commentary on the Apocalypse were no doubt interesting to Joyce. In 1260 the Council of Arles condemned Joachim’s writings and the Joachimites, conferring on him a quasi-heretical status which probably accounts for part of his appeal to Joyce and Stephen (who mentions him twice in U[lysses].)

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) of Nola, cryptically referred to as “the Nolan” in “The Day of the Rabblement”, was a Dominican Calvinist, theologian, scientist, poet, Catholic and Protestant heretic, who was burnt at the stake by the Inquisition, a martyr to free inquiry and a favourite hero Joyce’s private martyrology.

Michael Sedziwoj (1556 or ‘66-1639 or ‘46), better known under the Latinized version of his name employed by Joyce, was a Polish or Moravian alchemist who rescured the great Scottish alchemist Alexander Seton from a Dresden prison, half-dead from torture, and acquired his secrets, manuscripts, and wife in the process. For a fuller account see Seton and Sendivogius in John Ferguson’s Bibliotheca Chemica (Glasgow 1906).

[Var. Michael Sendivogius / Michal Sedziwój (1566-1636), a Polish alchemist best known for Tractatus de Lapide Philosophorum (1604).

[See page image of same - attached.]

Note: In printing the 1904 “Portrait of the Artist” essay in The Workshop of Daedalus (1965), , Scholes and Kain (give an account of Joachim which omits any mention of W. B. Yeats story “The Tables of the Law” in which his Everlasting Gospel is the central interest. In Stephen Hero, Joyce tells of reading Joachim in Marsh’s Library and of finding Yeats’s book of stories “The Tables of the Law” and “The Adoration of the Magi” (Bullen 1897) on a book-cart [barrow] within the same episode and, indeed, the same paragraph. In the first note to their edition of the essay, Scholes & Kain advise the reader to consult Ellmann’s ‘commentary on this document’ - i.e., the 1904 “Portrait” (James Joyce, 1959, pp.149-54). It does not appear from that commentary there that Ellmann realised the connection either - viz., that Joyce claims to have read Yeats before going to the Library at St. Patrick’s Close. (See The Workshop of Daedalus, Northwestern UP 1965, Intro., pp.56-59; text, pp.60, 63.)

Robert M. Adams, Surface and Symbol: The Consistency of James Joyce’s Ulysses [1962] (NY: Galaxy Books 1967): Descende, calve [..., &c.]: ‘Stephen [...] seems to take the passage as a warning against entering the Church; indeed, to fortify this meaning, he alters, no doubt consciously, “ascende” to “descende” and “amplius” to “nimium” [ftn. The second change (“amplius” to “nimium”) was made some time after “Proteus” appeared in the Little Review (May 1918).’ (Adams, op. cit., p.125 & n.)

Weldon Thornton, Allusions in Ulysses: An Annotated List (N. Carolina UP 1961, 1968)
Joachim Abbas - Joachim of Flora (ca.1145-1202) was an Italian mystic theologian who divided history into three ages, those of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit (developed in his Expositio in Apocalypsim, I, v). His system is discussed in Yeats’s story “The Tables of the Law.’ (Thornton, p.48.)
Descende, calve, ut ne nimium decalveris - “Come down, bald one, lest you become even balder.’ (W. Y. Tindall gives “Come down, bald priest, lest you be deballed.’ Reader's Guide to James Joyce, p.149.) This is probably a modification of II Kings 2:23 [... where] the children's taunt is “Ascende calve, ascende calve”. On the basis of the records of Marsh’s Library, Dublin, R. M. Adams shows that Joyce’s immediate source phrase was Joachim Abbas’ Vaticinia Pontificum (Venice, 1589). The opening sentence of the first part of the work is “Ascende, calve, ut ne amplius decalveris.” [Robert] Adams points out that amplius [sic] was the reading in the Little Review version (Surface and Symbol, pp.125-26.) Though the Vaticinia Pontificum is spurious, and Joyce probably knew this, Adams’ evidence of its use is convincing.’ (Thornton, p.48.) Bibl. Henry Bett, Joachim of Flora, London 1931, Chap. II.

Thornton makes it clear that Adams discovered the original sentence on the basis of the records of Marsh’s Library - i.e., the books held there and the book that Joyce took out. He adds that the sentence quoted is the first in the first book of the Vaticinia, which is spurious - and that ‘Joyce probably knew this.’ (Weldon, op. cit., p.48.) Adams w

Note: Wikipedia tells us that the prophecies were written to influence the Papal elections in opposition to the Orsinis.

[ top ]

Don Gifford, Ulysses Annotated (California UP [rev. edn.], 1984)
in the stagnant bay of Marsh’s Library: [...] In 1907 the interior was still as it had been when the library was first constructed, with wire-cage alcoves where readers could be locked while they read particularly valuable books, and some books and manuscripts still secured by chains and rods. Most guidebooks regard it as “charming” and “quaintly picturesque”. (D. A. Chart, The Story of Dublin, London 1907, p.192.)
Joachim Abbas: Italian mystic whose visions were essential apocalyptic and prophetic to the effect that the history of man would be covered by three reigns: that of the Father (up to the birth of Christ), that of the Son, and that of the Holy Spirit (from 1260 onwards), when a new gospel would supersede the old (i.e., the Old and New Testaments). Gifford writes: ‘Apparently spurred by W. B. Yeats’s short story “The Tables of the Law” (1897), Joyce visited Marsh’s library [...]’. Cites full title in ftn.: Vaticinia, siue Prophetiae, Abbatis Joachimi & Anselmi Episcopi Marsicani, cum adnotationibus Paschalini Regiselni, Latine et Italice (Venice 1589) [Gifford’s note on Joachim is available online.]

Gifford further notes that the connection between Swift and Joachim derives from Yeats’s story “The Tables of the Law” - viz, ‘Jonathan Swift made a soul for the gentlemen of this city by hating his neighbour as himself.’ (Early Poems and Stories [NY 1925], p.509.)

