James Stephens (?1880-1950)

b. [prob.] 9 Feb. ?1880, - in a year uncertain to himself as well as others; his father, Francis Stephens and Charlotte Collins; his father, a vanman, died two years later - after which his mother worked in the Collins’ family home, Dublin, where he was adopted [var. she remarried; called Mrs Collins]; Stephens is sent to the Meath Protestant Industrial School for Boys (orphanage, 1886-96); competed keenly in athletics with his two brothers, in spite of his diminutive size (4’6”); ran away persistently; at first worked as clerk in firm of solicitors (Wallace) and later for Reddington & Sainsbury, sols.).; joined gynastics team and won Irish Shield, 1901;
publishes his earliest story, 1905; employed as clerk-typist T. T. Mecredy & Son, solicitors, 1906; announced his arriage to Cynthia shortly after the birth of a stepdaughter, Iris (b. 14 June 1907); becomes friendly with Arthur Griffith, 1906 and contribs. unambiguously nationalist poems, stories, and essays to Sinn Féin; also contrib. to Irish Worker; George Russell [“AE”] reads a poem by JS in Sinn Féin, and seeks meeting, heralding him as a new Irish genius, 1907; issues Insurrections (1909), his first collection of poems - ironically sharing a title with his later memoir of the Dublin Rising of 1916 [The Insurrection in Dublin, 1916];
travels to Paris on advice of Thomas Bodkin, accompanied by Cynthia Kavanagh, 1912-15; contribs. “Mary, A Story” to Irish Review (April 1911-Feb. 1912), afterwards issued as The Charwoman’s Daughter (1912), ded. to Bethel Solomons; issues The Crock of Gold (1912), mixing whimsy, theosophy, and folk-tale; refines the amalgam in The Demi-Gods (1914); issues Here Are Ladies (1913), a realistic story-sequence; learns of post at National Gallery and applies; appointed Registrar, 1915-25 [var. 1924];
issues diary account of the 1916 Rising as Insurrection in Dublin (1916) - published in extract in The Green Book; writes of the executions that it was ‘like watching blood oozing from under a door’; m. Cynthia Kavanagh, 1919, for reasons of Irish conventionality; engages in long-term project translating of Irish saga material conceived as an Irish comèdie humaine; issues Irish Fairy Tales (1920); moves settled in Kingsbury, London and works successfully as a BBC broadcaster, 1922;
issues In the Land of Youth (1924), a novel dealing with Maeve’s war with the men of Ulster (i.e., the narrative of Táin Bó Cuailgne); issues Collected Poems (1926; rev. edn. 1954); undertakes lecture tours in America under patronage of W. T. H. Howe of Kentucky; continues to broadcast with BBC during World War II, professing himself English, and gives more than seventy radio-talks during 1937-50; settles in cottage on Cotswolds estate of Sir William Rothenstein;
apparently accepts James Joyce’s suggestion that he finish Finnegans Wake if Joyce failed to do so; issues A Rhinoceros, Some Ladies, and A Horse (1946), being the sole part of a commissioned autobiography; passes last years in ill-health and depression; d. London; Mary Makebelieve successful drama revived in 1982 Dublin Theatre Festival; The Crock of Gold went through 46 American editions between 1912 and 1947, incl. 3 special editions for the America forces in WWII; Cynthia survive until 1960; there is a bronze head of Stephens by Arthur Power (1914), NCBE DIW DIB DIL OCEL KUN FDA OCIL

Patrick Tuohy
Arthur Power (1914)
Unknown bronze
Fine Art of America

Oil by Patrick Tuohy

Head by Arthur Power (1914)

Bronze (Artist Unknown)
Granger Art (NY)
[ See also portraits ports. by William Rothenstein, Mary Duncan, and Mervyn Peake. There is a photo-series in the National Portrait Gallery (London), with Sir Peter Courtney Quennell, Gilbert Spencer, the Eliots (TS & Vivien), Lady Huxley, Samuel Solomonovich Koteliansky, et al., all taken Lady Otteline Morrell in 1993 - online. ]

[ top ]

Poetry (Collections)
  • Insurrections [Verses] (Dublin: Maunsel; London: Macmillan 1909,1912,1915), 55, [1]pp., 8o. [ded. “AE”], and Do. [6th edn. (Maunsel 1917), [4], 63, [1]pp.;
  • The Hill of Vision (Dublin: Maunsel; London: Macmillan 1912, 131pp.; 3rd edn. Macmillan 1922, 124pp.);
  • Songs from the Clay (London: Macmillan 1915);
  • Green Branches (Dublin & London: Maunsel 1916), 16pp [elegy to leaders of 1916] [18 [1] ltd. edn. 500] [“Autumn 1915”, “‘Spring 1916”, “Joy Be With Us”], and Do. [new edn] (1917) [poems two and three of these included as single longer poem under one title “Spring 1916” in Collected Poems];
  • Reincarnations (London: Macmillan 1918);
  • A Poetry Recital (1925);
  • Strict Joy (London & NY: Macmillan 1931);
  • Kings and the Moon (London & NY: Macmillan 1938).
Collected Edition
  • Collected Poems of James Stephens (London: Macmillan 1926, 1931, 1941), xiv, 268pp., and Do. [another edn.] (NY: Devin-Adair 1954), 390pp.;
  • The Poems of James Stephens, ed. by Shirley Stevens Mulligan, intro. by A. N. Jeffares (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe [2001] 2006), xlii, 343pp.

