James Joyce: Quotations (3) - Joyce’s Comments on Works

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Extracts - Works [I] Extracts - Works [II] Comments on Works Comments on Sundry Extracts from Letters

Egoism in Joyce

Extracts from the Works [I]

File 3: Joyce on his own works
On Dubliners
On A Portrait of the Artist
On Ulysses
On Finnegans Wake

Joyce on his own works ...
On Dubliners (1914) - 1: ‘I am writing a series of epicleti - ten - for a paper. I have written one. I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city.’ (Letter to Curran of early 1904, in Letters, I, 1966, p.55; Selected Letters, 1975, p.22.) [Note that epicleti has been re-read as epiclets - i.e., tiny epics. See infra]

Note: the rendering of Joyce’s term epicleti in Gilbert’s edn. of the Letters, thus reprinted in Ellmann’s Selected Letters, has been challenged on revisiting the manuscript in Hans Walter Gabler, et al., in the Garland Edn. of Dubliners (1993), p.3, n.5, and further questioned by Wolfhard Steppe, in ‘The Merry Greeks (With a Farewell to epicleti)’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 41 (1995), pp.597-617. (See also remarks on epicleti/epiclets, under Notes, infra.)

2: ‘The preface of The Vicar of Wakefield which I read yesterday gave me a moment of doubt as to the excellence of my literary manners. It seems to me so improbable that Hardy, for example, will be spoken of in two hundred years. And yet when I arrived at page two of the narrative I saw the extreme putridity of the social system out of which Goldsmith had reared his flower. Is it possible, that, after all, men of letters are no more than entertainers? These discouraging reflections arise perhaps from my surroundings. The stories in Dublin seem to be indisputably well done but, after all, perhaps many people could do them as well. I am not rewarded by any feeling of having overcome difficulties. Maupassant writes very well, of course, but I am afraid that his moral sense is rather obtuse.’

He continues directly: ‘The Dublin papers will object to my stories as to a caricature of Dublin life. Do you think there is any truth in this? At times the spirit directing my pen seems to me so plainly mischievous that I am almost prepared to let the Dublin critics have their way. All these these pros and cons I must for the nonce lock up in my bosom. Of course do not think I consider contemporary Irish writing anything but ill-written, morally obtuse, formless caricature.’ (Letter to Stanislaus, 19 July 1905; Letters of James Joyce, Vol. II, ed. Richard Ellmann, NY: Viking Press 1966, p.99; quoted in Ellmann, James Joyce [1959] 1965 Edn., p.216.)

3 [Joyce’s remarks to his brother Stanislaus]: ‘Do you see that man who has just skipped out of the way of the tram? Consider, if he had been run over, how significant every act of his would at once become. I don’t mean for the police inspector. I mean for anybody who knew him. And his thoughts, for anybody that could know them. It is my idea of the significance of trivial things that I want to give the two or three unfortunate wretches who may eventually read me.’ (Quoted from Stanislaus Joyce’s Diary in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1959, p.169; quoted in Don Gifford, Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (California UP 1982), Introduction, p.3.)

4 [Letter to Stanislaus Joyce, 24 Sept. 1905]: ‘The order of the stories is as follows. The Sisters, An Encounter and another story [Araby] which are stories of my childhood: The Boarding House; After the Race and Eveline, which are stories of adolescence: The Clay [sic], Counterparts and A Painful Case, which are stories of mature life: Ivy Day in the Committee Room, A Mother and the last story of the book [Grace] which are stories of public life in Dublin. When you remembers that Dublin has been a capital for a thousand years, that it is the “second” city of the British Empire, that it is nearly three times as big as Venice, it seems strange that no artist has given it to the world. I read that silly, wretched book of Moore’s The Untilled Field which the Americans found so remarkable for its “craftsmanship”. O, dear me! It is very dull and flat, indeed: and ill written.’ (Quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1959; 1965 Edn., p.216; from Letters of James Joyce, Viking 1966, Vol. 2, ed. Ellmann, p.111; also in Selected Letters, 1975, p.75-78, pp.77-78.)

Note that the sentence ‘When you remember [...] to the world’, supra, is quoted back to Joyce verbatim by Stanislaus in a letter of 10 Oct. 1905, with the remark: ‘I think you should urge your case a little in this way with publishers.’ (Letters, ed. Ellmann, Viking 1966, Vol. 2, p.116.)

5: In James Joyce (1959) Ellmann compares the foregoing with a similar passage in Joyce’s letter to Grant Richards (15 Oct. 1905): ‘I do not think any writer has yet presented Dublin to the world. It has been a capital of Europe for a thousand years, it is supposed to be the second city of the British Empire and it is nearly three times as big as Venice. Moreover, on account of many circumstances which I cannot detail here, the expression Dubliner seems to me to bear some meaning and I doubt whether the same can be said for such words as “Londoner” or “Parisian”, both of which have been used by writers as title.’ (Ellmann, James Joyce [1959], 1965 Edn., p.216, ftn.; also Ellmann, ed., Letters, Vol. 2, Viking 1966, p.122 [but omitted from Selected Letters (1975)].

