James Joyce: Quotations (5) - Extracts from the Letters

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File 5: From the Letters...
Letter to Henrik Ibsen (1901)
“The Cat of Beaugency”
[ under construction ]

‘[...] The Abbey Theatre will be open and they will give plays of Yeats and Synge. You have right to be there because you are my bride: and I am one of the writers of this generation who are perhaps creating at last a conscience in the soul of this wretched race.’ (Joyce to Nora, letter of 22 Aug. 1912, in Selected Letters, 1975, p.204.)

To Henrik Ibsen (March 1901) [Joyce’s English draft]: ‘What shall I say more? I have sounded your name defiantly through the college where it was either unknown or known faintly and darkly. I have claimed for you your rightful place in the history of the drama. I have shown what, as it seemed to me, was your highest excellence - your lofty impersonal power. Your minor claims - your satire, your technique and orchestral harmony - these, too, I advanced. Do not think me a hero-worshipper - I am not so. And when I spoke of you in debating societies and so forth, I enforced attention by no futile ranting.
 But we always keep the dearest things to ourselves. I did not tell them what bound me closest to you. I did not say how what I could discern dimly of your life was my pride to see, how your battles inspired me - not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead, how your wilful resolution to wrest the secret from life [gave] me heart and how in your absolute indifference to public canons of art, friends and shibboleths you walked in the light of your inward heroism. And this is what I write to you of now. Your work on earth draws to a close and you are near the silence. It is growing dark for you. Many write of such things, but they do not know. You have only opened the way - though you have gone as far as you could upon it - to the end of John Gabriel Borkman and its spiritual truth - for your last play stands, I take it, apart. But I am sure that higher and holier enlightenment lies - onward.’ (Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber 1975, p.7 [Joyce uses double-inverted commas for titles.]

Note: Stuart Gilbert, in his note to this letter in Letters, Vol. I, writes: ‘Gorman in his biography states that Joyce wrote the letter first in English and then turned it into Norwegian.’ (Letters of James Joyce, I, NY: Viking 1959, 1966, Vol. I, p.51.)

To Lady Gregory (Nov. 1902): ‘[...] I know there is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to my church as a human being, and accordingly I am going to Paris. [...] I do not know what will happen to me in Paris but my case can hardly be worse than it is here. [...] I am not despondent however for I know that even if I fail to make my way such failure proves very little. I shall try myself against the powers of the world. All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light. And though I seem to have been driven out of my country here as a misbeliever I have found no man yet with a faith like mine.’ (Typescript copy made by Lady Gregory, held among the papers of W. B. Yeats, with an inscription on verso in WBY’s hand; Letters, ed. Stuart Gilbert, Vol. I [1957], 1966, p.53; Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber 1975, p.8.)

[Compare this with Yeats’s letter to Joyce, also in 1902, in which he speaks of 18 Dec. 1902: ‘The qualities that make a man succeed do not show in his work, often, for quite a long time’ - a tone and approach which suggests that he was already au fait with Joyce’s mind as he had opened it to Lady Gregory. The two had met on 2 October [recte Nov.] 1902. (See further under Yeats, as infra.)]

To his mother (20 March 1903) - from Paris: ‘My book of songs will be published in the spring of 1907. My first comedy about five years later. My “Esthetic” about five years later again. (This must interest you!) Yeats (who is impressionable) said he knew me ony a little time and in that time I had roared laughing at the mention of Balzac, Swinburne &c. I have more than once upset a whole French café by laughing ...’ (Letters, Vol. 2, [1957] 1966, p.38.)

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To Nora [29 Aug. 1904, 60 Shelbourne Road]: ‘[...] I may have pained you tonight by what I said but surely it is well that you should know my mind on most things? My mind rejects the whole present social order and Christianity - home, the recognised virtues, classes of life, and religious doctrines. How could I like the idea of home? My home was simply a middle-class affair ruined by spendthrift habits which I have inherited. My mother was slowly killed, I think, by my father’s ill-treatment, by years of trouble, and by my cynical frankness of conduct. When I looked on her face as she lay in her coffin - a face grey and wasted with cancer - I understood that I was looking on the face of a victim and I cursed the system which had made her a victim. We were seventeen in family. My brothers and sisters are nothing to me. One brother alone is capable of understanding me. [i.e, Stanislaus; but see letter to Mrs. Joyce: ‘Georgie understood me, I am beginning to think,’ 20 March 1903; SL, p.20.]
 Six years ago I left the Catholic Church, hating it most fervently. I found it impossible for me to remain in it on account of the impulses of my nature. I made secret war upon it when I was a student and declined to accept the positions it offered me. By doing this I made myself a [25] beggar but I retained my pride. Now I make open war upon it by what I write and say and do. I cannot enter the social order except as a vagabond. I started to study medicine three times, law once, music once. A week ago I was arranging to go away as a travelling actor. I could put no energy into the plan because you kept pulling me by the elbow. The actual difficulties of my life are incredible but I despise them. [...; cont.] (Letters, II, p.48.)

To Nora (29 Aug. 1904) - cont.: ‘You have misunderstood, I think, some passages in a letter I wrote you and I have noticed a certain shyness in your manner as if the recollection of that night troubled you. I however consider it a kind of sacrament and the recollection of it fills me with amazed joy. You will perhaps not understand at once why it is that I honour you so much on account of it as you do not know much of my mind. But at the same time it was a sacrament which left in me a final sense of sorrow and degradation - sorrow because I saw in you an extraordinary, melancholy tenderness which had chosen that sacrament as a compromise, and degradation because I understood that in your eyes I was inferior to a convention of our present society.
 I spoke to you satirically tonight but I was speaking of the world not of you. I am an enemy of the ignobleness and slavishness of people but not of you. Can you not see the simplicity which is at the back of all my disguises? We all wear masks. Certain people who know that we are much together often insult me about you. I listen to them calmly, disdaining to answer them but their least word tumbles my heart about like a bird in a storm.
 It is not pleasant for me that I have to go to bed now remembering the last look of your eyes - a look of tired indifference - remembering the torture in your voice the other night. No human being has ever stood so close to my soul as you stand, it seems, and yet you can treat my words with painful rudeness (“I know what is talking now” you said). When I was younger I had a friend to whom I gave myself freely - in a way more than I give to you and in a way less. He was Irish, that is to say, he was false to me.  I have not said a quarter of what I want to say but it is great labour writing with this cursed pen. I don’t know what you will think of this letter. Please write to me, won’t you? Believe me, my dear Nora, I honour you very much but I want more than your caresses. You have left me again in an anguish of doubt.” [signed] JAJ. (Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber 1975, pp.25-27.) [MS letter in Cornell U. Library.]

To Nora [26 Sept. 1904]: ‘My dearest Nora - I must tell you how desolate I have felt since last night. I was thinking, with my usual way of regarding things, that I had a cold but I am sure it is more than a physical ailment. How little words are necessary between us! We seem to know each other though we say nothing almost for hours. I often wonder do you realise thoroughly what you are about to do. I think so little of myself when I am with you that I often doubt if you do realise it. The mere recollection of you overpowers me with some kind of dull slumber. The energy which is required for carrying on conversations seems to have left me lately and I find myself constantly slipping into silence. In a way it seems to me a pity that we do not say more to each other and yet I know how futile it is for me to remonstrate either with you or with myself for I know that when I meet you next our lips will become mute. You see how I begin to babble in these letters. And yet why should I be ashamed of words? Why should I not call you what in my heart I continually call you? What is it that prevents me unless it be that no word is tender enough to be your name! Jim. Write if you can find time.’ (Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber 1975, p.31.)