Samuel Adler, Four Poems of James Stephens: For High voice and Piano (NY & London: OUP [1963]), score 4 vols.; see others by Samuel Barber and by Michael Bowles.

  • The Charwoman’s Daughter (London: Macmillan 1912), 228pp. [first serialised in The Irish Review, April 1911-Feb. 1912], publ. in America as Mary, Mary (Boston: Small, Maynard 1912); Do. [viz., Charwoman], rep. with intro. by Hilary Pyle (London: Sceptre Books 1966); rep., with intro. by Augustine Martin (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1972), 128pp.; French trans. as Mary Semblant (Paris: Rieder 1927), with French preface in by Stephens; another edition [facs. of London 1917] (USA: Andesite Press n.d.) [/ Creativemedia.io - www.ICGtesting.com); also available at Gutenberg Project [Aus.] - online.
  • The Crock of Gold (London: Macmillan 1912), 311pp. [see editions and summary];
  • Here are Ladies (London: Macmillan 1913), 348pp;
  • The Demi-Gods (London: Macmillan 1914);
  • [as James Esse,] Hunger: A Dublin Story (Dublin: Candle Press 1918);
  • Irish Fairy Tales, retold by James Stephens (London: Macmillan 1920) [see details], ill. by Arthur Rackham [inc. ‘The Story of Tuan MacCairill’, 1923 edn. pp.1-33]; Do. [ facs. rep.] (London: Godfrey Cave Assoc. 1979), x+318pp, 16 pls.; Do., rep. (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1995);
  • In the Land of Youth (London & NY: Macmillan 1924), 303pp.;
  • Etched in Moonlight (London & NY: Macmillan 1928), 198pp.;
  • Deirdre (London & NY: Macmillan 1923), 286pp., and Do. [in French trans. as Deirdre] (Paris: Stock 1947);
  • How St. Patrick Saved the Irish (priv. 1931)
Selected & Collected Edns.
  • Lloyd Frankenburg, ed., James Stephens: A Selection (London & NY: Macmillan 1962);
  • Frankenburg, ed., James, Seumas and Jacques: Unpublished Writings (London & NY: Macmillan 1964;
  • Augustine Martin, ed., Desire and Other Stories ([q. pub.] 1981);
  • Patricia McFate, ed., Uncollected Prose of James Stephen, 2 vols. (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983) [Vol. 1, 1907-15, 128pp., front. - see contents; Vol. 2, 1916-48, xvi, 131-299pp.];
  • Shirley Stevens Mulligan, ed., The Poems of James Stephens (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 2007), 361pp.
[ top ]
  • The Insurrection in Dublin (Maunsel/Macmillan 1916), xiv+111pp. [details];
  • Arthur Griffith, Journalist and Statesman (Dublin: Wilson, Hartnell & Co. [1924]);
  • On Prose and Verse (NY: Bowling Green Press 1928);
  • Julia Elizabeth (NY 1929) [one act com.];
  • Themes and Variations (1930);
  • ‘How the Husband of the Thin Woman Lost his Brother’, in Irish Review (Aug 1912), pp.396-03.
  • Richard J. Finneran, ed., Letters of James Stephens (London & NY: Macmillan 1974), with listing of published writings, xxiv+481pp., 8[pp.] plates, facs., ports.;

A BBC talk on W. B. Yeats (London 1948) - see further under Yeats, infra).

Note: Etched in Moonlight (London: Macmillan & Co. 1928), ltd. [presentation copy ‘For James Joyce with affectionate regards. James Stephens’; Kings and the Moon (NY: Macmillan Co. 1938) [presentation copy: ‘For James Joyce from James Stephens on our birthday 2nd Feb. 1939]’. See The Personal Library of James Joyce; ed. Thomas E. Connolly (Buffalo UL 1953), p.35.

Internet Editions of the Works at Internet Archive
Title Internet Archive
The Crock of Gold (NY Macmillan [1912])
The Demigods (NY: Macmillan 1917)
Irish Fairy Tales (1920), ill. Arthur Rackham
Collected Poems (London: Macmillan 1926)

[ top ]

Bibliographical details
The Crock of Gold (1912)
Macmillan edition
  • The Crock of Gold (London: Macmillan [Oct.] 1912), [2], v, [1], 311, [5]p. ; 19cm.; Do. [2nd imp. Nov. 1912; also 1913, 1914, 1916, 1918), [3pp.], v-[vi], 311, [1]pp., 19 cm.; Do (London: Macmillan 1922), 298pp., ill. [drawings by Wilfred Jones, some col.]; Do. [Macmillan Facsimile Classic Ser.] (London: Macmillan 1926), [3], v-[vi] 1-311, [1]pp. [227pp.]; Do. [printed by R. & R. Clark, Edinburgh] (NY: Macmillan 1926), [10], 227, [5]p., ill. [12 colour pls. and decorative headings & tailpieces by Thomas Mackenzie]; Do. (London: Macmillan 1928), v, 311pp.; Do. (NY: Macmillan [St. Martin’s Press] 1953, 1965), v-311pp.; Do. [facs. of London 1926 Edn.] (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1980, 1995), 227pp.
Pan edition*
  • Do., foreword specially written for the Pan edition by Walter de la Mare (London: Pan Books 1953), 190pp., and Do. [reps. of 1953 edn.] (1965, 1973, 1978), 190pp.
*Note: Pan is the paperback division of Macmillan, London.
Other editions
  • Do., With an introduction by Clifton Fadiman (NY: The Limited Editions Club New York 1942), ill. [by Robert Lawson], [10], 163, [3]pp., 29.7 cm. [1,500 copies].†

†See The Monthly Letter of The Limited Editions Club, No. 146 (June 1942), published to coincide with distrib. of an illustrated edn. of The Crock of Gold , which includes a preface to The Crock of Gold by Clifton Fadiman.]