Note: The letter continues [after ‘as title’]: ‘From time to time I see in publishers’ lists announcements of [122] books on Irish subjects, so that I think people might be willing to pay for the special odour of corruption which, I hope, floats over my stories. Faithfully yours / Jas. A Joyce’; Letters, 1966, Vol. 2, pp.122-23.)

6: ‘As for my part and share in the book I have already told all I have to tell. My intention was to write a chapter in the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis. I have tried to present it to the indifferent public under four of its aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. The stories are arranged in this order. I have written it for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness [see note] and with the conviction that he is a very bold man who dares to alter in the presentment, still more to deform, whatever he has seen and heard [see note]. I cannot do any more than this. I cannot alter what I have written. [...] I know very little of the state of English literature at present nor do I know whether it deserves or not the eminence which it occupies as the laughing-stock of Europe. But I suspect that it will follow the other countries of Europe as it did in Chaucer’s time. [...]’

Cont.: ‘I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis - Letter to Grant Richards, 5 May, 1906; Richard Ellmann, ed., Letters, [1966], Vol. 2, p.134; also in Selected Letters, 1975, p.83; quoted in A. Walton Litz, James Joyce, Boston: Twayne 1966, p.48, et mult. al.) [See note on Joyce’s possible indebtedness to Charles Maturin for the phrase ‘I chose Dublin for the scene .. &c.’ - under Maturin, infra.]

Scrupulous Joyce: Stanislaus Joyce had written that ‘scrupulous meanness’ is simply a revision of the phrase ‘studiously mean’ which Joyce used in a 1902 review of William Rooney’s Poems and Ballads which appeared in Dublin’s Daily Express [...] because the writing is so careless and yet so “studiously mean”.’ (Presumably in My Brother’s Keeper; quoted in Coping with Joyce: Essays from the Copenhagen Symposium, ed., Morris Beja & Shari Benstock [1989], p.99.)

JAJ and WBY: In writing of the impossibility of altering what he has seen and heard, Joyce seems to echo the phraseology of Yeats’s preface to The Celtic Twilight (1893 1st Edn.; rep. 1902) - a preliminary section entitled “This Book” - in which he writes: ‘The things a man has heard and seen are threads of life, and if he pull them carefully from the confused distaff of memory, any who will can weave them into whatever garments of belief please them best.’ If this is, indeed, a conscious - or even unconscious - echo, it is clear that Joyce is inverting the sense by asserting that what he has heard are parts of a realistic scene of contemporary Dublin while what Yeats has heard are part of a fantastic vision that resides in the minds and experience of the Irish peasants. This distinction is elaborated on the theoretical plane where he writes of the similar distinction between the ‘romantic temper’ and the ‘classical temper’ in explicit reference to the artistic attitudes and methods espoused by Yeats, on the one hand, and by himself, on the other.

(See Celtic Twilight, “This Book” - attached; see also Joyce’s remarks on Yeats’s Celtic Twilight - which he later called ‘cultic twalette’ in Finnegans Wake - under Yeats > Commentary > Joyce, infra.)

7: letter to Stanislaus Joyce, 18 [Sept.] 1905: ‘Your remark that “Counterparts” shows a Russian ability in taking the reader for an intracranial journey set me thinking what on earth people mean when they talk of “Russian”. You probably mean a certain scrupulous brute force in writing and, from the few Russians I have read, this does not seem to be eminently “Russian”.’ (Richard Ellmann, ed., Selected Letters, 1975, p.73.) [See also ‘scrupulous knife’ in “Ecce Homo”, supra.]

8: ‘You cannot see anything impossible or unreasonable in my position. I have explained and argued everything at full length and, when argument and explanation were unavailing, I have perforce granted what you wished, and even when you didn’t ask, [sic] me to grant. The points on whcih I have not yielded are the point which rivet the book together. If I eliminate them [i.e., the points to which Richards’ printer objected] what becomes of the chapter of the moral history of my country? I fight to retain them because I believe that in composing my chapter of moral history in exactly the way I have composed it I have taken the first step towards the spiritual liberation of my country. Reflect for a moment on the history of the literature of Ireland as it [88] now stands at present written in the English language before you condemn this genial illusion of mine, which, after all, has served me in the office of a candlestick during the writing of the book.’ (To Grant Richards, 20 May 1906; Stuart Gilbert, ed., Letters, Vol. 1, NY: Viking Press p.63; Richard Ellmann, ed., Selected Letters, Faber 1975, pp.88-89.)

9: ‘I send you a Dublin paper by this post. It is the leading satirical paper of the Celtic nations, corresponding to Punch or Pasquino. I send it to you that you may see how witty the Irish are as all the world knows [...] you will see for yourself that the Irish are the most spiritual race on the face of the earth. Perhaps this may reconcile you to Dubliners. It is not my fault that the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs [89] about my stories [...] I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilisation in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass.’ (Letter to Grant Richards, 23 June 1906; Stuart Gilbert, ed., Letters, Vol. 1 [1957], Viking Edn. 1966 [ed. Richard Ellmann], pp.63-64; also in Ellmann, ed., Selected Letters 1975, p.90.)