To Nora [19 Sept. 1904; addressed 103 North Strand Road, Fairview]: ‘Carissima It was only when I had left you some time that the connection between my question “Are your people wealthy?” and your uneasiness afterwards struck me. My object, jowerver, was to find out whether with me your would be deprived of comforts which you have been accustomed to at home. After thinking a good while I found a solution to your other question - this, that you were undecided whether I should be living in or out of the college. I slept very, very badly last night, waking four times. You ask me why I don’t love you, but surely you must believe I am very fond of you and if to desire to possess a person wholly, to admire and honour that person deeply, and to seek to secure that person’s happiness in every way is to “love” then perhaps my affection for you is a kind of love. I will tell you this that your soul seems to me to be the most beautiful and simple soul in the world and it may be because I am so conscious of this when I look at you that my love or affection for you loses much of its violence. / I intended to tell you that if you receive the least hint of any act on the part of your people you must leave the Hotel at once and send a [telegram] to me at this address) to say where I can see you. Your people cannot of course prevent you from going if you wish but they can make things unpleasant for you. I have to meet my father today and shall probably stay in his house until I leave Ireland so if you write write there. The address is 7 S. Peter’s Terrace, Cabra, Dublin. Adieu then, dear Nora, till tomorrow evening. Jim.’ (Letters, Vol. II, NY: Viking Press 1966, p.55)

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To Stanislaus (31 Oct. 1904): ‘[...] Please send on at once a long and documented letter containing all the news as it is nearly a month since I left Ireland and have had none yet.’ (Selected Letters, 1975, p.41.)

To Stanislaus (19 Nov. 1904): ‘I have not written much of the novel - only the end of the 11th [sic] chapter in Zurich. I have written about half of “Xmas Eve” and about five long pages of “Esthetic Philosophy” [vi., “Pola Notebook&148;, Critical Writings, 1959, pp.146-48]. [...] I am afraid I cannot finish my novel for a long time. I am discontente with a great deal of it, and yet how is Stephen’s nature to be expressed otherwise. Eh? I am getting rather stout and mannish.’ (Selected Letters, 1975, p.44.)

To Stanislaus Joyce (7 Feb. 1905): ‘Cosgrave, whom you must recognise as a torpid animal once for all, was, so far as I can remember, guilty of no duplicity towards me. Do you think I am saying what is true? You are hard with Nora because she has an untrained [52] mind. She is learning French at present - very slowly. Her disposition, as I see it, is much nobler than my own, her love also is greater than mine for her. I admire her and I love her and I trusts her - I cannot tell how much. I trust her. So enough. [...]’ (Letters, II, 1966, p.81; Selected Letters, 1975, pp.52-53.)

To Stanislaus Joyce (7 Feb. 1905 [cont.]) ‘[...] I am sure however that the whole structure of heroism is, and always was, a damned lie and that there cannot be any substitute for the individual passion as the motive power of everything - art and philosophy included. For this reason Hairy Jesus [Skeffington] seemed to be the bloodiest imposter of all I have met.’ (Letters, Vol. II, 1966, p.81; Selected Letters, p.54.) [Cf. later remarks about heroism in connection with his disillusionment with heroism in 1906-07; the above should perhaps be read as referring to non-literary kind.)

To Stanislaus Joyce (28 Feb. 1905): ‘It seems to me that what astonishes most people in the length of the novel is the extraordinary energy in the writer and his extraordinary patience. It would be easy for me to do short novels if I chose but what I want to wear away in this novel cannot be worn away except by constant dropping. Gogarty used to pipe “63” in treble when I told him the number of the chapters. I am not quite satisfied with the title “Stephen Hero” and am thinking of restoring the original title of the article “A Portrait of the Artist” or perhaps “A Chapter in the Life of a Young Man”. If I had a phonography or a clever stenographer I could certainly write any of the novels I have read lately in seven or eight hours.’ (Letters, II, 1966, p.83; Selected Letters, 1975, p.56.)

[See also Richard Ellmann’s editorial note explaining the nature and origin of Stephen Hero and its title - under Notes, infra.]

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To Stanislaus Joyce (7 Feb. 1905) - cont.: ‘[...] My life is far less even than formerly. I reach prostrating depths of impersonality (multiply 9 [to the power of] 4 by 17 - the no of weeks) but on the other hand I reach levels of great satisfaction. I am sure however that the whole structure of heroism is, and always was, a damned lie and that there cannot be any substitute for the individual passion as the motive power of everythign - art and philosophy included.’ (p.54.)

Note that the idea of ‘individual passion’ is traceable in the Italian line to Gabriel D’Annunzio and recurs in the ‘absolute idealism’ of Benedetto Croce [q. source], while Oscar Wilde makes Gilbert say: ‘The longer one studies life and literature the more strongly one feels that behind everything that is wonderful stands the individual, and that it is not the moment that makes the man, but the man who creates the age.’ (“The Critic As Artist” [1890], in The Writings of Oscar Wilde, ed. Isobel Murray, OUP 1989, p.254.)

To Stanislaus Joyce (28 Feb. 1905): ‘I [83] have come to accept my present situation as voluntary exile - is it not so? This seems to me important both because I am likely to generate out of it a sufficiently personal future to satisfy Curran’s heart and also because it supplies me with the note on which I propose to bring my novel to a close.’ (Letters, II, pp.83-84; Selected Letters, p.56.)

To Stanislaus Joyce (12 July 1905): ‘[...] There is a neat phrase of five words in The Boarding House: find it. [...; p.63.] You will remember the circumstances in which I left Ireland nine months ago. Like everything else that I have done in my life it was an [92] experiment. I can hardly say with truth that it was an experiment which has failed seeing that in those nine months I have begotten a child, written 500 pages of my novel, written 3 of my stories, learned German and Danish fairly well, discharged the intolerable (to me) duties of my position and swindled two tailors. [...] I must, first of all, tell you that Trieste is the rudest place I have ever been in. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the incivility of the people [...; 93] The Trieste people are great “stylists” in dream, often starving themselves in order to be able to flaunt good dresses on the pier [...; 94] She [Nora] seems to me to be in danger of falling into a melancholy mood which would certainy inure her health very much. I do not know what strange morose creature she will bring forth after all her tears and I am even beginning to reconsider the appositeness of the names I had chosen (“George” and “Lucy”). [...] The child is an unforgettable part of the problem. I suppose you know that Nora is incapable of any of the deceits which pass for current morality and the fact she is unhappy here is explained when you consider that she is really very helpless and unable to cope with any kind of difficulties. [...; 95] I often thing to myself that, in spite of the seeming acuteness of my writing, I may fail in life through being too ingenuous, and certainly I made a mistake in thinking that, with an Irish friendship aiding me, I could carry through my general indictent or survey of the island successfully. The very degrading and unsatisfactory nature of my exile angers me and I do not see why I should continue to drag it out with a view to returning “some day” with money in my pocket and convincing men of letters that, after all, I was a person of talent. [...’; 96; lays out plan to rent a cottage outside Dublin; p.97.] (Letters, II, 1966, pp.92-97; Selected Letters, 1975, pp.63-68.)

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To Stanislaus Joyce (19 July 1905): ‘[...] Many of of the frigidities of “The Boarding House” and “Counterparts” were written while the sweat streamed down my face on to the handerchief which protected my collar. [...; p.69 - and see note, infra.]  Further: ‘The preface to The Vicar of Wakefield which I read yesterday gave me a moment of doubt as to the excellence of my literary manners. It seems 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 of Dubliners seem to be indisputably well done but, after all, perhaps many people could do them as well. Maupassant writes very well, of ocurse, but I am afraid that this moral sense is very obtuse. 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 there way. All these pros and cons I must for the nonce lock up in my bosom. Of course I do not think that I consider contemporary Irish writing anything but ill-written, morally obtuse formless caricature. / The struggles against conventions in which I am at present involved was not entered into by me so much as a protest against these conventions as with the intention of living in conformity with my moral nature. There are some people in Ireland who would call my moral nature oblique, people who think that the whole duty of man consists in paying one’s debts; but in this case Irish opinion is certainly only the caricature of the opinion of any European tribunal. [...] my present lamentable circumstances seem to constitute a certain reproach against me. [End.]’ (Selected Letters, 1975, p.70.)