  • Do., trans. as Götter, Menschen, Kobolde: eine irische Erzählung [übertragen von Herta Hartmanshenn] (Wiesbaden: Bu¨chdruckerei Reinhold Witting 1947), 160pp.;
  • Do., trans. as Le pot d’or [traduit de l’anglais par A. et M. Malblanc] (Paris: F. Rieder et Cie. 1925), 240pp.
Note: The Crock of Gold (1912) went through 46 American editions between 1912 and 1947, incl. 3 special editions for use by the America forces in WWII. In America the work was generally read for its Irish folklore without reference to the satirical line of the story. (See Eamon Kelly, review of After the Flood: Irish America, 1945-1960, ed. Matthew J. O’Brien & James Silas Rogers, 2009, in Books Ireland, March 2011, p.49.) [See also extracts and plot summary, infra.]
[ top ]

The Insurrection in Dublin [1st edn.] (Dublin & London: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1916), xiv+111pp. [also a 2nd impression]; Do. (NY: Macmillan 1916), 148pp.; Do. [6th edn.] (Dublin: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1917); Do. (NY: The Macmillan Company 1917). 148pp.; Do. (Dublin & London: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1919). 111pp.; Do. [3rd edn.] (Chicago: Scepter Books 1965). 100pp. [copyright Iris Wyse]; Do [rep. edn.], with an introduction & afterword by John A. Murphy [ facs. of Maunsel Edn of 1916] (Gerrard’s Cross, Bucks.: Colin Smythe 1978; rep. 1992). xxxiv, 116pp., ill. (For full text, see RICORSO Library, “Major Authors / James Stephens” - infra.)

Irish Fairy Tales, by James Stephens (NY: Macmillan 1920), CONTENTS: The Story of Tuan Mac Cairill; The Boyhood of Fionn; The Birth of Bran; Oisin’s Mother; The Wooing of Becfola; The Little Brawl at Allen; The Carl of the Drab Coat; The Enchanted Cave of Cesh Corran; Mongan’s Frenzy. [Available at Sacred Texts online; accessed 25.10.2010.]

[Note: A signed copy of Collected Poems of James Stephens (Macmillan 1926) [ltd. edn. 500 large paper copies], 260pp. [ded. “AE”; is in the possession of Joan Bullock, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh - a grand-neice of Shan Bullock, q.v.]

Patricia McFate, ed., Uncollected Prose of James Stephen, 2 vols. (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983) - [Vol. 1: 1907-15, 128pp., CONTENTS - Autobiographical Fragment, pp.5-9; The Seoini, pp.17-20; Builders Pages, pp.20-23; Patriotism and Parochial Politics, pp.23-26; Irish Englishmen pp.26-29; Poetry, pp.29-32; Mrs Maurice M’Quillan, pp.32-36; Tattered Thoughts, pp.37-41; The Insurrection of ’98, pp.47-54; Success, pp.55-58; The Old Philosopher Discourses on the Viceregal Microbe, pp.58-61; The Old Philosopher Discourses on Government. pp.61-64; Imagination, pp.64-67; Irish Idiosyncrasies, pp.67-76; Good and Evil, pp.76-78; On Politeness, pp.78-81; Facts, pp.81-84; A Gaelic League Art Exhibition, pp.84-85; Caricatures, pp.86-87; The Old Philosopher Discourses on Lawyers, pp.87-90; The Populace Mind: I, pp.97-98; The Populace Mind: II; pp.99-101; The Populace Mind: III, pp.102-103; The Populace Mind: IV; pp.104-106; In Shining Armour, pp.106-109; Come Off That Fence!, pp.109-112; Going to Work, pp.112-115; An Essay in Cubes, pp.115-125; The Old Woman’s Money, pp.125-128. [29 chaps.]

Patricia McFate, ed., Uncollected Prose of James Stephen, 2 vols. (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983) - [Vol 2 - 1916-48, 171pp.: CONTENTS - Portrait of the Author as a Celebrity Frontispiece, ix; [...] In the Interval [139]; In the Silence I, 39, [by James Esse; 139]; Conscription and the Return of the Dog [141]; The Birthday Party [154]; Ireland Returning to her Fountains [177]; The Immortal Hour II [199]; London Woos a Man [215] For St Patrick’s Day [223]; The Passing of AE [230]; Two Plays, 1921 and 1929 [255]; Select Bibliography [ 297]. Includes other titles. [Available at online at Google Books; accessed 04.06.2020.

Collected Unpublished 2 Collected Unpub. 2
Patricia McFate, ed., Uncollected Prose of James Stephen (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983), Vol. - Contents [available online at Google Books; accessed 04.06.2020.]