Descende, calve ... decalveris / ‘Descend, bald one, lest you be made excessively bald.’ Transposed from Vaticinia Pontificum (Venice 1589), spuriously attributed to Joachim Abbas - recte: ‘Ascende, calve ut ne ampliuis decalveris qui non vereris decalvere sponsam, ut conam nutrias [Ascend, bald man, so that you do not become more bald than you are, you who are not afraid to sacrifice your wife’s hair so that you nourish the female bears’ hair]’ - i.e., by implication, you are self-conscious about your own baldness. Cf. II Kings 2:23-24: ‘And [Elisha] went up from thence unto Beth-el: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.’ (See Gifford & Seidman, Ulysses Annotated, [2nd edn.] Berkeley: University of California 1984, p.50.) Note: To comminate is to threaten, as with anathema. (Gifford, idem., n.3.114 [40:2].)

—Don Gifford & Robert Seidman, Ulysses Annotated, [2nd edn.] Berkeley: University of California 1984, p.49.)

[See Joyce’s account of his visit to Marsh’s Library in Stephen Hero - under Quotations, as attached.]

Ulysses (1922) - “Proteus”: ‘Houses of decay, mine, his and all. You told the Clongowes gentry you had an uncle a judge and an uncle a general in the army. Come out of them, Stephen. Beauty is not there. Nor in the stagnant bay of Marsh’s library where you read the fading prophecies of Joachim Abbas. For whom? The hundredheaded rabble of the cathedral close. A hater of his kind ran from them to the wood of madness, his mane foaming in the moon, his eyeballs stars. Houyhnhnm, horsenostrilled. The oval equine faces. Temple, Buck Mulligan, Foxy Campbell. Lantern jaws. Abbas father, furious dean, what offence laid fire to their brains? Paff! Descende, calve, ut ne nimium decalveris [see note]. A garland of grey hair on his comminated head see him me clambering down to the footpace (descende), clutching a monstrance, basiliskeyed. Get down, bald poll! A choir gives back menace and echo, assisting about the altar’s horns, the snorted Latin of jackpriests moving burly in their albs, tonsured and oiled and gelded, fat with the fat of kidneys of wheat.’ (Ulysses, Bodley Head Edn., 1960, p.49.)

[ top ]

Joachim Abbas of Fiore: The volume read by Joyce in Marsh’s Library was Vaticinia sive Prophetiae Abbatis Joachimi, et Anselmi Episcopi Marsicani (Venice 1589), the pseudo-Joachimist Pope Prophecies [i.e., by a pseudo-Joachim]. He appears not to have read the Liber Concordiae or the Expositio in Apocalypsim - both genuine Joachimist works, also held by Marsh’s Library, the second of which is expressly cited in Yeats’s story “The Tables of the Law”. (See Marjorie Reeves & Warwick Gould, Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Oxford: Clarendon [1986] rev. edn. 2001, pp.271-78.) The Prophecies referred to in Ulysses are illustrated in Reeves and Gould, p.277. [Note - George Watson, in his notes to “The Tables of the Law” gives the full title: Liber Concordiae Novi ac Veteris Testamenti (Yeats, Short Fiction, 1995, p.260 - as infra.)

Note: R. F. Foster writes that Joyce’s good opinion of “The Tables of the Law” caused Yeats to say later ‘that the only reason why he reprinted the collection that of that title in 1903 - albeit in a somewhat altered version from the 1897 original - was because “a young man” he met in Dublin had liked them and nothing else that he had written.’ (See R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: - A Life , Vol. I: “The Apprentice Mage”, OUP 1997, p.278.)

Foster writes that Joyce ‘had already made his mark with a clear-sighted attack on the Irish Literary Theatre in “Day of the Rabblement,’ but he passionately admired WBY’s literary achievement ... There was accordingly a rendezvous outside the Nation Library, followed by an awkward encounter in an O’Connell Street café.’ (Foster, W. B. Yeats - A Life, Vol. I, OUP 1997, p.276 - under Joyce > Commentary > R. F. Foster - as supra.)

[Check whether the collection was actually The Tables of the Law and The Adoration of the Magi or a second edition of The Secret Rose.]

W. B. Yeats: “The Tables of the Law”: ‘[...] Joachim of Flora acknowledged openly the authority of the Church, and even asked that all his published writings, and those to be published by his desire after his death, should be submitted to the censorship of the Pope. He considered that those whose work was to live and not to reveal were children and that the Pope was their father; but he taught in secret that certain others, and in always increasing numbers, were elected, not to live, but to reveal that hidden substance of God which is colour and music and softness and a sweet odour; and that these have no father but the Holy Spirit. Just as poets and painters and musicians labour at their works, building them with lawless and lawful things alike, so long as they embody the beauty that is beyond the grave, these children of the Holy Spirit labour at their moments with eyes upon the shining substance on which Time has heaped the refuse of creation; for the world only exists to be a tale in the ears of coming generations; and terror and content, birth and death, love and hatred, and the fruit of the Tree, are but instruments for that supreme art which is to win us from life and gather us into eternity like doves into their dove-cotes.’ (Rep. in George J. Watson, ed., W. B. Yeats: Short Fiction, Penguin 1995, pp.201-11; p.206.) [For full-text version, see Ricorso Library, “Irish Classics”, via Yeats index , or direct .]

Joachim Abbas of Fiore: The two titles by Joachim expressly cited in W. B. Yeats’s “The Tables of the Law” are Expositio in Apocalypsim and the Liber Inducens in Evangelium Aeternum - that is, the “Eternal Gospel” which was actually authored by Gherardhino of Borgo 50 years after Joachim’s death, and which led to the Papal proscription of his writings in 1255. Watson cited two works in which Joachim’s doctrine is expressed: Liber Concordiae Novi et Veteris Testamenti Expositio in Apocalypsim, and Psalterium Decem Chordarum - remarking that his views as they are expressed there are reflected reasonably closely by Yeats, especially in respect of the threefold division of history.

See George J. Watson, ed., Short Fiction of W. B. Yeats, Penguin 1995, p.203 and note at 260 [n.8].) Watson calls him the mystic Joachim of Fiore or Flora.