Note: Joyce employs the epithet ‘frigidities’ in a rather different sense in his letter to Stanislaus of 7 Feb. 1905 - viz., ‘The elaborate intentions of your antepenultimate and penultimate frigidities are a complement. But you are not careful or just.’ (Letters, II, p.79; Selected Letters, 1975, p.52.) Here he goes on to correct Stanislaus’s estimate of Curran and Nora.)

To Aunt Josephine [Mrs. William Murray] (31 Dec. 1904): ‘[...] I am trying to move on to Italy as soon as possible as I hate this Catholic country with its hundred races and thousand languages, governed by a parliament which can transact no business and sits for a week at the most and by the most physically corrupt royal house in Europe. Pola is a back-of-God speed place - a naval Sibera - 37 man o’war in the harbour, swarming with faded uniforms. [...] I spit upon the image of the tenth Pius. Faithfully yours Jas A. Joyce.’ (Selected Letters, 1975, p.49.)

To Aunt Josephine [Mrs William Murray] (23 Oct. 1922) - on his gift of a copy of Ulysses to her: ‘I presented it to you seven months ago but I never heard anything more about it beyond a few words acknowledging receipt and an allusion in your last letter. The market price of the book now in London is £40 and copies signed are worth more. I mention this because Alice [Mrs. Murray’s daughter] told me you had lent it (or given?) and people in Dublin have a way of not returning books. In a few years copies of the first edition will probably be worth £100 each, so book expert say, and hence my remark. This of course has nothing to do with the contents of the book which it seems you have not read. [...] There is a difference between a present of a pound of chops and a present of a book like Ulysses. You can acknowledge receipt of the present of a pound of chops by simply nodding gratefully, supposing, that is, that you have your mouth full of as much of the chops as it will conveniently hold, but you cannot do so with a large book on account of the difficulty of fitting it into the mouth.’ (Letters, I: 190; quoted in Katrin Van Herbruggen, ‘Notes Toward a Timeline of Work in Progress’, in Genetic Joyce Studies, 4, Spring 2004 - available online; accessed 25.02.2023.)

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To Grant Richards (13 March 1906): ‘You suggest I should write a novel in some sense autobiographical [132]. I have already written a thousand pages of such a novel, as I think I told you, 914 pages to be accurate. I calculate that these twenty-five chapters, about half the book, run into 150,000 words. But it is quite impossible for me in present circumstances to think the rest of the book much less write it. This book also has the defect of being about Ireland.’ (Letter to Grant Richard, 13 March 1906, in The Letters of James Joyce, Vol. 1, ed. Stuart Gilbert, NY: Viking Press 1957; 1966, p.131-32.)

To Grant Richards (5 May 1906): ‘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 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. 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. [...]’ (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 notes attached to another copy of this extract under Quotations - supra.]

To Grant Richards (29 May 1906): ‘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.)

To Grant Richards (23 June 1906): ‘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.)

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To Stanislaus Joyce (19 Aug. 1906): ‘[...] How the devil did you think the news about Kettle would interest me? But I would like to see a copy of Dialogues of the Day. I have written three paragraphs to add to “A Painful Case”, but I don’t know if I can rewrite it. I would like also to rewrite “After the Race” but if G.R. sent me the proofs I would pass the book as it is. The case of perfection is very unprofitable. / Send me on the news. Today I discovered a photograph of Billy Walsh [Archb. of Dublin, &c.] in a prominent street. Would you like to see some copies of L’Asino - the Italian anti-clerical newspaper. I absorbed the attention of the tree clerks in my office a few days ago by a socialistic outburst. One of them is a German and he was ridiculing Lombrosianism and antimilitarism. He said when children cried “they should be caned”, favoured corporal punishment in schools, conscription, religion, &c. I think he was surprised not to find an ally in an Inglese. Item: English and Americans abroad talk at the top of their voices.’ (Letters, II, 1966, p.151; Selected Letters, 1975, p.97.)

Note: Joyce later explains in a letter of 6 Sept. 1906: ‘You seem to be annoyed about Kettle. The reason I was not interested is because I take no interest in parliamentarianism as I suppose, you know. However, I have asked Aunt J[osphine] to send me a copy of the Nationalist - if it still exists. As for a possible friendship with Kettle, it seems to me my influence on male friends is provocative. They find it hard to understand me, and difficult to get on with me even when they seem well-equipped for these tasks. On the other hand, two ill-equipt women, to wit, Aunt Josephine and Nora, seem to be able to get at my point of view, and if they do not get on with me as well as they might they certainly manage to preserve a certain loyality which is [101] very commendable and pleasing. Of course I am not speaking of you. On all subjects - except socialism (for which you care nothing) and painting (of which I know nothing) - we have the same or like opinions.’ (Selected Letters, 1975, p.101.)

To Stanislaus Joyce (25 Sept. 1906; Via Frattina 52, II, Rome): ‘Dear Stannie, At present Monday morning I am anxiously waiting for a remittance from you. My assets are two centesimi as yesterday I had to get shaved and to pay a laundry bill and to buy medicine for Georgie who has a bad cold on his chest. I wrote yesterday again to G[rant] R[ichards] a pressing letter asking him to reply by return of post. I sent you yesterday the U.I. with an article by Gogarty of which I hope you will appreciate the full flavour.’ The part about the chummies is particularly rich. I {164} am delighted to see that this is only an instalment. Aunt J has left off sending me Skeffington’s paper or writing at all. I must be a very insensible person. Yesterday I went to see the Forum. I sat down on a stone bench overlooking the ruins. It was hot and sunny. Carriages full of tourists, postcard sellers, medal sellers, photograph sellers. I was so moved that I almost fell asleep and had to rise brusquely. I looked at the stone bench ruefully but it was too hard and the grass near the Colosseum was too far. So I went home sadly. Rome reminds me of a man who lives by exhibiting to travellers his grandmother’s corpse. [See note.] Isn’t it strange that O.G. should be anathemising ugly England just [108] when I wanted to be in an English watering-place. As for the eating houses which must be erected for Sludge: O.G. should travel a little in beautiful Italy and artistic France. Mrs G. mustn’t have been very entertaining while in England since O.G. found time to write those two columns. I notice by the way that Cohn isn’t earning his money lately. At any rate he hasn’t contributed any peatballs to the U[nited] I[rishman] for a long time. On the way home from the Forum being very tired I went into a Dominican church where I found a comfortable straw chair. I watched two nuns at confession. Confession over confessor and penitents left the church in the direction of the cloister. But the nuns came back very shortly and knelt down beside me. Then vespers began. Then there was the rosary. Then there was a sermon. The gentleman who delivered this addressed most of his remarks to me - God knows why. I suppose I looked pious. I didn’t wait for benediction. While listening to the service a most keen regret seized me that I could not gain for myself from historical study an accurate appreciation of an order like the Dominicans. I think my policy of substracting oneself and one’s progeny from the church is too slow. I don’t believe the church has suffered {165} vitally from the number of her apostates. An order like this couldn’t support their immense church with rent &c on the obolos of the religious but parsimonious Italian. And the same, I expect, in France. They must have vast landed estates under various names, and invested moneys. This is one reason why they oppose the quite unheretical theory of socialism because they know that one of its items is expropriation.’ [Cont.]

Joyce on Rome [da capo]: ‘If the word vulgar has any meaning I think the European palm must go to Italy. After all Germany has something under her uniforms. An Italian carabiniere with his absurd hgh hat or a Papal Swiss might be the symbol of this tawdry civilisation.’ (Letter of 3 Dec. 1906; Letters, II, p.198.)