10: ‘Sometimes thinking of Ireland it seems to me that I have been unnecessarily harsh. I have reproduced (in Dubliners at least) none of the attraction of the city for I have never felt at my ease in any city since I left it except for Paris. I have not reproduced its ingenuous insularity and its hospitality. The latter “virtue” so far as I can see does not exist elsewhere in Europe.’ (Letter to Stanislaus, Rome, 25 Sept. 1906, in Letters, Vol. II, pp.164-68; p.166.)


On A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1922) - 1: Frank Budgen writes, ‘Joyce said to me once in Zurich: “Some people who read my book, A Portrait of the Artist[,] forget that it is called A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” / He underlined with his voice the last few words of the title.’ (Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses”, Bloomington 1960, p.60; quoted in A. Walton Litz, James Joyce, Boston: Twayne 1966, p.60.)

2: Joyce told Herbert Gorman: ‘I began this novel in notes before I left Ireland and finished it in Trieste in 1914. Before I left I offered an introduction chapter to Mr. Magee [John Eglinton] and Mr. Ryan, editor of Dana. It was rejected.’ (See Herbert Gorman, James Joyce: His First Forty Years, London: Geoffrey Bles [1926], p.70.

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On Ulysses (1922): The original story was planned for Dubliners. In 30 Sept. 1906, Joyce wrote to Stanislaus from Via Frattina, 52, 11°, Rome: ‘P.P.S. I have a new story in my head. It deals with Mr. Hunter.’ (Sel. Letters, p.112.) Later he writes, ‘I thought of [127] beginning my story Ulysses but I have too many cares at present’. (13 Nov. 1906; Sel. Letters, 1975, pp.127-28.) Further speaks of reading Guglielmo Ferrero’s Young Europe (ibid., p.128; see note - as infra). In the same lengthy letter, he asks Stanislaus, ‘How do you the name for the story about Hunter?’ (13 Nov. 1906; Sel. Letters, p.131). On 3 December 1906 he asks Stanislaus to ‘[w]rite to me about Mr. Hunter’ - that is, Alfred Hunter, the initial model for Leopold Bloom (Letters, II, p.198), while in another of 6 Feb. 1907, he admits that it ‘never got any forrader than the title’ (Letters, Vol. II, p.209; Selected Letters, Faber 1975, p.145.)

Note: Ellmann writes in a footnote to the Selected Letters, ‘Alfred H. Hunter was a Dubliner, rumoured to be a Jewish and to have an unfaithful wife.’ (Sel. Letters, 1975, p.112, n.2.) He also notes that Joyce frequently remarked in later life that Ulysses had its beginnings in Rome.

Guglielmo Ferrero’s Young Europe [L’Europe giovane (1897)] speaks, according to Joyce, of ‘three great classes of emigrants: the (I forget the word [viz. plasmativa]: it means conquering, imposing their own language, &c.), the English: the adhesive (forming a little group with national traditions and sympathies ) the Chinese and the Irish!!!!: the diffusive (entering into the new society and forming part of it) the Germans. He has a fine chapter on Antisemitism [...] In considering Jews he slips Jesus between Lasselle and Lombroso: the latter too (Ferrero’s father-in-law) is a Jew.’(Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, Faber 1975, p.128, n.1.) Ellmann also cites Ferrero’s Grandezza and decadenza di Roma, 5 vols. 1902-07.

Note that Joyce elsewhere accredits Ferrero with giving him the idea for “The Two Gallants” in Dubliners. ((11 Feb. 1907; Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, Faber 1975, pp.148 - quoted more fully under Quotations - infra.)

Joyce’s remarks on Ulysses

1: ‘I am now writing a book [...] based on the wanderings of Ulysses. The Odyssey, that is to say, serves me as a ground plan. Only my time is recent and all my hero’s wanderings take no more than eighteen hours.’ (See Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses”, Indiana UP 1960, p.15.)

2 [styles of]: ‘The task I set myself technically in writing a book from eighteen different points of view and in as many styles, all apparently unknown or undiscovered by my fellow tradesmen, that and the nature of the legend chosen[,] would be enough to upset anyone’s mental balance.’ (Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 24 June 1921; Selected Letters, 1975, pp.281-84; p.284: Letters, Vol. 1, ed. Stuart Gilbert, 1966 edn., p.167.)

3 [interior monologue]: ‘From my point of view, it hardly matters whether the technique [interior monologue] is “veracious” or not; it has served me as a bridge over which to march my eighteen episodes, and, once I have got my troops across, the opposing forces can, for all I care, blow the bridge sky-high.’ (Quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.543 [1982 rev. edn.; rep. 1983, p.528], citing Stuart Gilbert, James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Study, [1930] Faber & Faber 1952 Edn., p.28.)