Note error: in Watson’s edition of the stories the title of Expositio in Apocalypsin in the body-text and Apocalypsim in the notes. The former is probably a scanning error and the latter is correct.

[ See also Jaochim of Flora (or Fiore) in Christian Classical Ethereal Library - online. ]

Joachim Abbas & William Blake: Kevin Fischer, Converse in the Spirit: William Blake, Jacob Boehme, and the Creative Spirit (London &c.: AUP 2004), “Boehme Blake and Tradition” [chap.] - writes: ‘[T]he millennarian doctrine of the everlasting Gospel acted in its various forms as a touchstone, a rallying point for the ideas and hopes that had fired the radical dissenting gourps. Blakes use of it, both as a phrase and as a concept, in the latter part of his life suggest his identificatoin of himself with the tradition that had kept the Everylasting Gospel alive. [...] The Everlasting Gospel tradition [...] may be traced at least as far back as the twelth century to Joachim of Fiore, in which Boehme played an important part, alongside such millenarians as Henry Niclaes and the Familists. The first is that of the Father, which extends [from] the Fall of Man to the birth or death [...; 41; available online.]

[ top ]

Jacopone da Toda: - Franciscan poet-mystic (1235-1306): b. Jacopo dei Benedetti, in Umbria; at first a lawyer; married a noblewoman (Vanna) who was crushed in a tragic accident and discovered to be wearing a hair-shirt; passed some time in vagrancy and madness, a nuisance to family and friends, writing verses praising madness as a piety [Senno me pare e cortesia / Empazir per lo bel Messia]; given the nick-name Jacopone (Crazy Jim); admitted to Franciscan monastery; involved in Papal disputes siding with Cardinals Colonna [two brothers] who supported the Spirituals [Fratecelli]; imprisoned by papal state and only released in old age; retired to Old Clares and died piously; never beatified in spite of efforts; his laudi used in processions of Flagellants and seen as precursor of Italian drama; wrote satires on ecclesiastical and political corruption; praised ascetisim; the poem Stabat Mater Dolorosa generally attributed to him. [BS, various sources; extract from Catholic encyclopedia follows:]

Catholic Encyclopedia (1907)
Jacopone da Toda
[...] About 1278 he sought admission into the Order of Friars Minor at his native town, a request which after some difficulty was granted. Out of humility he chose to be a lay brother. In the great convent of S. Fortunato, at Todi, the so-called party of the “Community” of the Franciscan Order certainly prevailed. This party was strongly opposed to that of the more zealous friars, called the “Spirituals”. The sympathies of Jacopone were with the latter. Boniface VIII, who had under unusual circumstances succeeded Celestine V, the friend of Spirituals, having recalled all privileges granted by his predecessor and thus subjected anew the zealous friars to their regular superiors, and having engaged in a struggle with the two Cardinals Colonna, Jacopone took sides with these two protectors of the Spirituals against the pope. Perhaps there were also personal reasons for enmity between Boniface and the poet, dating from the time when the former, then a young man (1260), obtained an ecclesiastical benefice at Todi, where his uncle Peter was bishop from 1252 to 1276 [1]. Palestrina, the stronghold of the Colonnas, having been taken in 1298 by the papal troops, Jacopone was imprisoned in the fortress above the town, known today as Castel San Pietro. Some of Jacopone’s most touching, and also most aggressive, poems were composed in this dungeon. Not even in the great Jubilee of 1300 did Jacopone obtain pardon, the Colonnas and their partisans having been excluded from the Jubilee by a special Bull [2]. Boniface VIII was captured at Anagni on 7 Sept., 1303, and upon his death, which occured shortly afterwards (11 Oct.), Jacopone was set at liberty. Now an old man, broken down, tried and purified by hardships, he withdrew first to Pantanelli, a hermitage on the Tiber, three hours distant from Orvieto [3], then to Collazzone, a small town situated on a hill between Perugia and Todi. There is no record of a Franciscan monastery at that place, but there was a Poor Clare Convent, S. Lorenzo, served as was usual by Franciscan Friars [4]. It was here that Jacopone died on 25 Dec., 1306, just at the moment when the priest was intoning the Gloria in Excelsis Deo at the midnight Mass; his last moments were consoled by the presence of his faithful friend, Blessed John of La Verna, from whom he had especially desired to receive the Last Sacraments, and who really arrived just before the poet’s death.
1. See Eubel, “Hierarchia cath. med. aevi”, I, 530; Tosti, “Storia di Bonifazio VIII”, Monte Cassino, I, 1846, 221; Finke, “Aus den Tagen Bonifaz VIII”, Münster, 1902, 4.
2. See text in Tosti, l.c., II, 283.
3. La Verna, l. c., 390.
4. See Livarius Oliger, “Dove e morto il B. Jacopone da Todi?” in “Voce di S. Antonio”, Quaracchi, 13 Feb., 1907.
Catholic Encyclopedia - online.

[ top ]

Dante Alighieri

Jonathan McCreedy writes:

‘Joyce first read Dante’s Inferno at Belvedere College in 1897-98 using Eugenio Camerini’s marginalia to learn its allegorical structure, affixed to the literal level of its reading. Reynolds and Van Hulle concur on this, the latter using notesheets acquired by the NLI in 2004 as a means of genetic confirmation. In the NLI notesheets, owing to his then limited vocabulary, Joyce primarily transcribed Italian words and phrases unfamiliar to him from Dante’s text. (See Dirk Van Hulle, ‘Discovering Dante’, in The National Library of Ireland Joyce Studies [ser.], ed. Luca Crispi & Catherine Fahy (Ireland: Dirk Van Hulle 2004), pp.2-3. [See further under Joyce, Notes > Textual > Finnegans Wake - as infra.]