[ Note: pagination of Selected Letters (1975) in square brackets; that of Letters, II (1966) in bow-brackets. ]

To Stanislaus Joyce (25 Sept. 1906) - cont.: ‘I received today in the nick of time your remittance of 17 Lire. The only fear I have now is that they won’t pay me on the 9.9th. With this money I can get along till Thursday evg. Kindly let me know how much I am to send you back on the 1st and in what manner. I will wait to see if I am to be continued here and if so I will go to the B.S.2 about you. Do you think I should waste 2 lire on buying a book of Gissing’s - or ought I buy a volume of Bret Harte. I have often confessed to you surprise that there should be anything exceptional in my writing and it is only at moments when I leave down somebody else’s book that it seems to me not so unlikely after all. Sometimes thinking of Ireland it seems to me that I have been unnecessarily harsh. I have reproduced (in [109] 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 in 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. I have not been just to its beauty: for it is more beautiful naturally in my opinion than what I have seen of England, Switzerland, France, Austria or Italy. And yet I know how useless these reflections are. For were I to rewrite the book as G[rant] R[ichards] suggests “in another sense” (where the hell does he get the meaningless phrases he uses) I am sure I should find again what you call the Holy Ghost sitting in the ink-bottle and the perverse devil of my literary conscience sitting on the hump of my pen. And after all Two Gallants - with the Sunday crowds and the harp in Kildare street and Lenehan is an Irish landscape. The fuss made about Gorky, I think, is due to the fact that he was the first of his class to enter the domain of European literature. I, not having Gorky’s claim, have a more modest end. Ibsen himself seems to have disclaimed some of the rumorosity attaching to A Doll’s House. He said testily to one Italian interviewer, if you can believe the I[rish] I[ndependent]. “But you people can’t understand it properly. You should have been in Norway {166} when the Paris fashion journals first began to be on sale in Christiania”. This is really my reason for constantly plaguing reluctant relatives at home to send me papers or cuttings from them. I wish there was an Irish Club here. I am sure there are ten times as many Irish and American-Irish here than Scandinavians. By the way, how did stupid old Aibsen [sic] make out the bit here? Teaching is impossible: he must have been in some German office.’ [Cont.]

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To Stanislaus Joyce (25 Sept. 1906; from Rome) - cont.: ‘In my opinion Griffith’s speech at the meeting of the National Council justifies the existence of his paper. He, probably, has to lease out his columns to scribblers like Gogarty and Cohn, and virgin martyrs like his sub-editor. But, so far as my knowledge of Irish affairs goes, he was the first person in Ireland to revive the separatist idea on modern lines nine years ago. He wants the creation of an Irish consular service abroad, and of an Irish bank at home. What I don’t understand is that while apparently he does the talking and the thinking two or three fatheads like Martyn and Sweetman don’t begin either of the schemes. [110] He said in one of his articles that it cost a Danish merchant less to send butter to Christiania and then by sea to London than it costs an Irish merchant to send his from Mullingar to Dublin. A great deal of his programme perhaps is absurd but at least it tries to inaugurate some commercial life for Ireland and to tell you the truth once or twice in Trieste I felt myself humiliated when I heard the little Galatti girl sneering at my impoverished country. You may remember that on my arrival in Trieste I actually “took some steps” to secure an agency for Foxford tweeds there. What I object to most of all in his paper is that it is educating the people of Ireland on (the old pap of racial hatred whereas anyone can see that if the Irish question exists, it exists for the Irish proletariat chiefly. I have expressed myself badly, I fear, but perhaps you will be able to get at what I mean. A Belfast linen company does a great deal of business in Rome through this bank. On the whole I don’t think it fair to compare him with a stupid mountebank like Knickerbockers.) / Georgie’s cold seems to be better. He can walk across the room by himself now and he has two new teeth. Certainly Rome must be very healthy. It is now noon and I am quite hungry. Last night, for example, {167} for dinner I had soup, spaghetti al sugo, half a beefsteak, bread and cheese, grapes and a half litre of wine. The wine here is like water, poor stuff, in my opinion! The fruit is very dear. The stupid foreigners that come here in swarms put up the price of everything. Twenty years ago, I hear, it was much cheaper. JIM.’ (Selected Letters, 1975, pp.108-11; Letters, II, pp.164-68.)

6 Nov. 1906: I would like to have a map of Dublin on my wall. I suppose I am becoming something of a maniac. [...] I have also added in the story of The Clay the name of Maria's laundry, the Dublin by Lamplight Laundry: it is such a gentle way of putting it. (SL, 1975, p.124; Letters, II, p.186.) “You ask me what I would substitute for parliamentary agitation in [124] Ireland. I think the Sinn Fein policy would be more effective. Of course I see tha tits success would be to substitute You ask me what I should substitute for parliamentary agitation in [124] Ireland. I think the Sinn Fein [sic for Sinn Féin] policy would be more effective. Of course I see that its success would be to substitute Irish for English capital but no-one, I suppose, denies that capitalism is a stage of progress. The Irish proletariat has yet to be created. A feudal peasantry exists, scraping the soil but this would with a national revival or with a definite preponderance of England surely disappear. I quite agree with you that Griffith is afraid of the priests - and he has every reason to be so. But, possibly, they are also a little afraid of him too. After all, he is holding out some secular liberty to the people and the Church doesn’t approve of that. I quite see, of course, that the Church is still, as it was in the time of Adrian IV, the enemy of Ireland: but, I think, her time is almost up. For either Sinn Fein [sic for Sinn Féin] or Imperialism will conquer the present Ireland. If the Irish programme did not insist on the Irish language I suppose I could call myself a nationalist. As it is, I am content to recognise myself an exile: and, prophetically, a repudiated one. [...] I would call such people as Gogarty and Yeats and Colum the blacklegs of literature. Because they have tried to substitute us, to serve the old idols at a lower rate when we refused to do so for a higher. / Of course you find my socialism thin. It is so and unsteady and ill-informed.’ (Letter to Stanislaus Joyce, 6 Nov. 1906; in Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, Faber 1975, p.125; Letters, II, 1966, p.187.)

To Stanislaus Joyce (13 Nov. 1906; from Rome): ‘[...] I thought of beginning my story Ulysses: but I have too many cares at present. Ferrero [Grandezza e decadenza di Roma, 5 vols., Milan 1902-07] devotes a chapter in his history of Rome to the Odes of Horace: so, perhaps, poets should be let live. In his book Young Europe [l’Europea giovane, Milan 1897 ] which I have just read he says there are 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 now society and forming part of it) the Germans. He has a fine chapter on Antisemitism. By the way, Brandes is a Jew. He says that Karl Marx has the apocalyptic imagination and makes Armageddon a war between capital and labour. The most arrogant statement made by Israel so far, he says, not excluding the gospel of Jesus is Marx’s proclamation that socialism is the fulfilment of a natural law. In considering Jews he slips in Jesus between Lassalle and Lombroso: the latter too (Ferrero’s father’-in-law) is a Jew. / We got notice yesterday. So I have to look for a new room. Tomorrow my money will be all gone. I am relying on a pupil who begins lessons tonight. He is taking 10 lessons for 20 lire. [..., 190; ensuing includes remarks on William Bulfin, aka Che Buono.] By the way, they are still at the “venereal excess” cry in Sinn Féin. Why does nobody compile statistics of “venereal excess” from Dublin hospitals? What is “venereal excess?” [...] Anyway, my opinion is that if I put down a bucket into my own soul’s well, sexual department, I draw up Griffith’s and Ibsen’s and Skeffington’s and Bernard Vaughan’s and St. Aloysius’ and Shelley’s and Renan’s water along with my own. And I am going to do that in my novel (inter alia) and plank the bucket down before the shades and substance above mentioned and see how they like it: and if they don’t like it I can’t help them. I am nauseated with their lying drivel about pure men and pure [192] women and spiritual love and love for ever: blatant lying in the face of the truth. I don’t know much about the “scaince” of the subject but I presume that there are very few mortals in Europe who are not indanger of waking some morning and finding themselves syphilitic. The Irish consider England a sink: but, if cleanliness be important in this matter, what is Ireland? Perhaps my view of life is too cynical but it seems to me that a lot of this talk about love is nonsense. A woman’s love is always maternal and egoistic. A man, on the contrary, side by side with his extraordinary cerebral sexualism and bodily fervour (from which women are normally free) possess a fund of genuine affection for the “beloved” or “once beloved” object. I am no friend of tyranny, as you know, but I many husbands are brutal the atmosphere in which they live (vide Counterparts) is brutal and few wives and homes can satisfy the desire for happiness. In fact, it is useless to talk about this any further. I am going for lunch.’ (Letters, II, 1966, pp.190-92; Selected Letters, 1975, pp.128-30.)