Note: Gilbert’s original is actually given in indirect speech, viz.: ‘probably, from the point of view of the author, it hardly matters whether the technique in question is “veracious” or not; it has served him as a bridge over which to march his eighteen episodes, and, once he has got my troops across, [“]the opposing forces can, for all I care, blow the bridge skyhigh.”’ (James Joyce’s Ulysses, London: Faber 1930, p.28.)

4: ‘It was the book of my youth [...] but Ulysses is the book of my maturity, and I prefer my maturity to my youth. [36] Ulysses is more satisfying and better resolved; for youth is a time of torment in which you can see nothing clearly. But in Ulysses I have tried to see life clearly, I think, and as a whole; for Ulysses was always my hero. Yes, even in my tormented youth, but it has taken me half a lifetime to reach the necessary equilibrium to express it, for my youth was exceptionally violent; painful and violent.’ (Arthur Power, Conversations with James Joyce, London; Millington 1974, pp.36-37; for longer extracts, see under Power, infra.)

5: ‘In realism you are down to facts on which the world is based: that sudden reality which smashes romanticism into a pulp. What makes most people’s lives unhappy is some disappointed romanticism, some unrealizable or misconceived ideal. In fact you may say that idealism is the ruin of man, and if we lived down to fact, as primitive man had to do, we would be better off. That is what we were made for. Nature is quite unromantic. It is we who put romance into her, which is a false attitude, an egotism, absurd like all egotisms. In Ulysses I tried to keep close to fact.’ (Arthur Power, Conversations with James Joyce, London; Millington 1974, p.98; quoted in Hugh Kenner, Ulysses, London: George Allen & Unwin 1980, p.14.)

[Kenner here remarks: ‘All this has had immediate effect on our sense of Stephen Dedalus, whose mind in the old way can transport us instantly from Sandymount Strand to Paris, but whose body, now subject to the necessity of getting some six miles from Dalkey (10.30 a.m.) to the strand (11.05 a.m.), would have been borne on the Dalkey tram from Castle Street, Dalkey, to Haddington Road, thence onto the Sanymount line to Trintonville Road. The book does not particularise this journey but permits us to work it out, [...] and the Stephen who us take the new electric tram [...] is no longer in command of the new book the way his psyche was in command of the Portrait.’ (Idem.)]

6 [on Stephen in Ulysses:] ‘I just got a letter asking me why I don’t give Bloom a rest. The writer of it wants more Stephen. But Stephen no longer interests me to the same extent. He has a shape that can’t be changed.’ (Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses [1934] Indiana UP 1960 [rep edn.], p.105; quoted in Hugh Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce, London: Chatto & Windus 1955, p.112, citing Gilbert, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses, London: Grayson & Grayson [q.d.], p.107; also quoted in Michael Groden, ‘The Complex Simplicity of Ulysses’, in James Joyce, ed. Sean Latham, IAP 2010, p.111, citing 1872 Edn., p.107.)

7: Joyce tells Valery Larbaud that the reader ‘will know early in the book that SD’s mind is full like everyone else’s of borrowed words’ (4 June 1928; Letters, Vol. I, p.263; quoted in Colin MacCabe, James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word, Macmillan 1978, p.117.)

Note: The remark is to be found among longer comments about the use of inverted commas: ‘I think the fewer the quotation marks the better [...] The ‘ ‘ are to be used only in the case of a quotation in full dress, I think, i.e., when it is used to prove or to contradit or to show &c. Do you agree?’ (Letters, I, p.263; a facsimile of the letter is interleaved between pp.262 & 63.].)

See also Joyce’s remark about the Cape edition of A Portrait (1924): ‘Then Mr Cape and his printers gave me trouble. They set the book with perverted commas and I insisted on their removel by the sergeant-at-arms. [99] They they underlined passages which they thought undesirable. But as you will see by the enclosed: They were, and behold, they are not.’ (Letter to H. S. Weaver, 11 July 1924, Letters, Vol. III, p.99.)

8 [on Ulysses/Bloom]: ‘Ulysses is son to Laertes, but he is father to Telemachus, husband to Penelope, lover of Calypso, companion in arms of the Greek warriors around Troy, and King of Ithaca. He was subjected to many trials, but with wisdom and courage came through them all. [... H]e is a complete man as well, a good man.’ (In Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses, Indiana UP 1960 Edn., pp.16-17).

9: ‘I want [...] to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.’ (Spoken to Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses [1934], Indiana UP 1960 Edn., p.67 [1972 edn., p.69]; cited in Margot Norris, A Companion to James Joyce’s Ulysses, NY: Bedford Books 1998, p.1.)