Dante Alighieri [1] - Matthew Hodgart notes that Dante used an astronomical framework for the whole of the Divine Comedy and ends each book with the word stars. Thus Inferno ends ‘Equinidi uscimmo a riveder le stelle [and thence we came out to see the stars again]’ while the Purgatory ends ‘Puro, e disposto a salire alle stelle [purified and prepared to ascend to the stars’; for longer quotation, see infra]. Hodgart infers that the end of “Ithaca” is a reference to both of these devices: ‘like Bloom and Stephen coming out of their dark house’ to urinate by the light of the stars, and afterwards like ‘Bloom [who] having purified his room with incense, is ready to climb up the stairs to bed.’ (James Joyce: a Student’s Guide, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1978, pp.121-22.) As Hodgart points out, in this Dantean schema “Eumaeus” is hell and “Ithaca” is purgatory.

Note: Dante treats of the voyage of Ulysses in Canto XXVI of the Inferno, and that passage is made the subject of reflections by T. S. Eliot in “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (Selected Essays, Harcourt Brace & World 1964) - viz.,

‘The episode of Paolo and Francesca employs a definite emotion, but the intensity of the poetry is something quite different from whatever intensity in the supposed experience it may give the impression of. It is no more intense, furthermore, than Canto XXVI, the voyage of Ulysses, which has not the direct dependence upon an emotion. Great variety is possible in the process of transmutation of emotion: the murder of Agamemnon, or the agony of Othello, gives an artistic effect apparently closer to a possible original than the scenes from Dante. [8; ...] [T]he difference between art and the event is always absolute; the combination which is the murder of Agamemnon is probably as complex as that which is the voyage of Ulysses.

In what follows, Eliot speaks of the emotion of art as impersonal and distinguishes between the emotion which pertains to the poem itself and that which has its primary existence in the ‘history of the poet’. (See longer extracts in RICORSO > Criticism > International Critics > T. S. Eliot - as attached.)

Cf. also Joyce’s concept of impersonality, which he expresses in A Portrait (Chap. V) of the artist by endowing Stephen Dedalus with a sentence from the letters of Gustave Flaubert - as infra.

Dante Alighieri [2]: the full stanza from which ‘Puro, e disposto [... &c.] is taken reads: ‘Io ritornai da la santissima onda / rifatto sì come piante novelle / rinnovellate di novella fronda, / puro e disposto a salire alle stelle [From that most holy wave I now returned / to Beatrice; remade, as new trees are / renewed when they bring forth new boughs, I was / pure and prepared to climb unto the stars].’ Trans. by Allen Mandelbaum [Bantam Classics 1984; ill. Barry Moser]; see Peter Y. Chou, ‘Stars Citations in Dante’s Purgatorio’, in Dante pages at WisdomPortal [online; accessed 7.12.2008].

[ See also passages translated into Irish by Monsignor Padraig de Brún - as supra. ]

Dante Alighieri [3]: Joyce’s school-boy quotations and notes on La Commedia Divina are taken from Eugenio Camerini’s La Divina Commedia di Dante Alighieri: con note tratte dai migliori commenti (Milano: Edoardo Sonzogno 1884). See Dirk Van Hulle, ‘Joyce and Beckett Discovering Dante’, in Joyce Studies 2004, 7, ed. Luca Crispi & Catherine Fahy (Dublin: NLI 2004).

Dante Alighieri [4]:

Lola Montez [q.v.] is unlikely to have been an influence on James Joyce, but she recounts a fact about Dante which must have been known to Joyce from his own literary studies - and this is the attraction of the word ‘yes’ on the lips of his beloved Beatrice. Lola Montez wrote in her Arts of Beauty (1859):

‘And Dante found inexpressible delight in the charming mouth of Beatrice, especially when it said “yes”. “Thus,” says he, “it is the remembrance of that mouth of hers which spurs me on ever, since there is nothing that I would not give to hear her say, with perfect good will, a ‘yes’”. Yes, it is the sentiment or emotion that lingers about the mouth that constitutes much of its beauty. [...]’ (Montez, The Art of Beauty, NY: 1858, p.57.)

While neither Joyce nor Leopold are the immediate recipients of this satisfaction in Ulysses, the central female character Molly Bloom does end the novel climactically with the word ‘Yes’ - and not only one ‘yes’ but many ‘yeses’. Can it be that Joyce derived this idea from Dante? In his well-known letter to Frank he seems to make Molly say, ‘Ich bin der Fleisch der stets bejaht’ - the phrase from Goethe’s Faust (being an inversion of Satan’s ‘No’ - as in non serviam) which we take to mean, ‘the flesh which says yes’ or ‘the flesh which always affirms’. This, of course, is a general affirmation of carnal pleasure, life-giving physicality, and the human over the supernatural. It is a classic position of the liberal humanist and the adulation of the psycho-physical composite of actually-living Man. [BS] Note that Joyce’s German phrase is usually taken as a variation on Goethe given the different wording. In the original spoken by Mephistopheles, the phrase is “Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint”. (Apparently the comma is significant in German.

Dante Aligheiri (5) - James Atherton writes of Joyce’s use of Dante in Finnegans Wake that ‘The [Dante quotations] nearly all come in the “Night Lessons” chapter.’ (Atherton The Books at the Wake, London: Faber & Faber 1959, p.79.) Note also that Adaline Glasheen believed the Lustful Sinners, visible in Circle II of the Inferno, to be present in Finnegans Wake ‘on pages 289 to 292’, listing them together. (See A Tour of the Darkling Plain: The Finnegans Wake Letters of Thornton Wilder and Adaline Glasheen, edited by Edward M. Burns & Joshua A. Gaylord, UCD Press 2001, p.226).

See also Glasheen’s letter to Thornton Wilder of 28 April 1958: ‘All through [Finnegans Wake] I can “feel” the circles and bolgia’s of the Inferno and terraces and cornices of the Purgatorio, and I made a try at co-relating section, but I had to give up. [Joyce] is too foxy about it.’ A Tour of the Darkling Plain, 2001, p.181.) [All quoted in Jonathan McCreedy, ‘“Ocone! Ocone!”: ALP’s 3D Siglum and Dolph’s “Dainty’[s] Diagram”’, in Genetic Joyce Studies, No. 11, Spring 2011, n.11 - available online.)