20 Nov. 1906 (to Stanislaus): ‘[...] I received [from Stanislaus] yesterday By the Stream of Killmeen by Seamus O’Kelly, and have read three stories in it. [...] A reviewer in Sinn Féin said that S O’K’s story “The Land of Loneliness” was worthy of Tourgénieff. The stories I have read [133] were about beautiful, pure faithful Connacht girls and lithe, broad-shouldered open-faced young Connacht men, and I read them without blinking, patiently trying to see whether the writer was trying to express something he had understood. I always conclude by saying to myself without anger something like this: “Well, there’s no doubt they are very romantic young people: at first they come as a relief, then they tire. Maybe, begod, people like tht are to be found by the Stream of Kilmeen only none of them has come under my observation, as the deceased gent in Norway remarked[”; i.e., Ibsen]. / I doubt S. O’K would judge my stories so urbanely, however. I wonder does his book sell. Nora, who read Hedda Gabler with interest twice before forgetting it, considers his stories tiresome rubbish.’ (Selected Letters, 1975, pp.133-34.)

10 Jan. 1907 (Via Monte Brianzo 51, IV°, Rome): ‘[...] I am stealing another moment to tell you that Aunt J- has written to me. The news is the O.G.’s mother is “beastly dead’; and that O.G. is very rich. I wonder was this the valuable news O.G. had in mind. [...] The other day I was thinking about my novel. How long am I at it now? Is there any use continuing it? Everyone appears to think I am behaving very well better than they expected. But it’s not pleasant behaving well to please people. I understand Nora is about to have another child. [...].’ (Letters, II, p.206; Selected Letters, 1975, p.143.)

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To Stanislaus Joyce (?1 Feb. 1907; Via Monte Brianzo 51, IV°, Rome): ‘Dear Stannie - I read in the D.M. [?Daily Mail] under the heading “Riot in a Dublin theatre” that a “clerk” named Patrick Columb and someone else were put up at the Police Courts for disorderly conduct in the Abbey Theatre at a performance of Synge’s new play The Playboy of the Western World [27 Jan. 1907]. The story, I believe, is of a self-accused parracide with whom all the girls of a district FALL IN LOVE. The clerk P.C. said (he was fined 40s. or 14 days) that nothing would deter him from protesting against such a slander on Ireland. There was also booing at certain strong expressions in the play. The evening ended in confusion. A [143] Trinity college youth created another row by singing “God Save the King.” W. B. Y. gave evidence and said he could not hear one word of the play. They had decided, on account of the organised opposition, to run the play for a week longer than they had first intended. He would send free tickets to any who had been prevented from hearing the play. It was Synge’s masterpiece, he said: an example of the exaggeration of art (I am glad he has got a phrase to add to that priceless one of Saint Boooooof about style) [...] Synge was interviewed and said he claimed the right as an artist, to choose whatever subject he wished! I am waiting for the Dublin papers. Columb must either have been forsaken by Kelly or have returned to his office since he is called a clerk. I suspect Synge’s naggin is on the increase. I knew, before now, that there was a schism in the theatre: as all of Columb’s plays have been given by the “Irish Theatre” and the reviews of Yeats and Lady Gregory and Miss Hornyman’s [sic; caps] productions which have appeared lately in Sinn Féin have been hostile. Yeats says the Irish obeyed great leaders in the past but now they obey ignorant committees. I believe Columb and the Irish Theatre will beat Y and L.G. and Miss H; which will please me greatly, as Yeats cannot well hawk his theatre over to London. However I am sure that many of the hermetists don’t know which to choose. It is lucky for O.G. that his mourning allows him to wait a little longer. Synge will probably be condemned from the pulpit, as a heretic: which would be dreadful: so that Stiffbreeches [Eglinton] and Ryan really ought to start another paper in defence of free thought, just for a week or so. I’m sure Ryan is the man for it. I suppose Sinn Féin and The Leader will find out all about Synge’s life in Paris: which will be nice for Lady G and Miss H. And as for pore old A.E. I suppose he is nibbling cabbages up in Rathgar in quite an excited frame of mind at the amount of heresy which is rife in Dublin. Starkie writes a poem in Sinn Féin about the world-fruit withering on the tree and there being none to pluck it. But enough now of the mummers. That Southern X [for Cross; 144] chap, Señor Bulfin, who is I am assured an Irishman, has a letter in Sinn Féin, ridiculing the Union Jack regatta at Galway. Two columns are consumed by his account of the talk of the classes. Ex: “Nice weather” “O, chawming” “Chawming regatta” “O, rawtha” “Funny how little interest the country takes in these things” “Quite to awfally funny, doncherknow!” He makes great fun of the shake-hands over the five-bar-gate and the’ [breaks off]. (Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, Faber 1975, pp.140-43.) [Note: Ellmann explains in a footnote that Joyce mistook the father of the writer for his son; see under Padraic Colum - supra.]

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To Stanislaus Joyce (11 Feb. 1907; Via Monte Brianzo 51, IV°, Rome): ‘Dear Stannie - I sent you yesterday copies of the F[reeman’s] J[ournal]. containing fuller [146] accounts of the Abbey Riots. The debates [at the Abbey Th. on 4 Feb.] must have been very funny. Our old friends Skeff. and Dick Sheehy seem to have just been taking a walk round themselves since October 1904. I read Sheehan’s with pleasure and surprise. I would like, however, to hear the phrases which drove out the ladies with expressions of pain on their facers The pulpit Irishman is a good fellow to the stage Irishman [quoting Sheehan as reported in FJ; Ellmann ftn. 4]. I see that Synge uses the word “bloody” frequently, and the great phrase was “if all the girls in Mayo were standing before me in their shifts”, wonderful vision. Yeats is a tiresome idiot; he is quite out of touch with the Irish people, to whom he appeals as the author of “Countess Cathleen”. Synge is better at least he can set them by the ears. One writer speaks of Synge and his master Zola(!) so I suppose when Dubliners appears they will speak of me and my master Synge. Of course just the very week I wanted it most Aunt J[osephine] did not send Sinn Féin. As I told you before I think the Abbey Theatre is ruined. It is supported by the stalls, that is to say, Stephen Gwynn, Lord X, Lady Gregory etc who are dying to relieve the monotony of Dublin life. About Synge himself I cannot speak. I have read only one play of his Riders to the Sea, which made Yeats first think of the Greeks (who are always with us) and then of the early plays of the most Belgian of Shakespeares [viz., Maeterlinck]. Synge asked me to read it in Paris and when I [147] told him what I thought of it and expounded a long critical attack on the catastrophe as he used it he did not pay the least attention to what I said. So perhaps his later work has merit. If Synge really knows and understands the Irish peasant, the backbone of the nation, he might make a duodecimo Björnsen. Colum is out of the question and Russell and Coosins [sic]. Sheehan seems to be a little different from the other young men with ideas in Ireland. I suspect he must have got a high place in all his exams and so can afford to treat the church on equal terms. This whole affair has upset me. I feel like a man in a house who hears a row in the street and voices he knows shouting but can’t get out to see what the hell is going on. It has put me off the story I was “going to write” - to wit, The Dead [“The Dead”]. / I am reading at present some of the old Italian story-tellers, such as Sermini, Doni &c. and also Anatole France. I wonder how he got his name. Crainquebille [i.e., L’affaire Crainquebille, 1903] of course, is very fine and parts or rather phrases of his of his other books. However I mustn’t complain since he suggested Ivy Day in the Committee Room, and has now suggested another story The Dead. It is strange where you get ideas for stories. Stupid little Woodman gave me The Boarding House, Ferrero The Two Gallants. Others I though of myself or heard of. I havve some kind of thing stirring in my head at present, but winter is my close season. [...]’ (Selected Letters, ed. Richard Ellmann, Faber 1975, pp.147-48.)