10 [as epic]: ‘It is my epic of two races and at the same time the cycle of the human body as well as a little story of a day (life). The character of Ulysses always fascinated me - even when a boy. Imagine, fifteen years ago I started writing it as a short story for Dubliners! For seven years I have been working on this book - blast it! It is also a sort of encyclopaedia. My intention is to transpose the myth [146] sub specie temporis nostri. Each adventure (that is, every hour, every organ, every art being interconnected and interrelated in the structural scheme of the whole) should not only condition but even create its own technique. Each adventure is so to say one person although it is composed of persons - as Aquinas says of the angelic hosts. [...]’ (Letter to Carlo Linati, 21 Sept. 1920; Letters, I, p.146-47.)

In the original: ‘È l’epopea di due razze (Israele-Irlanda) e nel melemimo tempo il ciclo del corpo humano ed anche un storiella di una gioranta (vita). La figura di Ulisse mi ha sempre affascinato sin da ragazzo. Cominciai a scrivere una novella per Dubliners 15 anni fa ma smisi. Sette anni lavora ora a questo libro - accidenti! È una specie di enciclopedia anche. La mia intenzione e di rendere il mito sub specie temporis nostri. Non soltando ma permettando che ogni avventura (cioè ogni ora, ogni organo, ogni arte connessi ed immedesimati nella schema somatico del tutto) condixionasse anzi creasse la sua propria technica. Ogni avventura è per cosi dire una persona benche composta di persone - come favella l’Aquinate degli angelici eserciti.’ (Idem.)]

Bibl. note: (Letter to Carlo Linati, 21 Sept. 1920, in Letters, Vol. 1 [Viking], 1966, pp.146-47 [in English only]; also in Selected Letters, 1975, pp.270-71 [given in Italian, as infra, with an unattributed translation in a foonote, being n.1, p.271]; also [in part] in W. Y. Tindall, A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, 1959, p.132; Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.535-36, ftn.; Matthew Hodgart, James Joyce: A Student’s Guide, Routledge Kegan & Paul 1978, p.69, and Robert Deming, ed., Critical Heritage of James Joyce [1902-1927], London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970., p.18 Introduction].)

11 [“Sirens”]: ‘Perhaps I ought not to say any more on the subject of the Sirens. But the passages you alluded to were not intended by me as recitative. There is in the episode only one example of recitative on page 12 in preface to the song. They are all the eight regular parts of a fuga per canonem: and I did not know in what other way to describe the seductions of music beyond which Ulysses travels. I understand that you may begin to regard the various styles of the episodes with dismay and prefer the initial style much as the wanderer did who longed for the rock of Ithaca. But in the compass of one day to compress all these wanderings and clothe them in the form of this day is for me possible only by such variation which, I beg you to believe, is not capricious. In confirmation of what I said in my last letter, I enclose a cutting from a Dublin paper just received announcing the death of one of the figures in the episode [J. G. Lidwell].’ (Letter of 6 Aug. 1919; Letters [Vol. 1] p.129; quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.475; also Selected Letters, 1975, p.242.)

12 [“Sirens”]: ‘If the Sirens have been found so unsatisfactory, I have little hope that the Cyclops or later the Circe episode will be approved of, and moreover it is impossible for me to write these episodes quickly. The elements needed will only fuse after a prolonged existence together. I confess that it is an extremely tiresome book but it is the only book which I am able to write at present. [...] The word scorching has a peculiar significance for my superstitious mind - not so much because of any quality or merit in the writing itself as for the fact that the progress of the book is in fact like the progress of some sandblast. As soon as I mention or include any person in it, I hear of his death or departure or misfortune, and each successive episode dealing with some province of artistic culture (rhetoric or music or dialectic), leaves behind it a burnt up field. Since I wrote the “Sirens”, I find it impossible to listen to music of any kind. [...].’ (Letter to HSW of 20 July 1919; Letters [Vol. I], pp.128-29; quoted in Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.475.)

Further on “Sirens”: ‘I wrote this chapter with the technical resources of music. It is a fugue with all musical notations: piano, forte, rallentando, and so on. A quintet occam in it, too, as in Die Meistersinger, my favourite Wagnerian opera [...]. ... Since exploring the resources and artifices of music and employing them in this chapter, I haven't cared for music, any more. I, the great friend of music, can no longer listen, to it. I see through all the tricks and can’t enjoy it any more.’ (Letters, I, 129; quoted in Ellmann, James Joyce, 1982 edn., p.459.)

Further - letter to HSW: ‘I did not know in what other way to describe the seductions of music beyond which Ulysses travels.’ (Letters, I, 129; quoted in Ellmann, James Joyce, 1982 edn., p.459; cited in Maria Tymoczko, ‘Joyce’s Postpostivist Prose Cultural Translation and Transculturation’, in Irish Studies in Brazil, ed. Munira H. Mutran & Laura P. Z. Izarra, Associação Editorial Humanitas 2005, p.263.) [Note that this is a variant selection from the same letter as the one quoted immediately above.]