[ top ]

  • Patricia McFate, Writings of James Stephens (London: Macmillan 1979), xiv, 183pp. [chaps. Stephens: the Man, the Writer, the Enigma [1-22]; The Dance of Life [23-57]; The Quest That Destiny Commands [58-87]; Make it Sing/Make it New [88-119 - see extract]; The Art and Craft of Prose [120-41].
  • Margaret Black, James Stephens: Creative Artist and Irish Nationalist (Kent State University, Department of English 1976). Masters thesis 116pp.
  • Birgit Bramsbäck, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study [Upsala Irish Studies, No. 4] (Upsala and Cambridge, MA: Lundequist and Harvard University Press 1959);
General studies
  • I. A. Williams, Bibliographies of Modern Authors: J. C. Squires and James Stephens (Folcroft 1922), and Do. [facs. rep.] (1973) [ltd. edn. 100 copies];
  • Benedict Kiely, ‘Clay and Gods and Men: The Worlds of James Stephens’, in The Irish Bookman (October 1946), [q.p.], rep. in ‘A Raid into Dark Corners and Other Essays (Cork UP 1999), pp. 84-94;
  • Vivian Mercier, ‘James Stephens, His Version of Pastoral’, in Irish Writing, 14 (March 1951), pp.47-59;
  • Augustine Martin, ‘The Crock of Gold: Fifty Years After’, in Colby Library Quarterly, 6, 4 (1962), pp.148-58 [see extract];
  • Hilary Pyle, James Stephens, His Work and An Account of His Life (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1965), xi [1], 196pp. [2 lvs of pls.];
  • Patricia Ann McFate, ‘James Stephens’s Deirdre’, in Éire-Ireland, 4, 3 (Autumn 1969), pp.87-93 [see extract];
  • Birgit Brämsback, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliography Study (Uppsala/Dublin Hodges Figgis 1959); Do. (Folcroft Lib. Eds. 1973), 209pp. [see details]; and Do. (Philadelphia, PA: R. West 1977), 209pp.;
  • Robert Hogan, ed., The Journal of Irish Literature, Vol. IV, 3 [, “James Stephens Special Number”, ed. and intro. by Richard J. Finneran & Patricia McFate], 4, 3 (Sept. 1975), 200pp.; play-version of The Demi-gods, 3 acts; also ‘Uncollected Early Writings’, ed. Patricia McFate, pp.47-61 - incls. fiction, poetry, essays, and book reviews.
  • Augustine Martin, James Stephens, A Critical Study (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1977), xii, 177pp. [see extract];
  • Richard J. Finneran, Letters of James Stephens: with an appendix listing Stephens’s published writings (London: Macmillan 1974). 481pp.
    Richard Finneran, The Olympian and the Leprechaun, W. B. Yeats and James Stephens [New Yeats Papers 16] (Dublin: Dolmen 1978), 36pp.;
  • John A. Murphy, intro. & afterword to James Stephens, The Insurrection in Dublin [rep. edn.] (Gerrard’s Cross, Bucks.: Colin Smythe 1978)., xxxivpp.
  • Alan Warner, ‘James Stephens’, in A Guide to Anglo-Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1981), pp.121-131;
  • Jochen Achilles, ‘The Charwoman’s Daughter and the Emergence of National Psychology’, in Irish University Review 11, 2 (Autumn 1981), pp.184-97 [see first page - infra.]
  • Anthony Cronin, ‘James Stephens: The Gift of the Gab’, in Heritage Now: Irish Literature in the English Language (Dingle: Brandon 1982), pp.147-55;
  • Léon Ó Bróin, Protestant Nationalists in Revolutionary Ireland (1985), p.129 [see extract];
  • John Cronin, ‘James Stephens, The Crock of Gold’, in The Anglo-Irish Novel, Vol. II (Belfast: Appletree Press 1990), pp.47-60;
  • Brigit Bramsback: ‘James Stephens and Paris: Insight […] from Letters to Thomas Bodkin’, in Ireland and France - A Bountiful Friendship: Essays in Honour of Patrick Rafroidi, ed. Barbara Hayley & Christopher Murray (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992), pp.93-106 [being an enl. vers. of Bramsback, ‘James Stephens: Dublin-Paris-Return, in Colby Library Quarterly, ed. D. Archibald (March 1961), pp.21-224.
  • Joseph Lennon, ‘James Stephens’s Diminutive National Narratives: Imagining an Irish Nation Based on the “Orient”’, in The Comparatist, ‘Postcolonial Theory and Irish Literature’ [Special Issue, guest ed., Michael R. Molino], Vol. XX [Virginia Commonwealth Univ.] (May 1996), pp.62-81.

See also numerous references in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (OUP 1959), cp.1,930; introductions to The Charwoman"s Daughter, by Hilary Pyle (London: Sceptre Books 1966) and Augustine Martin (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1972)

[ top ]

Bibliographical details
Birgit Brämsback, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliography Study (Folcroft Lib. Eds. 1973), 209pp., ill. [1p. pl., front.]. Photo port. courtesy Lady Glenavy. CONTENTS: Manuscript material of James Stephens work, except letters; Unpublished letters; Separate publications of James Stephens; Books containing publications by Stephens; Contributions by JS to periodicals and Newspapers; Biography and Criticism; addenda; chronological table of separate publications; lists of newspapers and periodicals; BBC recordings; index.

[Note: Lady Glenavy, wife of the Free State senator, was formerly Miss Beatrice Elvery and a graduate of the Dublin Metropolitan College of Art.]

[ top ]

Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘James Stephens concluded his eyewitness account with the prophecy that, though the country was not yet sympathetic, “in a few weeks she will be, and her heart, which was withering, will be warmed by the knowledge that men have thought her worth dying for.” The executions of the leaders, sickeningly spaced over a period of ten days, soon changed the mood of the country. Douglas Goldring, the English novelist, arrived one month later to find Dubliners already revering the victims, standing thoughtfully before their pictures in the shop windows. Stephens confessed to Goldring that he was ashamed of not being among the fighters. He should, he thought, have been in one of the three places, “in my grave, in jail, or on the roofs.”’ (p.127; citing Dublin Explorations and Reflections by “An Englishman” [viz., Maurice Goldring], 1917). [Cont.]