To Stanislaus (6 Feb. 1907): ‘[...] Synge is a storm centre: but I have done nothing.’ (Sel. Letters, p.150.) Further, letter of 4 Aug. 1909: ‘;Synge is said to be syphilitic, poor man.’; (Sel. Letters, 1975, p.157; see Ellmann's ftn., ‘;a false report ...’;.

To Stanislaus Joyce (16 Feb. 1907): ‘Kindly state in what condition the school is. Could I not return to Triest and give private lessons? It is a pleasant state of mind to be in. I suppose I have made a coglioneria. You may imagine by state of nerves. Who knows how this will end. For my part I have one life. I have felt lately that it is slipping from me “like water from a muslin bag”. [Charles] Coppinger is a “Merrion Streeet Surgeon”. Synge is a storm centre: both I have done nothing. John Long has not answered me. I wrote him an insolent letter today: so I suppose I will never see the MS of Dubliners again. I would like to be in Triste again not for the sake of the school but because I should sometimes have the opportunity of meeting somebody who shared to a certain extent, my temperament. I am fond of Georgie, of course, but I fear (funny, just as I wrote the word two Americans ejaculated it opposite me) fear that my spiritual barque is on the rocks. There is some element of sanity in this last mad performance of mine, I am sure. I feel somehow that I am what Pappie said I wasn’t a gentleman [sic]. That that is balls, as Rudolph Ellwood would say. Anyway I am a fish out of water. I would like to go back to Trieste because I remember some nights walking along the streets in the summer and thinking over some of the phrases in my stories. I have just been listening to Americans discussing Giordano Bruno in honour of whom there is a procession here tomorrow. They seem to know something of him but I dislike the accent. [...].’ (Letters, Vol. II, p.215; Selected Letters, 1975, p.151.)

To Stanislaus Joyce ([1] March 1907): ‘[...] I have come to the conclusion that it about time I made up my mind whether I am to become a writer or a patient Cousins. I foresee that I shall have to do other work as well but to continue as at present would certainly mean my mental extinction. It is months since I have written a line and even reading tires me. The interest I took in socialism and the rest has left me. I have gradually slid down until I have ceased to take any interest in any subject. I look at God and his theatre through the eyes of my fellow-clerks so that nothing surprises, moves, excites or disgusts me. Nothing of my former mind seems to have remained except a heightened emotiveness which satisfies itself in the sixty-miles-an-hour pathos of some cinematograph or before some crude Italian gazette-picture. Yet I have certain ideas I would like to give form to: not as a doctrine but as the continuation of the expression of my self which I now see I began in Chamber Music. These ideas or instincts or intuitions or impulses are purely personal. I have no wish to codify myself as an anarchist or socialist or reactionary. The spectacle of the procession in honour of the Nolan [on 17 Feb.] left me quite cold. I understand that anti-clerical history probably contains a large percentage of lies but this is not enough to drive me back howling to my gods. This state of indifference ought to indicate artistic inclination, but doesn’t. Because I take a fortnight to read a small book. I was about two days making up my mind to go and see the Dusk of the Gods. I weighed the cold, the distance, the crush, discomfort &c. Finally I went and tried to interest myself but was considerably bored. [217]

Letter of 11 March 1907 [new para; cont.] The fault, I believe, is more mine than Wagner’s but at the same time I cannot help wondering what relation music like this can possibly have to the gentlemen I was with in the gallery. [...] I find Italian men lacking in delicacy and virility. They are intelligent as a rule and clever but babyish. Of delicacy neither their men nor their women have a scrap. I don’t so much object to its absence in the latter. The day of Bruno’s memorial procession I was standing among the crowd waiting for the cortege to appear. It was a murky day and, being Sunday, I had not washed. I was wearing a white felt hat, faded by reason of heavy rains, Scholz’s five crown cloak hung bawways on me. My boots, being Sunday, were coated with a week’s dirt and I was in need of a shave. In fact, I was a horrible example of free thought. Near me were two good-looking young women, females, of the people, that is. They were in charge of an elderly woman and a middle-aged man. They were low-sized and quince-coloured in the face with amiable dog’s eyes. One of them had a trinket on a long chain and this she constantly raised slowly to her lips and rested it there, slowly parting them, all the time gazing tranquilly about her. I watched her do this for quite a long time until I perceived that the trinket was a miniature revolver! I tried to explain my sensation to one or two Italians, narrating the fact as best I could. They saw nothing strange in it or typical or significant. One of them told me that many Italian women wear a cazzo as a trinket and after that they talked to their heart’s content about cazzo and Co - a topic which, in my opinion, it requires a great deal of talent or else a great deal of courage to render in any way interesting. When I enter the bank in the morning I wait for someone to announce something about either his cazzo, culo or coglioni. This usually happens before a quarter to nine. / I received a letter from in which he said that his printer had advised him not to print the book, and &c. &c. So Dubliners is once again roosting on my shelf. By the same post I received from Elkin Mathews the proofs of Chamber Music. [...] (Letters, Vol. II, pp.218-19.)

To Stanislaus Joyce (March 1907): ‘I am glad to say [...] that ever since I read it [Riders to the Sea] I have been riddling it mentally till it has [not] a sound spot. It is tragic about all the men that are drowned in the islands: but thanks be to God Synge is not an Aristotelian.’ Citing Aristotle’s Poetics, Joyce insisted that the play, with its one-act brevity and emphasis on natural disaster, was just a tragic poem, not a tragedy. It was, he claimed, merely a “dwarf drama”’. (Quoted, with comments, in Ronan MacDonald, ‘“A Gallous Story or a Dirty Deed?: J. M. Synge and the Tragedy of Evasion’;, in Tragedy and Irish Literature: Synge, O’Casey, Beckett (London: Palgrave 2002), pp.42-84, p.42.)

See letters treating of Joyce’s encounter with John Millington Synge and his subsequent
reactions to his career and works - under Synge > Commentary > Joyce > Synge - infra.

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To Nora Barnacle [Joyce] (22 Aug. 1912): ‘When we go back to Trieste will you read if I give you books? Then we could speak together. Nobody love you as I do and I should love to read the different poets and dramatists and novelists with you as your guide. I will give you only what is finest and best in writing. Poor Jim! He is always planning and planning! / I hope I shall have good news tomorrow. If only my book is published then I will plunge into my novel and finish it. / [310] The Abbey Theatre [sic] will be open and they will give plays of Yeats and Synge. You have a right to be there because you are my bride: and I am one of the writers of this generation who are perhaps creating at last a conscience for the soul of this wretched race. Addio!’ (Letters, II, pp.310-11.)

[Note: In this letter, where he speaks of finishing Stephen Hero, he utters an idea very similar to the resolve to ‘forge a conscience for my race’ with which Stephen concludes his diary in A Portrait - but note also the resonance of the phrase ‘the different poets and dramatists’ with the guidance supplied by Fr. Flynn in “The Sisters”.]

To Mme [Fanny] Guillermet (5 August 1918): ‘Le problème de ma race est si compliquée que nous avons besoin de tous les moyens d'un art élastique pour croquis - sans le résoudre. Je suis d'avis qu'un pronounciation personnels ne sont plus permis. Je suis obligé de le faire à travers la scène et le caractère de mon pauvre invention.’) [Trans.: ‘The problem of my race is so complicated that we need all the means of an elastic art for sketch - without solving it. I am of the opinion that a personal pronounciation is no longer allowed. I am forced to do it through the stage and the character of my poor invention.’] (Letter to Mme Guillermet, 5 Aug. 1918, in Letters of James Joyce, ed. Stuart Gilbert, NY: Viking 1957; 1966 [Vol. I], p.18.)