Dante Aligheiri (6): Lucia Boldrini, in Joyce, Dante, and the Poetics of Literary Relations: Language and Meaning in Finnegan Wake (Cambridge UP 2014) [online; first in print 2001] cites Mary Reynolds, '[who] has shown that Joyce’s manuscript draft works into the description of sleeping Shem (“but you cannot see whose heel he sheepfolds in his wrought hand because I have not told it to you. O foetal sleep!” FW563.08-10) a verse from Paradiso XXV, 5, which portrays Dante’s native Florence as “the fair sheepfold where I slept as a lamb”’ (“il bello ovile ov’io dormi’ agnello”).’ Cf. Reynolds, Joyce and Dante: The Shaping Imagination (Princeton UP 1981, p.30; Boldrini, op. cit., Notes, p.205.)

Dante Aligheiri (7) - thunder words: ‘These words, I saw, had summoned many flames, / descending step by step; I saw them wheel / and, at each turn, become more beautiful. / They joined around him, and they stopped, and raised / a cry so deep that nothing here can be / its likeness; but the words cried I could / not understand - their thunder overcame me.’ (Paradio, Canto XXII, ll.136-42; posted by Clint Carroll > Reading Finnegans Wake - Facebook Group [online; 04.08.2021.]

[ top ]

Nicolas of Cusa - see B. J. Gibbons, Spirituality and the Occult: From the Renaissance to the Modern Age (London: Routledge 2001): ‘[...] The doctrine of the coincidence of opposites was given its classic statement in the writings of Nicholas of Cusa. Since God is the ground of being, all predicates must somehow exist in him. Many predicates, however, are mutually exclusive, and thus God becomes ‘the one being to which contradictory predicates can and must be ascribed.’

B. J. Gibbons (Spirituality and the Occult [....], 2001) - cont.: ‘The search to achieve a coincidence of opposites was a structural principle of all occult thought. For Giordano Bruno, the doctrine of contraries was both a metaphysical and ethical one. Both contraries are necessary: “the beginning, the middle, and the end, the birth, the growth, and the perfection of all that we see, comes from contraries, through contraries, into contraries, to contraries.”’ (Introduction, p.9.) [Cont.]

B. J. Gibbons (Spirituality and the Occult [....], 2001) - cont.: ‘[...] Romantics like Eckhartshausen and Azaïs also believed in the existence of two opposing forces in nature, the one ‘expansive’, the other ‘compressive’; it was in the harmony of these two forces that nature achieved its perfection. William Blake thought that without contraries ‘there is no progression.’ (p.10.)

B. J. Gibbons (Spirituality and the Occult [....], 2001) - cont.: ‘According to Schelling, there is a “polarity and dualism through all nature”. Matter itself is simply an equilibrium between two opposing forces, and is “brought to life” when the equilibrium is disturbed. Coleridge’s “polar logic” is another Romantic appropriation of the occult doctrine of contraries, and his representation of the dialectical structure of the godhead reads like Behmenism [Boehme] recast in philosophical jargon. [...] It was the occult doctrine of contraries, in its dynamic form, which was to become the Hegelian and Marxist dialect of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.’ (p.11.)

[ top ]

Nicholas of Cusa - additional bibliography:

Jasper Hopkins, A Concise Introduction to the Philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa (Minnesota UP 1978) - Contents: [Introduction [3]; Abbreviations [45]; Bibliography [47]; Trialogus de Possest [62]; On Actualized-Possibility [6]; Notes [157]; Index [181] (Available at Google Books online.)

Nikolaus Krebs (1401-64), b. Cues, on the Moselle River; later called Nycolaus Cancer de Coesse, Nicolas de Cusa, and Nicolaus Cusanus, ed. by Brothers of the Common Life, Deventer, Holland; exposed to Imitiation of Christ of Thomas a Kempis; entered Heidelberg University; studied Scholastic philosophy; moved to Padua; studied mathematics and physics and received doctor decretrum in Canon Law, 1423; travelled to Rome; returned to Germany, 1425, and studied for a year at Cologne University; canon lawyer in Constantinople for minority party of the Council of Basel, 1437 bearing invitation to Greek Orthodox prelates to attend council at Ferrara; left Conciliar Movement and joined Papal party new schism; appt. cardinal of titular Church of St. Peter in Chains by Nicholas V, 1438; named bishop of Brixen (Brissanone), 1450; ‘attempts at reform ed to clashes with Archbishop Sigismund, making his last years as bishop not only unpleaant but even fearful’; d. Todi, August 1464.

‘Nicholas’s life spans the period of the Great Schism, the burnings of John Huss and Joan of Arc, the continuation of the Inquisition, and the fall of Constantinople. The final success of the tumultuous Council of Constance (1414-18) - success in ending the strife between three different claimants to the papacy - made a deep impact upon him. In De Concordantia Catholica (1432-33) he advocates that the pope be regarded as responsible to such a council. The desire of unitas ecclesiae, as evidenced in his early work, is paralleled by the doctrine of unitas complicans, which is set forth in the major philosophical effort De Docta Ignorantia (1440). Though the name of unitas ecclesiae he came to abandon his conciliar theory, he never saw the need to modify his philosophical view about the nature of God as unitas complicans, or Enfolding Oneness. Thus his philosophical position, though differently illustrated from one work to another, does not substantially change.