Further: ‘I wrote this chapter with the technical resources of music. It is a fugue with all musical notations: piano, forte, rallentando, and so forth. A quintet occurs in it, too, as in Die Meistersinger, my favourite Wagnerian opera [...] Since exploring the resources and artifices of music, and employing them in this chapter, I haven’t cared for music any more. I, the great friend of music, can no longer listen to it. I see through all the tricks and can’t enjoy it any more.’ (Ellmann, 1982; Letters, I, p.129; quoted in Mary Tymoczko, Joyce’s Postpositivist Prose Cultural Translation and Transculturation, in Irish Studies in Brazil ed. by Munira H. Mutran & Laura P. Z. Izarra (São Paolo: Assoc. Editorial Humanitas 2005),p.267.

13 [“Nausicaa”]: ‘Perhaps next month [...] Nausikaa is written in a namby-pamby marmalady drawsery (alto là!) style with effects of incense, mariolatry, masturbation, stewed cockles, painter’s palete, chitchat, circumlocutions, &c. &c. Not so long as the others.’ (Letter to Frank Budgen, 3 Jan. 1920; Selected Letters, 1975, p.246.)

14 [“Oxen of the Sun”] - Letter to Stuart Gilbert: ‘Am working hard at Oxen of the Sun, the idea being the crime committed against fecundity by sterilising the act of coition. Scene, lying-in hospital. Technique: a nineparted episode without divisions introduced by a Sallustian-Tacitean prelude (the unfertilised ovum), then by a way of earliest English alliterative and monosyllablic and Anglo-Saxon (“Before born the babe had bliss. Within the womb he won worship. Bloom dull dreamy heard: in held hat stony staring”) then by way of Mandeville (“there came forth a scholar of medicine that men clepen, &c.”) then Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (“but that franklin Lenehan was prompt ever to pour them so that at the least way mirth should not lack”) then the Elizabethan “chronicle style” (“about that present time young Stephen filled all cups”), then a passage solemn, as of Milton, Taylor and Hooker, followed by a choppy Latin-gossipy bit, style of Burton-Browne, then a passage Bunyanesque (“the reason was that in the way he fell in with a certain whore whose name she said is Bird-in-the-hand”). After a diarystyle bit Pepys-Evelyn (“Bloom sitting snug with a party of wags, among them Dixon jun, Ja. Lynch, Doc. Madden and Stephen D. for a languor he had before and was now better he having dreamed tonight a strange fancy and Mistress Purefoy there to be delivered, poor body, two days past her time and the midwives hard put to it, God send her quick issue”) and so on through Defoe- Swift and Steele-Addison-Sterne and Landor-Pater-Newman until it ends in a frightful jumble of Pidgin English, Nigger English, Cockney, Irish, Bowery slang and broken doggerel. This procession is also linked back at each part subtly with some foregoing episode of the day and, besides this, with the natural stages of development in the embryo and the periods of faunal evolution in general. The double-thudding Anglo-Saxon motive recurs from time to time (“Loth to move from Horne’s house”) to give the sense of the hoofs of oxen. Bloom is the spermatozoon, the hospital the womb, the nurse the ovum, Stephen the embryo. / How’s that for high? (Letter of [?]20 March 1920 to Frank Budgen; in Letters [Vol. 1], p.139-40; quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1959, pp.489-90 - where he attaches ‘apparently’ to the date given here; also in Selected Letters, 1975, pp.251-52.) Cf. remarks in letter of 25 Feb. 1920 to Harriet Shaw Weaver remarking the chapter was ‘the most difficult episode in an odyssey [...] to interpret and to execute’ (Letter to HSW, 25 Feb. 1920; Letters 1: 137.)

15 [“Ithaca”]: ‘I am writing “Ithaca” in the form of a mathematical catechism. All events are resolved into their cosmic physical, psychical, &c equivalents, e.g., Bloom jumping down the area, drawing water from the tap, the micturition in the garden, the cone of incense, lighted candle and statue so that not only will the reader know everything and know it in the baldest coldest way but Bloom and Stephen therefore become heavenly bodies, wanderers like the stars at which they gaze. / The last word (human, all too human) is left to Penelope This is the indispensable countersign to Bloom’s passport to eternity.’ (LI, pp.159-60.)

(Letter to Budgen, ?28 Feb., 1921; Letters [I], pp.159-60; Selected Letters, p.278; quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, p.516; also [in part] in C. H. Peake, James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist, Arnold 11977, p.156 - who notes the correspondence between ‘heavenly bodies’ and ‘comets’ in the Linati schema.)

See also remark to Frank Budgen: ‘Joyce once told me that Ithaca was his favourite episode. “It is the ugly duckling of the book,” he said.’ (James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses, Indiana UP 1960, p.264; quoted in Jonathan McCreedy, MA Dipl., UUC 2008.) ‘I like the episode myself. I find it of a tranquilising spectrality.’ (Letters, I, p.176; quoted in William York Tindall, A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, Thames & Hudson, 1963, p.226.)