Richard Kain (Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, 1962, 1972) - cont.: ‘In The Crock of Gold (1912) the iridescent imagination of James Stephens plays upon talkative and silent philosophers, old women with stones in their boots, and children whose eyes are being awakened to the beauty of existence. This fantasy is deservedly one of the most popular of Irish books. As a poet, Stephens is equally original. Fairies and satyrs and stamping centaurs, soaring birds and the apple at the very end of the bough make his verses little philosophic fables of the love of life. There is technical virtuosity too, as in “Arpeggio,” a sequence of dancing lines only one or two syllables long, or in the thirteenline apostrophe - without a verb - of “The Main Deep”: “… long-rolling / Steady-pouring / Deep trenched …”’ (p.168.)

Patricia Ann McFate, writes that ‘While most readers owe their knowledge of the Deirdre legend to the works of W. B. Yeats, John Synge, James Stephens, and George Russell, the critics who have examined these literary versions have frequently been concerned with how unlike the ancient sources they really are. Even those who cite the works as representative of the Irish Literary Revival consider them as outside of or in opposition to the Gaelic legends themselves. / This is particularly ironic in the case of James Stephens’s novel Deirdre.’ (p.87 in McFate, ‘James Stephens’s Deirdre’, in Éire-Ireland, 4, 3, Autumn 1969, pp.87-93.)

Patricia McFate1
Patricia McFate
—See further short extracts at Palgrave publisher - online; accessed 05.06.2020.

[ top ]

Augustine Martin, ‘The Crock of Gold: Fifty Years After’, in Colby Library Quarterly , 6, 4 (1962): Writing on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, Augustine Martin noted that it ‘is one of the few Irish prose works—perhaps the only one—to survive in print long enough to celebrate its golden jubilee’. (Colby Quarterly, 6, 4, 1962, pp.148-49; thus quoted in Donald Morse, ‘Making the Familiar Unfamiliar: The Fantastic in Four Twentieth-century Irish Novels’, in That Other World: The Supernatural and the Fantastic in Irish Literature, ed. Bruce Stewart, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1998, p.269.)

Augustine Martin, James Stephens: A Critical Study (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield 1977) - on The Crock of Gold: ‘The book’s last flourish comes through the narrative voice where Blakean rhetoric, Irish myth, and a wry note of comedy is blended into the pattern, and the allegory enacts its last gesture.’ (p.54; quoted in Donald Morse, op. cit. 1998, idem.)

Patrick Rafroidi, ‘The Irish Short Story in English: The Birth of a New Tradition’, in Terence Brown & Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979): James Stephens’ novel The Crock of Gold (1912) and the not easily classified work In The Land of Youth (1924) show an abundant Gaelic influence. Neither one of them however is simply imitation, the personal themes of the author, like Time and the condemnation of Mercantilism, are always close to the surface or even dominant and the plot is always original. Straddling the frontier of the real and the imaginary, his short stories proper also betray his memory of his readings of ancestral legends. This is especially true of Desire ... the piece at the start of Etched in Moonlight (p.20).

Léon Ó Bróin, Protestant Nationalists in Revolutionary Ireland (1985), Alice Stopford Green impressed by Insurrection. ‘The picture of the week day by day seems to be very good, and his conclusions, too, seem very fair. The sad part is that all the recommendations for a hopeful future that he suggests have not been carried out, just the reverse; and that the opportunity is gone for ever. And you can’t fairly put all the blame on the Irish for their lack of cohesion, as people like to do.’ What no doubt left a mark on her was Stephen’s avowal that there was no future for Ireland until the question of her freedom had by some means been settled, for that ideal had captured the imagination of the race. Stephens dismissed criticism of the leaders of the insurrection. Three of these whom he knew personally were more scholars than thinkers, and more thinkers than men of action, but they were good men and willed no evil. Their nominal President [MacNeill] was a good man too […] accused of treachery […] but not [a] traitor […] German intrigue and money and counted for so little as to be negligible. (p.129.)

[ top ]

Jochen Achilles, ‘The Charwoman’s Daughter and the Emergence of National Psychology’,
in Irish University Review 11, 2 (Autumn 1981), pp.184-97 [available at JSTOR -online]

[ top ]

Brigit Bramsback, ‘James Stephens and Paris: Insight […] from Letters to Thomas Bodkin’, in Ireland and France - A Bountiful Friendship: Essays in Honour of Patrick Rafroidi, ed. Barbara Hayley & Christopher Murray (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992), pp.93-106: Stephens was learning French in Paris, with the help of Bodkin. […] Stephens jumped with delight at the suggestion made to him by Bodkin in June 1915 to apply for the Registrarship of the National Gallery of Ireland […] one of the Gallery governors fiercely resisted his candidature; he sent a letter of withdrawal via Bodkin which Bodkin however did not forward; appointed to the position in August 1915, first as Unestablished Registrar, then as Established Reg., and finally as Accounting Officer. Moved to London in 1925. Stephens broke with Bodkin after a flare-up at the Gallery in 1924, concerning the sell-on price of his MSS in America. After his death, Mrs Stephen’s supplied papers to Reginald Pound, son of Ezra, for Life and Letters of James Stephens, around Jan. 1954, but nothing came of it.

[ top ]

On the 1916 Leaders: ‘Be green upon their graves, O happy Spring, / For they were young and eager who are dead. / Of all things that are young, and quivering / With eager life, be they remembered. / They move not here! / They have gone to the clay. / They cannot die again for liberty. / Be they remembered of their land for aye. / Green be their graves, and green their memory.’ (Quoted in Alice Curtayne, The Irish Story: A Survey of Irish History and Culture, Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds 1962, p.161.)