 ‘As a Renaissance man, Nicholas reached out to investigate mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, and ecclesiastical polity, as well as philosophy and theology. In each area he makes a contribution which, viewed historically, is distinctive - irrespective of the assessment of its inherent merits. (E.g., in mathematics he presents a “proof” that any circle can be squared.) On the philosophical front, his originality is not to be mislabelled as novelity: he is wholly [4] the source of his own ideas, yet he is original in his use of other sources, chief of among whom is Pseudo-Dionysius (whom he lauds in De Li on Aliud, 14 [29:22], as “the greatest of the theologians”) [...] In Apologia Doctae Ignorantiae Nicholas denies that he borrowed he idea of acquired from “Dionysium aut quemquam theologum verorum” and insists that “desuper conceptum recipi” Whether or not he was initially influenced by Dionysius’s version of docta ignorantia, the development of the theme - once struck upon - was certainly carried out in the light of Dionysius’s writings. One reason for God’s being unknowable is, Nicholas teaches, that He is considered to be beyond all opposition; and He is beyond all opposition because (one sense) He is not other than anything which can be. This last idea, Nicholas admits, as in fact suggested to him by Dionysius [i.e., Pseudo-Dionysius].’ (pp.4-5.)

Note: Hopkins states that Cusa read Erigena and asserted this in Apologia Doctae Ignorantiae - contrary to T. Whitaker’s contention that ‘neither Cusanus nor Bruno nor Spinoza can have read Erigena, whose great work De Divisione Naturae was sentenced to destruction by Pope Honorius III in 1225, and did not come to light again through a single copy until 1681.’ (Here p.5.) [?Cf. Joyce’s Honophrius in FW.]

‘In De Possest the influence of Pseudo-Dionysius, Proclus, Erigena, and Augustine is both abundant and patent. Nicholas stands in the history of philosophy as a continuer of some aspects of the rich and variegated Neoplatonic tradition. Yet he is no mere synthesizer. [...] Following the Christian Neoplatonic tradition, Nicholas teaches that God is beyond being and not-being. At the same time, in the spirit of Meister Eckhart, he qualifies this doctrine by adding that God is Being itself and that in God “not-being is everything which is possible to be.” So if there is a sense in which not-being is subsequent to God, there is also a sense in which in God not-being is God. This latter sense is the union of posse and esse - a view spelled out in some detail throughout De Possest [73-74]’.

Quotes De Docta Ignorantiae, I, 4: “Since the absolutely Maximum is all that which can be, it is altogether actual. And just as there cannot be anything great, so for the same reason there cannot be anything lesser, since it is all that which can be. But the Minimum is that than which there cannot be a [10] lesser. And since the Maximum is of this kind, it is evident that the Minimum and the Maximum coincide.”

Note: Hopkins’s remarks: ‘If viewed as eristic [i.e., ‘false reasoning’], the reasoning here is question-begging. For if the absolutely Maximum exists and is everything which can be, then we might well infer that the Minimum is not among the things which can be - or that if the Minimum is among the things which can be, then the Maximum is not to be identified, unqualified, with everything which can be. Yet here and elsewhere we must be cautious about specifying Nicholas’s objectives Otherwise, we may take him to be attempt to establish that the absolutely Maximum is identical with the Minimum. But, in reality, he is endeavouring only to render plausible his notion that the absolutely Maximum is beyond all opposition and all otherness.’ (p.11.)

Hopkins speaks parenthetically of Nicholas’s doctrine of coincidentia oppositorum in Deo (p.11.) Further: ‘For sometimes he asserts that in God all opposites coincide (in quo coincidunt opposita) and sometimes he states that God is beyond coincidence of contradictories (ultra coincidentiam coincidentiorum). Moreover, in teaching that all things - opposite or not - are present in God, that God is all things, that God is present in all things, he lays himself open to the charge of pantheism. Indeed, during his lifetime this charge was brought against him by John Wenck, professor of theology at the University of Heidelberg. [...]’ (p.12.)

Bibl. incls. Ludwig von Bertalanffy, ed., Nikolaus von Kues (Munich: Mueller 1928); Maurice de Gandillac, La Philosophie de Nicolas de Cues (Paris: Editions Montaigne 1942); F. Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Vol. 3 (London: Burns & Oates 1960); John B. Dolan, Unity and Reform: Selected Writings of Nicholas of Cusa (Notre Dame UP 1962); Paul E[ugene] Sigmund, Nicholas of Cusa and Medieval Political Thought [Harvard political studies (Harvard UP 1963); Ernst Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, trans. Mario Domani (Oxford: Blackwell 1963), et mult. al.;

See Sigmund, Nicholas of Cusa: “The Catholic Concordance” (Cambrige UP 1991), xlvii, 320pp.

See also the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica article on Nicholas of Cusa - as attached

[ top ]

Giordano Bruno - see separate file, as infra.

Giambattista Vico [1] - ‘We shall show clearly and distinctly how the founders of gentile humanity by means of their natural theology (or metaphysics) imagined the gods; how by means of their logic they invented languages; by morals, created heroes, by economics, founded families, and by politics, cities; by their physics, established the beginnings of things as all divine; by their particular physics of man, in a certain sense created themselves; by this cosmography fashioned for themselves a universe entirely of gods; by astronomy, carried planets and constellations from earth to heaven; by chronology, gave a beginning to times; and how by geography the Greeks, for example, described the whole world within their own Greece.’ (The New Science, Bk. II, Chap. 2, ed. Bergin & Fischer, 1961, pp. 72-73; quoted in BS TCD PhD Diss., 1979.)

Bibliographical note: The New Science [Scienza Nuova, 1725; 2nd. Edn. 1730; 3rd Edn., as Principi di Scienca Nuova di Giambattista Vico D’intorno alla Comune Natura delle Nazioni ... (1755). The first edition contained an additonal clause wich was dropped in the second and third editions, viz., Principles of a New Science concerning the Nature of Nations, by which are found the Principles of Another System of the Natural Law of the Genres, while a lost draft from which the first edition was printed seems to have borne the title New Science concerning the Principles of Humanity. Vico referred to it as his work on the ‘principles of humanity’; in a letter accompanying a presentation copy of the first edition. (See The New Science, ed. Bergin & Fischer [1948], Doubleday/Anchor 1961, Introduction, p.xxi.)

Giambattista Vico [2]: ‘The poetic speech which our poetic logic has helped us to understand continued for a long time into the historical period, much as great and rapid rivers continue far into the sea, keeping sweet its waters borne on by the force of their flow.’ (Bergin & Fisch, trans., 1968 [edn.], para. 412; quoted in Philip Brockbank, ‘Joyce and Literary Tradition: Language Living, Dead, and Resurrected, from Genesis to Guinnesses’, in James Joyce and Modernism, ed. W. J. McCormack & Alistair Stead, London: Routledge 1984, p.173.)