To Carlo Linati (Sept. 1920): ‘No English printer wanted to print a word of [Ulysses]. In America the review was suppressed four times. Now, as I hear, a great movement is being prepared against the publication on behalf of puritans, English imperialists, Irish republicans and Catholics - what an alliance! Golly, I deserve the Nobel peace prize.’ (SL, 271, n1 [trans.]; quoted in Lean Culligan Flack, ‘“Cyclops”, Censorship, and Joyce’s Monster Audiences’, in James Joyce Quarterly, Spring 2011, pp.435-36.)

To John Quinn (24 November 1920): ‘I began Ulysses in 1914 and shall finish it, I suppose, in 1921. [...] The complete notes fill a small valise, but in the course of continual changings very often it was not possible to sort them for the final time before the publication of certain instalments. The insertions (chiefly verbal or phrases, rarely passages) must be put in for the book publication. Before leaving Trieste I did this sorting for all episodes up to and including Circe. The episodes which have the heaviest burden of addenda are Lotus-eaters, Lestrygonians, Nausikaa and Cyclops.’ (Letters, Vol. III, pp.30-31; quoted in Luca Crispi, ‘A First Foray into the National Library of Ireland’s Joyce Manuscripts: Bloomsday 2011’, in Genetic Joyce, Spring 2011.)

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To Harriet Shaw Weaver [on giving her the MS of A Portrait, which now resides in the NLI] (6 Jan. 1920): ‘The “original” original I tore up and threw in to the stove about eight years ago [viz., 1912] in a fit or rage on account of the trouble over Dubliners. The charred remains of the MS were rescued by a family fire brigade and tied up in an old sheet where they remained for some time. I then sorted them out and pieced them together as best I could and the present MS is the result.’ (Selected Letters, 1975, p.247; also [in part], Letters, I, p.136.) [Note: Anomalously, only an abridged version of this oddly misleading letter - commencing ‘The “original” original ...’ - appears in Letters, I p.136 - presumably for reasons to do with the appearance of Stephen Hero and its inclusion in Theodore Spencer’s Introduction to the same, in 1944, &c.)]

To Harriet Shaw Weaver (February 1920): ‘A Mr Heaf or Heap of the Little Review wrote to me a very friendly and complimentary letter in which he said that the U.S.A. censor had burned the entire May issue and threatened to cancel their licence if they continue to publish Ulysses. This is the second time I have had the pleasure of being burned while on earth so that I hope I shall pass through the fires of purgatory as quickly as my patron S. Aloysius.’ (Letters, I, [NY: Viking Press 1966 [rep. edn.] Vol. I, p.137.)

To Harriet Shaw Weaver (24 June 1921; MS British Museum; Selected Letters, Faber 1975, pp.281-84): ‘Apparently we were both alarmed and then relieved for different reasons. I can only repeat that I am glad it is not any trouble of your own and as for myself having been asked what I have [281] to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon me I would like to rectify a few mistakes. [Goes on to write of “a nice collection ... of legends” which have gathered around him including “the reputation of a tout petit bourgeois’; and dipsomania.] One woman here originated the rumour that I am extremely lazy and will never do or finish anything (I calculate that I must have spent nearly 20,000 hours in writing Ulysses). A batch of people in Zurich persuaded themselves that I was gradually going mad and actually endeavoured to induce me to enter a sanatorium where a certain Doctor Jung (the Swiss Tweedledum who is not the be confused with the Viennese Tweedledee, Dr Freud) amuses himself at the expense (in every sense of the word) of ladies and gentlemen who are troubled with bees in their bonnets.
  I mention all these views not to speak about myself or my critics but to show you how conflicting they all are. The truth probably is that I am a quite commonplace person undeserving of so much imaginative painting. There is a further opinion that I am a creafty simulating and dissimulating Ulysses-like type, “a l’jejune jesuit”, selfish and cynical. There is some truth in this, I suppose: but it is by no means all of me (nor was it of Ulysses) and it has been my habit to apply this alleged quality to safeguard my poor creations for on the other side, as I stated in a former letter, I removed so much of any natural wit I had that but for your intuitive help I should be destitute.’ (pp.282-83.)

[To HSW, 24 June 1921; cont....] ‘This letter begins to remind me of a preface by Mr George Bernard Shaw. It does not seem to be a reply to your letter at all. I hate pose of any kind and so I could not [write] a highflown epistle about nerve tension and relaxation, or asceticism the cause and effect of excess etc. etc. You already have proof of my stupidity. Here now is an example of my emptiness. I have not read a work of literature for several years. My head is full of pebbles and rubbish and broken matches and bits of glass picked up ‘most everywhere. 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. I want to finish the book and try to settle my tangled material affairs, definitely one way or the other (somebody here said of me “They call him a poet. He appears to be interested chiefly in mattresses”) And in fact, I was. After that I want a good long rest in which to forget Ulysses completely.
 I forgot to tell you another thing. I don’t even know Greek though I am spoken of as erudite. My father wanted me to take Greek as third language my mother German and my friends Irish. Result, I took Italian. I spoke or used to speak modern Greek not to badly. (I speak four or five languages fluently enough) and have spent a great deal of time with Greeks from noblemen down to onionsellers, chiefly the latter. I am superstitious about them. They bring me luck. / I now end this long rambling shambling speech, having said nothing of the darker aspects of my detestable character. I suppose the law must take its course with me because it must now seem to you a waste of rope to accomplish the dissolution of a person who has dissolved visibly and possesses scarcely as much “pendability” as a uninhabited dressing gown. With kindest regards gratefully and sincerely yours - James Joyce.’ [284]

See also his friendly remarks on Wyndham Lewis, which includes the amusing sentence: ‘There is a curious kind of honour-code among men which obliges them to assist one another and not hinder the free action of one another and remain together for mutual protection with the result that very often they waken up the next morning sitting in the same ditch.’ (p.284.) The sentence is seemingly offered as an explanation for a drunkenness fit reported to HSW.

To Harriet Shaw Weaver (11 March 1923): ‘Yesterday I wrote two pages - 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.’ (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.)

To Harriet Shaw Weaver (28 March 1923), Joyce writes to Miss Weaver: ‘In spite of my eye attack I got on with another passage by using a charcoil pencil (fusain) which broke every three minutes and a large sheet of paper. I have now covered various large sheets in a handwriting resembling that of the late Napoleon Bonaparte when irritated by reverses.’(Letters III, p.73; quoted in Katrin Van Herbruggen, op. cit., 2004 - available online; accessed 25.02.2023.)

To Harriet Shaw Weaver (9 October 1923): ‘I am sorry that Patrick and (?) Berkeley are unsuccessful in explaining themselves. The answer, I suppose, is that given by Paddy Dignam's apparition: metempsychosis. Or perhaps the theory of history 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.’ (Letters I , p.20).

To Harriet Shaw Weaver (1 January 1925): ‘I ought to tell you a few things. The Irish alphabet (alim, beith, coll, dair. &c.) is all made up of the names of trees ... Bruno Nolano (of Nola) another great southern Italian was quoted in my first pamphlet The Day of the Rabblement. His [Bruno’s] philosophy is a kind of dualism - every power in nature must evolve an opposite in order to realise itself and opposition brings reunion &c. &c.’ (Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver of 27 January 1925, in Letters of James Joyce , Vol. I, ed. Stuart Gilbert [1957] NY: Viking Press 1966, p.226 [pp.224-25). (See source under Coleridge, as attached.)

To Harriet Shaw Weaver (21 May 1926): ‘[...] 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 on me through circumstances of my own life. I wonder where Vico got his fear of thunderstorms. It is almost unknown to the male Italians I have met.’ (Letters, I, p.241.)

To Harriet Shaw Weaver (postcard of 16 April 1927): ‘[...] I am glad you like my punctuality as an engine driver. I have taken this us because I am really one of the great engineers, if not the greatest, in the world besides being a musicmaker, philosophist and heaps of other things. All the engines I know are wrong. Simplicity. I am making an engine with only one wheel. No spokes of course. The wheel is a perfect square. You see what I am driving at, don’t you? I am awfully solemn about it, mind you, so you must not think it is a silly story about the mouse and the grapes. it’s a wheel, I tell the world. And it’s all square.’ ( Letters, I, 250.)