See Stephens’ translation of “Cill Aodáin” by Antoine Raftery - supra

Spring 1916

Be green upon their graves, O happy Spring,
For they were young and eager who are dead;
Of all things that are young and quivering
With eager life be they remembered:

They move not here, they have gone to the clay.
They cannot die again for liberty;
Be they remembered of their land for aye;
Green be their graves and green their memory.

At springtime of the year you came and swung
Green flags above the newly-greening earth;
Scarce were the leaves unfolded, they were young,
Nor had outgrown the wrinkles of their birth:

Comrades they thought you of their pleasant hour.
They had but glimpsed the sun when they saw you;
They heard your songs e’er birds had singing power,
And drank your blood e’er that they drank the dew.

Then you went down, and then, and as in pain,
The Spring affrighted fled her leafy ways,
The clouds came to the earth in gusty rain,
And no sun shone again for many days:

And day by day they told that one was dead,
And day by day the season mourned for you.
Until that count of woe was finished.
And Spring remembered all was yet to do.

Go Winter now unto your own abode,
Your time is done, and Spring is conqueror.
Lift up with all your gear and take your road.
For she is here and brings the sun with her:

Now are we resurrected, now are we,
Who lay so long beneath an icy hand,
New-risen into life and liberty,
Because the Spring is come into our land.

—Given on Facebook by Frank Callery [10.05.2016].

[ top ]

The Charwoman’s Daughter (1912) - Chap. XXI: ‘[...] Almost all women are possessed of a fine social sense in relation to other women. They are always on their best behaviour towards one another. Indeed, it often seems as if they feared and must by all possible means placate each other by flattery, humour, or a serious tactfulness. There is very little freedom between them, because there is no real freedom or acquaintance but between things polar. There is nothing but a superficial resemblance between like and like, but between like and unlike [128] there is space wherein both curiosity and spirit may go adventuring. Extremes must meet, it is their urgent necessity, the reason for their distance, and the greater the distance between them the swifter will be their return and the warmer their impact: they may shatter each other to fragments, or they may fuse and become indissoluble and new and wonderful, but there is no other fertility. Between the sexes there is a really extraordinary freedom of intercourse. They meet each other something more than half-way. A man and a woman may become quite intimate in a quarter of an hour. Almost certainly they will endeavour to explain themselves to each other before many minutes have elapsed; but a man and a man will not do this, and even less so will a woman and a woman, for these are the parallel lines which never meet. The acquaintanceship of the latter, in particular, often begins and ends in an armed and calculating neutrality. They preserve their distances and each other’s sufferance by the exercise of a grave social tact which never deserts them, and which more than anything else has contributed to build the ceremonials which are nearly one-half of our civilisation.’ [129]

It is a common belief amongst men that women cannot live together without quarrelling, and that they are unable to get work done by other women with any of the good will which men display in the same occupations. If this is true, the reason should not be looked for in any intersexual complications, such as fear or an acrid rivalry, but only in the perpetually recurring physical disturbances to which, as a sex, they are subjected; and as the ability and willingness of a man to use his fists in response to an affront has imposed sobriety and good humour towards each other in almost all their relations, so women have placed barriers of politeness and ceremonial between their fellow-women and their own excoriated sensibilities.’

Mrs. Cafferty, therefore, dissembled her disappointment, and with an increased cordiality addressed herself towards Mary. Sitting down on the bedside, she discoursed on almost every subject upon which a woman may discourse. It is considered that the conversation of women, while incessant in its use, is rigorously bounded between the parlour and the kitchen, or, to be more precise, between the attic and the scullery; but these extremes [130] are more inclusive than is imagined, for the attic has an outlook on the stars while the scullery usually opens on the kitchen garden or the dust-heap - vistas equal to horizons. The mysteries of death and birth occupy women far more than is the case with men, to whom political and mercantile speculations are more congenial. With immediate buying and selling, and all the absolute forms of exchange and barter, women are deeply engaged, so that the realities of trade are often more intelligible to them than to many merchants. If men understood domestic economy half as well as women do, then their political economy and their entire consequent statecraft would not be the futile muddle which it is.’

It was all very interesting to Mary, and, moreover, she had a great desire for companionship at the moment. If she had been left alone it might have become necessary to confront certain thoughts, memories, pictures, from which she had a dim idea it would be wise to keep her distance. Her work on the previous day, the girl she had met in the house, the policeman - from all or any of these recollections she swerved mentally. She steadily rejected all impressions that touched [131 upon these. The policeman floated vaguely on her consciousness not as a desirable person, not even as a person, but as a distance, as an hour of her childhood, as a half-forgotten quaintness, a memory which it would be better should never be revived. Indeed, her faint thought shadowed him as a person who was dead, and would never again be visible to her anywhere. So, resolutely, she let him drop down into her mind to some uncomfortable oubliette from whence he threatened with feeble insistence to pop up at any moment like a strange question or a sudden shame. She hid him in a rosy flush which a breath could have made flame unbearably, and she hid from him behind the light garrulity of Mrs. Cafferty, through which now and again, as through a veil, she saw the spike of his helmet, a wiry, bristling moustache, a surge of great shoulders. On these ghostly indications she heaped a tornado of words which swamped the wraith, but she knew he was waiting to catch her alone, and would certainly catch her, and the knowledge made her hate him.’; [For full-text version, see RICORSO > Library > Authors > Classics > James Stephens - via index or as attached.]