Note: Giuseppe Mazzota, The New Map of the World: the Poetic Philosophy of Giambattista Vico (Princeton 1998). Mazzotta, who is Sterling Professor for Italian at Yale University, has also written Dante, Poet of the Desert: History and Allegory in the Divine Comedy (Princeton 1979); The World at Play in Boccaccio’s Decameron (Princeton 1986); Dante’s Vision and the Circle of Knowledge (Princeton 1993); The Worlds of Petrarch (Duke 1993); Cosmopoiesis: The Renaissance Experiment (Toronto 2001), and edited books incl. Critical Essays on Dante (Hall 1991) and Master Regis (Fordham 1985).

Giambattista Vico [3]: ‘We have seen that the generations of commonwealths began in the age of the gods, in which governments were theocratic; that is, divine. Later they developed into the first human, namely the heroic, governments, even as the might current of a kingly river retains far out to sea the momentum of its flow and the sweetness of its waters, the age of the gods courses on, for there persisted still that religious way of thinking according to which it was the gods who did whatever men themselves were doing.’ (Bergin & and Fisch, trans., 1968, para. 629; Brockbank, op. cit., idem.)

Vico - selected quotations

‘the human mind is naturally inclined by the senses to see itself externally in the body, and only with great difficulty does it come to understand itself by means of reflection. / This axiom gives the universal principle of etymology in all languages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodied to signify the institutionts of the mind and spirit.’ (NS, 78.) [Cormack 32.]

first men and makers of language were ‘entirely immersed in the senses, buffeted by the passions, buried in the body.’ (NS, 118.) The first thinkers were ‘theological poets’ (NS, 109.)

‘The first wisdom of the gentile world, must have begun with a metaphysics not rational and abstract like that of learned me now, but felt and imagined as that of these first men must have been, who, without power of ratiocination, were all robust sense and vigorous imagination’ (NS, 116.)

‘Every metaphor is a fable in brief’ (NS, 129). ‘[...] man in his ignorance makes himself the rule of the universe, for in the examples cited he has made of himself an entire world. So that, as rational metaphysics teaches that man becomes all things by understanding them, this imaginative metaphysics shows that man becomes all things by not understanding them; and perhaps the matter proposition is truer than the former, for when man understands he extends his mind and takes in the things, but when he does not understand he makes the things out of himself and becomes them by transforming himself into them. (NS, 129-30.) [Cormack, p.31.)

‘[Tropes] which have hitherto been considered ingenious inventions of writers, were necessary modes of expression ... But these expressions ... later became figurative when ... words were invented which signified abstract or genera ...’ (NS, 131.)

‘Irony certainly could not have begun until the period of reflection, because it is fashioned of falsehood by dint of a reflection which wears the makes of truth. Here emerges a great principle of human institutions, confirming the origin of poetry disclosed in this work: that since the first men of the gentile world had the simplicity of children, who are truthful by nature, the first fables could not feign anything false; they must have been ... true narrations.’ (NS, 131.) [Cormack, p.32.]

From Alistair Cormack, Yeats and Joyce: Cyclical History and the Reprobate Tradition (Aldershot: Aldgate 2008) - Chapter II: Chap. 2 - “Giambattista Vico and Idealist History”. Note that the quotations given in consecutive order as they appear in Vico’s New Science are differently ordered in Cormack’s text. See extracts from Cormack, op. cit., in RICORSO Library > Criticism > Major Authors - via index or as attached.


Note: ‘Bergin and Fisch suggest that Joyce “read and digested Vico in Trieste about 1905 ...” (See T. G. Bergin & M. H. Fisch, trans., The Autobiography of Giambattista Vico, Ithaca 1944, Introduction, p.97; quoted in Cormack, op. cit., p.23.)

The first reference to the Neapolitan philosopher in Ellmann’s biography (James Joyce, 1957; rev. 1982) is dated 1913. Ellmann also notes Joyce’s familiarity with Croce’s Estetica, which has a long chapter on Vico and, it has been argued, is based on Vico throughout. Joyce read Vico in the original Italian and - apart from the Estetica, which was published in 1902 - under little external influence. (Ellmann, James Joyce, rev. edn. 1982, p.340; Cormack, idem.)

Giambattista Vico [4] - for a discussion of his central role in the structure and conception of the Wake, see James Atherton, The Books at the Wake: A Study of Literary Allusion in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (Illinois UP 1959), pp.29-34 - where he features among what Atherton calls “The Structural Books” [being Pt. I]. Atherton points out that it was Beckett ‘was the first to mention Vico’ but that ‘almost everyone who has written on the Wake since has discussed his influence’ (p.29) - i.e., in Samuel Beckett, “Dante ... Bruno. Vico.. Joyce”, in Exagmination Round His Factification for an Incamination of Work in Progress (1929) - and adds that the English translation by Bergin and Fisch was not available in English until after Joyce’s death (idem.)

See also J. Mitchell Morse, ‘“Where Terms Begin” / I.i. [1]’, [chap.] in A Conceptual Guide to Finnegans Wake, ed. Michael H. Begnal & Fritz Senn (Pennsylvania State UP 1974), and extracts from same under Commentary, supra.] On contraries or meeting of extremes, see also Shem’s Latin sentence, ‘antiquissimam flaminum [...] - as in infra [Notes 1].

Giambattista Vico [5]: Stephen Heath refers to Scienza Nuova as a ‘key reference for Joyce’s writing’, and notes that Vico argues in the third section (‘Della discoverta de vero Omero’) against the assumption that Homer was an individual genius: ‘Homer is to be seen rather as a poetical “character” open to the totality of forms of his culture; which find supreme articulation in “his” poems. Writer of the modern Odyssey, Joyce is likewise a “character” in this sense, a disposition of forms.’ (Heath, ‘Ambiviolences: Notes for reading Joyce’, in Attridge & Ferrer, eds., Post-structuralist Joyce, Cambridge UP 1984; p.62, n.10.)