16 [“Penelope”]: ‘“Penelope” is the clou [Fr. nail] of the book. The first sentence contains 2,500 words. There are eight sentences in the episode. It begins and ends with the female word yes. It turns like the huge earth ball slowly surely and evenly round and round spinning, its four cardinal points being the female breasts, arse, womb and cunt expressed by the words because, bottom (in all senses bottom button, bottom of the class, bottom of the sea, bottom of his heart), woman, yes. Though probably more obscene than any preceding episode it seems to me to be perfectly sane full amoral fertilisable untrustworthy engaging limited prudent indifferent Weib. Ich bin de Fleisch der stets bejaht.’ ( Letter to Frank Budgen, 16 Aug. 1921; Letters [Vol. I], p.170; Selected Letters, 1975, p.285; quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, pp.516-17.) Note post scriptum: ‘Molly was born in 1871.’ (Idem.)

17 [“Penelope”]: ‘Your description of it [as “prehuman”] also coincides with my intention - if the epithet “posthuman” were added ... In conception and technique I tried to depict the earth which is prehuman and presumably posthuman.’ (Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 8 Feb. 1922; in Selected Letters, p.289.) Note: Joyce called Molly a ‘perfectly sane amoral fertilisable untrustworthy engaging shrewd limited prudent indifferent Weib.’ (Selected Letters, ed. Ellmann, Faber & Faber 1975, p.285.)

18 [“Penelope” - ending]: ‘In Ulysses ... I had sought to end with the least forceful work I could possibly find. I had found the word yes which is barely pronounced, which denotes acquiescence, self abandon, relaxation, and end of all resistance. In “Work in Progress” I’ve tried to do better if I could. This time, I found the word which is the most slippery, the least accented, the weakest word in English, a word which is not even a word, which is scarcely sounded between the teeth, a breath, a nothing, the article the.’ (Letter [q.d.; ?to Harriet Shaw Weaver]).

19: ‘“Why have you written the book this way?”, someone else demanded. “To keep the critics busy for three hundred years.”’ (Ellmann, James Joyce [1982 edn.], p.521 - and see infra.) Note that Ellmann attributes the remarks to a conversation with between Joyce and Benoist-Mechin, supposedly taking place when the latter was translating the “Penelope” episode, and gleaned by Ellmann in an interview with him [JJII, 521].

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On Finnegans Wake (1939)

Note: Much of the extra-textual information about about the plan, methods and progress of Finnegans Wake [aka Work in Progress] was conveyed by Joyce to his patroness Harriet Shaw Weaver in letters contemporaneous with the writing of each section or after it. These are contained in the collected Letters of James Joyce (Vol. 1, 1957; 3 vols. 1966), but also printed more-or-less exhaustively in the Selected Letters (ed. Richard Ellmann, 1975). Some examples follow.

See Joyce’s list of sigla used in the construction of Finnegans Wake, in a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver of March 1924 - under Notes, infra.

1. “Yesterday I wrote two pages [i.e., “Roderick O’Connor” - the first I have ever written since the final Yes of Ulysses. Having found a pen with some difficulty I copied them out in a large handwriting on a double sheet of foolscap so that I could read them.’ (Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver [HSW], 11 March 1923; Selected Letters, ed. Ellmann, Faber 1975, p.296; quoted in quoted in Katrin Van Herbruggen, ‘Notes Toward a Timeline ofWork in Progress, in Genetic Joyce Studies, 4, Spring 2004 - available online; accessed 25.02.2023.)

2: ‘I have finished the Anna Livia piece. Here it is. After it I have hardly enough energy to hold the pen and as a result of work, worry, bad light, general circumstances and the rest. A few words to explain. It is a chattering dialogue across the river by two washerwomen who as night falls become a tree and a stone. The river is named Anna Liffey. Some of the words at the beginning are hybrid Danish-English [302]. Dublin is a city founded by Vikings. The Irish name is Baile-Atha-Cliath [Gael. sp.] (Ballyclee) = Town of Ford of Hurdle. Her Pandora’s box contains the ills flesh is heir to. The stream is quite brown, rich in salmon, devious, shallow. The splitting up towards the end (seven dams) is the city building. Izzy will be later Isolde (cf. Chapelizod.) [...] I hope you’re well and that the piece will please you.’ (Letter to HSW, 7 March 1924; Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, 1975, p.301-02.)

3: ‘I think that I have solved one - the first - of the problems presented by my book. In other words one of the partitions between two of the tunnelling parties seems to have given way.’ (Letter to HSW, 9 Nov. 1924; Selected Letters, 1975, p.304.) Cf., ‘[...] It is like a mountain that I tunnel into from every direction, but I don’t know what I will find.’ (Interview of 1956 with August Suter, quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce [1959], 1965, p.556; vide Frank Budgen, ‘James Joyce’, in Horizon, III, Feb. 1941, p.105.) Also, ‘I feel like an engineer boring through a mountain from two sides. If my calculations are correct we shall meet in the middle. If not ...’ (q.source; but see McHugh, Sigla, 1979.)