[ top ]


MRS. MAKEBELIEVE was planning to get back such of her furniture and effects as had been pawned during her illness. Some of these things she had carried away from her father’s house many years before when she got married. They had been amongst the earliest objects on which her eyes had rested when she was born, and around them her whole life of memories revolved: a chair in which her father had sat, and on the edge whereof her husband had timidly balanced himself when he came courting her, and into which her daughter had been tied when she was a baby. A strip, of carpet and some knives and forks had formed portion of her wedding presents. She loved these things, and had determined that if work could retrieve them they should not be lost for ever. Therefore, she had to [141] suffer people like Mrs. O’Connor, not gladly, but with the resignation due to the hests of Providence which one must obey but may legitimately criticise. Mrs. Makebelieve said definitely that she detested the woman. She was a cold-eyed person whose only ability was to order about other people who were much better than she was. It distressed Mrs. Makebelieve to have to work for such a person, to be subject to her commands and liable to her reproofs or advice; these were things which seemed to her to be out of all due proportion. She did not wish the woman any harm, but some day or other she would undoubtedly have to put her in her proper place. It was a day to which she looked forward. Any one who had a sufficient income could have a house and could employ and pay for outside help without any particular reason for being proud, and many people, having such an income, would certainly have a better appointed house and would be more generous and civil to those who came to work for them. Everybody, of course, could not have a policeman for a nephew, and there were a great many people who would rather not have anything to do with a policeman at all. [142] Overbearing, rough creatures to whom everybody is a thief! If Mrs. Makebelieve had such a nephew she would certainly have wrecked his pride - the great beast! Here Mrs. Makebelieve grew very angry: her black eyes blazed, her great nose grew thin and white, and her hands went leaping in fury. “’You’re not in Court now, you jackanapes you,’ said I - with his whiskers, and his baton, and his feet that were bigger than anything in the world except his ignorant self-conceit. ‘Have you a daughter, ma’m?’ said he. ‘What’s her age, ma’m?’ said he. ‘Is she a good girl, ma’m?’ said he.” But she had settled him. “And that woman was prouder of him than a king would be of his crown! Never mind,” said Mrs. Make-believe, and she darted fiercely up and down the room, tearing pieces off the atmosphere and throwing them behind her.
 In a few minutes, however, she sat down on the floor and drew her daughter’s head to her breast, and then, staring into the scrap of fire, she counselled Mary wisely on many affairs of life and the conduct of a girl under all kinds of circumstances - to be adequate in spirit if not in physique: that was her theme. 143] Never be a servant in your heart, said she. To work is nothing; the king on his throne, the priest kneeling before the Holy Altar, all people in all places had to work, but no person at all need be a servant. One worked and was paid, and went away keeping the integrity of one’s soul unspotted and serene. If an employer was wise or good or kind, Mrs. Makebelieve was prepared to accord such a person instant and humble reverence. She would work for such a one until the nails dropped off her fingers and her feet crumpled up under her body; but a policeman, or a rich person, or a person who ordered one about ... until she died and was buried in the depths of the world, she would never give in to such a person or admit anything but their thievishness and ill-breeding. Bad manners to the like of them! said she, and might have sailed boisterously away upon an ocean of curses, but that Mary turned her face closer to her breast and began to speak.
 For suddenly there had come to Mary a vision of peace: like a green island in the sea it was, like a white cloud on a broiling day; the sheltered life where all mundane preoccupations were far away, where ambition [144] and hope and struggle were incredibly distant foolishness. Lowly and peaceful and unjaded was that life: she could see the nuns pacing quietly in their enclosed gardens, fingering their beads as they went to and fro and praying noiselessly for the sins of the world, or walking with solemn happiness to the Chapel to praise God in their own small companies, or going with hidden feet through the great City to nurse the sick and comfort those who had no other comforter than God - To pray in a quiet place, and not to be afraid any more or doubtful or despised...! These things she saw and her heart leaped to them, and of these things she spoke to her mother, who listened with a tender smile and stroked her hair and hands. But her mother did not approve of these things. She spoke of nuns with reverence and affection. Many a gentle, sweet woman had she known of that sisterhood, many a one before whom she could have abased herself with tears and love, but such a life of shelter and restraint could never have been hers, nor did she believe it could be Mary’s. For her a woman’s business was life; the turmoil and strife of it was good to be in; it was a cleansing and a [145] bracing. God did not need any assistance, but man did, bitterly he wanted it, and the giving of such assistance was the proper business of a woman. Everywhere there was a man to be helped, and the quest of a woman was to find the man who most needed her aid, and having found, to cleave to him for ever. In most of the trouble of life she divined men and women not knowing or not doing their duty, which was to love one another and to be neighbourly and obliging to their fellows. A partner, a home and children - through the loyal co-operation of these she saw happiness and, dimly, a design of so vast an architecture as scarcely to be discussed. The bad and good of humanity moved her to an equal ecstasy of displeasure and approbation, but her God was Freedom and her religion Love. Freedom! even the last rags of it that remain to a regimented world! That was a passion with her. She must order her personal life without any ghostly or bodily supervision. She would oppose an encroachment on that with her nails and her teeth; and this last fringe of freedom was what nuns had sacrificed and all servants and other people had bartered away. One must [146] work, but one must never be a slave - these laws seemed to her equally imperative; the structure of the world swung upon them, and whoever violated these laws was a traitor to both God and man.
 But Mary did not say anything. Her mother’s arms were around her, and suddenly she commenced to cry upon a bosom that was not strange. There was surely healing in that breast of love, a rampart of tenderness against the world, a door which would never be closed against her or opened to her enemies. [147]