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To Frank Budgen (16 August 1921): ‘Penelope is the clou [Fr. ‘nail’] of the book. The first sentence contains 2500 words. There are eight sentences in the episode. It begins and ends with the female word Yes. It turns like the huge earthball slowly surely and evenly round and round spinning. Its four cardinal points being the female breasts, arse, womb and sex expressed by the words because, bottom (in all senses, bottom button, bottom of the glass, bottom of the sea, bottom of the heart) woman, yes. Though probably more obscene than any preceding episode it seems to me to be perfectly sane full amoral fertilisable untrustworthy engaging shrewd limited prudent indifferent Weib. Ich bin das Fleisch das stets bejaht. [Woman. I am the flesh that always affirms.]’ (Letters, Vol. 1 p.170; Sel. Letters, ed. Ellmann, p.285.)

To George Antheil (3 Jan. 1931): ‘I am quite content to go down to posterity as a scissors and paste man for that seems to me a harsh but not unjust description.’ ([3 Jan. 1931,] Letters, Faber 1966, Vol. I, p.297; also quoted in Declan Kiberd, Ulysses and Us, Faber 2009, p.117.)

To George [Giorgio] Joyce (28 Oct. 1935): ‘[...] E non mi è chiaro come e cosa e quando devo scrivere. Secondo te a macchina o forse in istampato. Secondo Helen in inglese o forse in americano. Secondo mamma poco importa giacchè scrivo sempre “all the wrong things”’.

Aiutami dunque, O Musa, nitidissima Calligraphia!
Forbisci la forma e lo stil e frena lo stilo rebelle!
Mesci il limido suon e distlla il liquida senso
E sulla rena riarsa, deh!, scuoti lungo ramo!

‘And how and what and when and how much I ought to write to you is not altogether clear to me either. According to you, on a typewriter or perhaps in print. According to Helen in English or perhaps in American. According to Mama it doesn’t matter because I always write “all the wrong things”. / “Aid me then, O Muse, resplendent Calligraphia! / supply the form and style, and curb the rebellious pen! Pour out limpid sound and distil the liquid sense. And over the parched sand, pray, extend your branch!”’ (Letters, III, p.379; trans. p.380.)

[See also remarks on same in Corinna del Greco Lobner, James Joyce's Italian Connection (Iowa UP 1992), p.5; reviewed by Mary Reynolds in Comparative Literature, 44, 4 (Autumn 1992), pp.439f. - available at JSTOR online.]

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James Joyce, “The Cat and the Devil” - in a letter to Stephen Joyce of 10 August 1936.

[Source: Letters of James Joyce, ed. Stuart Gilbert (Viking Press 1957), pp.386-87. For new-page version and further notes, see under RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics” - attached.]

10 August 1936
Viller s[ur] Mer

My dear Stevie: I sent you a little cat filled with sweets a few days ago but perhaps you do not know the story about the cat of Beaugency.
 Beaugency is a tiny old town on a bank of the Loire, French’s longest river. It is also a very wide river, for France, at least. At Beaugency it is so wide that if you want to cross it from one bank to the other you would have to take at least one thousand steps.
 Long ago the people of Beaugency, when they wanted to cross it, had to go in a boat for there was no bridge. And they could not make one for themselves or pay anybody else to make one. So what were they to do?
 The Devil, who is always reading the newspapers, heard about this sad state of theirs so he dressed himself and came to call on the Lord Mayor of Beaugency, who was named Monsieur Alfred Byrne.
 This Lord Mayor was very fond of dressing himself too. He wore a scarlet robe and always had a great golden chain round his neck even when he was fast asleep in bed with his knees in his mouth.
 The Devil told the Lord Mayor what he had read in the newspaper and said he could make a bridge for the people of Beaugency so that they could cross the river as often as they wished. He said he could make as good a bridge as was ever made, and make it in one single night.
 The Lord Mayor asked him how much money he wanted for making such a bridge.
 No money at all, said the Devil, all I ask is that the first person who crosses the bridge shall belong to me.
 Good, said the Lord Mayor.
 The night came down, all the people in Beaugency went to bed and slept.
 The morning came. And when they put their heads out of their windows they cried: O Loire, what a fine bridge! For they saw a fine strong stone bridge thrown across the wide river.
 All the people ran down to the head of the bridge and looked across it. There was the Devil, standing at the other side of the bridge, waiting for the first person who should cross it. But nobody dared to cross it for fear of the Devil.
 Then there was a sound of bugles - that was a sign for the people to be silent - and the Lord Mayor M. Alfred Byrne appeared in his great scarlet robe and wearing his heavy golden chain round his neck. He had a bucket of water in one hand and under his arm - the other arm - he carried a cat. The Devil stopped dancing when he saw him from the other side of the bridge and put up his long spyglass. All the people whispered to one another and the cat looked up at the Lord Mayor because in the town of Beaugency it was allowed that a cat should look at a Lord Mayor (because even a cat grows tired of looking at a Lord Mayor) he began to play with the Lord Mayor’s golden chain.
 When the Lord Mayor came to the head of the bridge every man held his breath and every woman held her tongue. The Lord Mayor put the cat down on the bridge and, quick as a thought, splash! He emptied the whole bucket of water over it.
 The cat who was now between the Devil and the bucket of water made up his mind quite as quickly and ran with his ears back across the bridge and into the Devil’s arms.
 The Devil was as angry as the Devil himself. Messieurs les Balgentiens, he shouted across the bridge, vous n’êtes pas de belles gens du tout! Vous n’êtes que des chats! And he said to the cat: Viens ici, mon petit chat! Tu as peur, mon petit pau chou-chat? Viens ici, le diable t’emporte! On va se chauffeur tous les deux.
 And off he went with the cat.
 And since that time the people of that town are called ‘les chats de Beaugency’. But the bridge is there still and there are boys walking and riding and playing upon it.
 I hope you will like this story.


PS: The Devil mostly speaks a language of his own called Bellsybabble which he makes up himself as he goes along but when he is very angry he can speak quite bad French very well though some who have heard him say that he has a strong Dublin accent.

[ See also full-text version with Letter from Copenhagen in Sept. 1936, in RICORSO Library - as attached. ]

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To Con Curran (6 Aug. 1937; quoted in Ellmann, James Joyce, 1957 & edns., p.717.) ‘I am trying to finish my wip [Work in Progress] (I work 16 hours a day, it seems to me) and I am not taking any chances with my fellow-countrymen if I can possibly help it until that is done, at least. And on the map of their island there is marked very legibly for the moment Hic sunt Lennones. But every day in every way I am walking along the streets of Dublin and along the strand. And “hearing voices.” Non dico giammai ma ancora.

To Frank Budgen (20 Aug. 1939) - onThe Colloquy of Saint and Sage” (FW - Ricorso [611-14]):

‘Dear Budgen: I return to your article and hope the F. R. takes it. A pity you did not develop your ideas about the landscape. You ought to jot them down anyway. Ojetti’s [?] article has a paragraph that bears on a page of your article, I thought, so I sent it. Perhaps you can puzzle it out from the French. “Raggi icchese” is Italian for X-rays.

 These suggestions:
 (a) The expression about the pun being all right because the R.C. church is founded on it is not correct. It should be Christian church but the whole phrase should be recast out of its too “true believer” mould.
 (b) 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.
 (c) As your title begins well the article why not end well with any of the other names given by the Egyptians to their scripture? The book of the Dead is also the book of the Chapters of Coming-Forth by Day. Good luck.’


 P.S. Among another batch of reviews I got this from London Daily Herald (verbatim): Finnegan’s Wake by J.J. (F. and F. 25/-). an Irish stew of verbiage by the author of Ulysses with unexpected beauty emerging now and then from the peculiar mixture.

Letters, Vol. 1, ed. Stuart Gilbert, [1957] 1966 Edn., p.406; Selected Letters, 1975, pp.397-98; see also Commentary > Frank Budgen - as attached.

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