See John Bishop, ‘Vico’s “Night of darkness”: Joyce’s Book of the Dark: “Finnegans Wake” (Wisconsin UP 1986, 1995) [Chap.7: The New Science and Finnegans Wake’, [pp.174-215].

Giambattista Vico [6] - on thunder, in The New Science [377:] ‘Of such natures must have been the first founders of gentile humanity when ... at last the sky fearfully rolled thunder and flashed with lightning, as could not but follow from the bursting upon the air for the first time of an immersion so violent. Thereupon a few giants, who must have been the most robust, and who were dispearsed thorugh the forests on the mountain heights where the strongest beasts have their dens, were frightedned and astonished by the great effect whose [75] cause they did not known, and raised their eeyes and became aware of the sky. And because in such cases the nature of the human mind leads it to attribute its own nature to the effect, and because in that state their nature was that of men all robust bodily strength who expressed their very violent passions by shouting and grumbling, they pictured the sky to themselves as a great animated body, which in that aspect they called Jove, the first god of the so-called greater gentes, who meant to tell them something by the hiss of his bolts and the clap of his thunder. And thus they began to exercise that natural curiosity which is the daughter of ignorance and the mother of knowledge and which, opening the mind of man, gives birth to wonder ... ‘ (See The New Science of Giambattista Vico, trans. from Third Edition [1744] by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch, NY: Doubleday 1961, pp.75-76.)

Ernst Cassirer on Vico: ‘If the present phase in the development of language, if our lingua volgare no longer reveals this relation, the reason is simply that it has moved farther and farther away from its true source, the language of the gods and heroes. But even in the present obscurity and fragmentation of language, the original relation of words to what they mean is apparent to the philosophic eye. Since nearly all words are derived from the natural properties of things or from sensory impressions and feelings, the idea of a “universal dictionary”, showing the meanings of words in all the different languages and tracing them back to an original unity of ideas, is not presumptuous. Vico’s own attempts in this direction reveal, to be sure, all the naive fancy of a purely speculative “etymology” totally unhampered by critical or historical scruples.’ (The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms , Vol. I, p.148.)

Giambattista Vico [7]: Richard Ellmann quotes a conversation with one Tom Kristensen who met Joyce in Copenhagen and asked him for help on “Work in Progress”, and Joyce referred him to Vico. “But do you believe in the Scienza Nuova?” asked Kristensen. “I don’t believe in any science”, Joyce answered, “but my imagination grows when I read Vico as it doesn’t when I read Freud or Jung.” (James Joyce, 1965,p.706.)

Note: Joyce also spoke enthusiastically of Vico when he was teaching English to Paulo Cuzzi in Trieste during 1911-13. In citing an interview with Cuzzi of 1953, Richard Elllmann also refers in a footnote to a passage in Benedetto Croce’s Estetica, a book known to Joyce, in which Croce restates Vico’s theory that man has created his own world and hence ‘traverses over again the paths he has already traversed’ - a phrase which Ellmann reads as the source of Stephen’s thoughts on the itinerary of God, sun, Shakespeare, commercial traveller in the “Scylla and Charybdis” chapter of Ulysses (‘What went forth ... [&c.]’). For long quotations, see under Benedetto Croce, infra.

See also A Walton Litz, ‘Vico and Joyce’, in G. Tagliocozzo & H. White, eds., Giambattista Vico: An International Symposium (John Hopkins UP 1969), pp.245-55; Stephen H. Daniel, The Philosophy of Ingenuity: Vico on Proto-philosophy [Philosophy and Rhetoric, 18] (1985).

Giambattista Vico [8] - on language origin: ‘Men vent great passion by breaking into song, as we observe in the most grief stricken and the most joyful [...] it follows that the founders of the gentile nations, having wandered about in the wild state of dumb beasts and being therefore sluggish, were inexpressive save under the impulse of violent passions, and formed their first language by singing.’ (NS, Bergin & Fisch, p.447; quoted in John Bishop, Joyce’s Book of the Dark: “Finnegans Wake” (Wisconsin UP 1986, 1995, p.192.)

Also: ‘Language must have begun with monosyllables, as in the present abundance of articulated words into which children are now born they begin with monosyllables in spite of the fact that in them the fibers of the organ necessary to articulate speech are very flexible.’ (Bergin & Fisch, eds., New Science [Scienza Nuova], pp.229-31; quoted in Bishop, op. cit. 1995, p.192.)

Note - Bishop comments: ‘[..] in an age whose philosophical authorities were trying to discover how the languages of the gentile nations could have developed historically from the Hebrew spoken by Adam in the Garden of Eden, The New Science advanced the radical proposition that human language had its beginnings in the minds of infantile first men who growled, whined and whimpered in pleasure and pain like animals in a cave.’ (p.192.) [For internet links, see under Commentary > John Bishop - infra.]

Sonly all in your imagination, dim. Poor little brittle magic nation, dim of mind! (FW565.29).
Bibl: - see Lorraine Weir, ‘Imagination and Memory in Vico and Joyce’, in Giambattista Vico and Anglo-American Science: Philosophy and Writing, ed. Marcel Danesi (Berlin & NY: Mouton de Gruyer 1995); 243-71. Weir writes that ‘It is memory, not imagination, which is the source of bardic power in Joyce as repeated invocations in the Wake demonstrate.] (p.243.)

Sir Philip Sidney (The Art of Poetry): ‘[...] Yet confess I always that, as the fertilest ground must be manured, [44] so must the highest-flying wit have a Dædalus to guide him. That Dædalus, they say, both in this and in other, hath three wings to bear itself up into the air of due commendation: that is, art, imitation, and exercise. But these neither artificial rules nor imitative patterns, we much cumber ourselves withal.’ (See copy at Poetry Foundation - online; accessed 09.08.2016.)

[ back ] [ top ] [ next ]