4: ‘I am sorry that Patrick and [Berkeley] are unsuccessful in explaining themselves. The answer, I suppose, is that given by Paddy Dignam’s apparition: metapsychosis. Or perhaps the theory so well set forth (after Hegel and Giambattista Vico) by the four eminent annalists who are even now treading the typepress in sorrow will explain part of my meaning. I work as much as I can because these are not fragments but active elements and when they are more and a little older they will begin to fuse of themselves.’ (To Harriet Shaw Weaver, 9 Oct. 1923; Letters, I, p. 204.)

5: ‘Have you read Saint Patrice? There is a book on Bruno (though not on Nolan) by Lewis McIntyre (Macmillan). I do not know if Vico has been translated. I would not pay overmuch attention to these theories, beyond using them for all they are worth, but they have gradually forced themselves upon me through circumstances of my own life.’ (Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 21 May 1926, in Selected Letters, 1975, p.314.) [See also review of McIntyre in Quotations, supra, and Bruno under Notes, attached. [Note: Joyce similarly told Padraic Colum of Vico that he used his cycles ‘as a trellis’ (Our Friend James Joyce, NY: Doubleday 1958, p.123; quoted in Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965, p.565.]

6: ‘One great part of every human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cutandry grammar and goahead plot.’ (Letter to HSW, 24 Nov. 1926; Letters, III, 146; Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, Faber 1975, p.318.)

7: ‘The first and third parts being done (5 years work) I could perhaps do the second and the short fourth, but I need rest, and a lot of it. Any duffer ought to be able to pick the threads for part 2 out of the immense sombre melopées of 1 and 3. (To HSW, 14 Aug. 1927; Selected Letters, 1975, p.327.)

8: ‘I might easily have written this story in the traditional manner [...] Every novelist knows the recipe [...] It is not very difficult to follow a simple, chronological scheme which the critics will understand [...] But I, after all, am trying to tell the story of this Chapelizod family in a new way.’ (Quoted in quoted in Margot Norris, The Decentered Universe of “Finnegans Wake”: A Structuralist Analysis (Johns Hopkins UP 1976), p.2.

9 [On “Colloquy of Saint and Sage” in connection with an article Frank Budgen is writing for F.R. [Revue Française?]: ‘Reread the second phrase in the hagiographic triptych in Part IV (S. L. O’Toole is only adumbrated). Much more is intended in the colloquy between Berkeley the arch druid and his pidgin speech and Patrick the arch priest and his Nippon English, it is also the defence and indictment of the book itself, B’s theory of colours and Patrick’s practical solution to the problems. Hence the phrase in the preceding Mutt and Jeff banter, ‘Dies is Dorminus master’ = Deus est Dominus noster plus the day is Lord over sleep, i.e., when it days’. (Letter to Frank Budgen, 20 Aug. 1939; Selected Letters, 1975, pp.397-98; Letters, Vol. 1, ed. Stuart Gilbert, 1966 Edn., p.406.)

10: ‘Dans Ulysse, pour peindre la balbutiement d’une femme qui s’endort, j’avais cherché a finir par le mot le moins fort qu’il m’était possible de découvrir. J’avais trouvé le mot “yes”, qui se prononce a peine, qui signifie l’acquiescement, l’abandon, la détente, la fin de toute résistance. Dans le Work in Progress, j’ai cherché mieux, si je pouvais. Cette fois, j’a trouvé le mot le plus glissant, le moins accentué, le plus faible de la langue angliaise, un mot qui n’est pas un mot, qui sonne a peine entre les dent, un souffle, un rien, l’article the.’ (Louis Gillet, Stèle pour James Joyce, Marseille 1941, pp.164-65; quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.725.)

11: [Finnegans Wake would be written] ‘to suit the esthetic of the dream, when the forms prolong and multiply themselves, when the visions pass from the trivial to the apocalyptic, when the brain uses the roots of vocables to make others from them which will be capable of naming its phantasms, its allegories, its allusions’. (Joyce to Edmond Jaloux, quoted in Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965, p.559; cited in Stephen Heath, ‘Ambiviolences: Notes for reading Joyce’, in Post-structuralist Joyce: Essays from the French, Derek Attridge & Daniel Ferrer, Cambridge UP 1984, pp.31-68.)

12: Joyce explains sigla to Harriet Shaw Weaver:

‘In making notes for [Finnegans Wake] I used signs for the chief characters. It may amuse you to see them so I shall write them on the back of this [letter]:

?Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker
? Anna Livia Plurabelle
[ Shem
? Shaun
—I Isolde [sideways T]
S Snake
P S. Patrick
T Tristan
X Mamalujo
? This stands for the [novel’s] title [square].’

(Letter to Harriest Shaw Weaver (24 March 1924), in Stuart Gilbert, The Letters of James Joyce, London; Faber & Faber 1957, p.213; quoted in Jonathan McCreedy, PhD Diss., Viva [proposal], UUC 2009.) [See further under Notes 2 > Finnegans Wake > Sigla - infra.

See more letters to Harriet Shaw Weaver in RICORSO > James Joyce > Quotations > Extracts from Letters [File 5/5] - as infra.

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