But, undoubtedly, there was a change in the policeman, and it was not difficult to account for. He was more easy and familiar in his speech: while formerly he had bowed as from [149] the peaks of manly intellect to the pleasant valleys of girlish incompetence, he now condescended from the loftiness of a policeman and a person of quality to the quaint gutters of social inferiority. To many people mental inferiority in a companion has a charm, for it induces in one’s proper person a feeling of philosophic detachment, a fine effect of personal individuality and superiority which is both bracing and uplifting - there is not any particular harm in this: progress can be, and is, accelerated by the hypocrisies and snobbishness, all the minor, unpleasant adjuncts of mediocrity. Snobbishness is a puling infant, but it may grow to a deeply whiskered ambition, and most virtues are, on examination, the amalgam of many vices. But while intellectual poverty may be forgiven and loved, social inequality can only be utilised. Our fellows, however addled, are our friends, our inferiors are our prey, and since the policeman had discovered Mary publicly washing out an alien hall his respect for her had withered and dropped to death almost in an instant; whence it appears that there is really only one grave and debasing vice in the world, and that is poverty. [150]


WHEN the sexual instinct is aroused, men and dogs and frogs and beetles, and such other creatures as are inside or outside of this catalogue, are very tenacious in the pursuit of their ambition. We can seldom get away from that which attracts or repels us. Love and hate are equally magnetic and compelling, and each, being supernormal, drags us willingly or woefully in its wake, until at last our blind persistency is either routed or appeased, and we advance our lauds or gnash our teeth as the occasion bids us. There is no tragedy more woeful than the victory of hate, nor any attainment so hopelessly barren as the sterility of that achievement; for hate is finality, and finality is the greatest evil which can happen in a world of movement. Love is an inaugurator displaying [174[ his banners on captured peaks and pressing for ever to a new and more gracious enterprise, but the victories of hate are gained in a ditch from which there is no horizon visible, and whence there does not go even one limping courier,
 After Mary fled from the embrace of the great policeman he came to think more closely of her than he had been used; but her image was throned now in anger: she came to him like a dull brightness wherefrom desolate thunder might roll at an instant. Indeed, she began to obsess him so that not even the ministrations of his aunt nor the obeisances of that pleasant girl, the name of whose boots was Fairybell, could give him any comfort or wean him from a contemplation which sprawled gloomily between him and his duties to the traffic. If he had not discovered the lowliness of her quality his course might have been simple and straightforward: the issue, in such an event, would have narrowed to every man’s poser - whether he should marry this girl or that girl? - but the arithmetic whereby such matters are elucidated would at the last have eased his perplexity, and the path indicated [175] could have been followed with the fullest freedom on his part and without any disaster to his self-love. If, whichever way his inclination wavered, there was any pang of regret (and there was bound to be), such a feeling would be ultimately waived by his reason or retained as a memorial which had a gratifying savour. But the knowledge of Mary’s social inferiority complicated matters, for, although this automatically put her out of the question as his wife, her subsequent ill-treatment of himself had injected a virus to his blood which was one-half a passion for her body and one-half a frenzy for vengeance. He could have let her go easily enough if she had not first let him go; for he read dismissal in her action and resented it as a trespass on his own just prerogative. - He had but to stretch out his hand and she would have dropped to it as tamely as a kitten, whereas now she eluded his hand, would, indeed, have nothing to do with it; and this could not be forgiven. He would gladly have beaten her into submission, for what right has a slip of a girl to withstand the advances of a man and a policeman? That is a crooked spirit demanding to be straightened with a truncheon: but as we [176] cannot decently, or even peaceably, beat a girl until she is married to us, he had to relinquish that dear idea. He would have dismissed her from his mind with the contempt she deserved, but, alas! he could not: she clung there like a burr, not to be dislodged saving by possession or a beating - two shuddering alternatives - for she had become detestably dear to him. His senses and his self-esteem conspired to heave her to a pedestal where his eye strained upwards in bewilderment - that she who was below him could be above him! This was astounding: she must be pulled from her eminence and stamped back to her native depths by his own indignant hoofs; thence she might be gloriously lifted again with a calm, benignant, masculine hand shedding pardons and favours, and perhaps a mollifying unguent for her bruises. Bruises! a knee, an elbow - they were nothing; little damages which to kiss was to make well again. Will not women cherish a bruise that it may be medicined by male kisses? Nature and precedent have both sworn to it...But she was out of reach; his hand, high-flung as it might be, could not get to her. He went furiously to the [177] Phoenix Park, to St. Stephen’s Green, to outlying leafy spots and sheltered lanes, but she was in none of these places. He even prowled about the neighbourhood of her home and could not meet her. Once he had seen Mary as she came along the road, and he drew back into a doorway. A young man was marching by her side, a young man who gabbled without ceasing and to whom Mary chattered again with an equal volubility. As they passed by Mary caught sight of him, and her face went flaming. She caught her companion’s arm, and they hurried down the road at a great pace...She had never chattered to him. Always he had done the talking, and she had been an obedient, grateful listener. Nor did he quarrel with her silence, but her reserve shocked him; it was a pretence - worse, a lie - a masked and hooded falsehood. She had surrendered to him willingly, and yet drew about her a protective armour of reserve wherein she skulked immune to the arms which were lawfully victorious. Is there, then, no loot for a conqueror? We demand the keys of the City Walls and unrestricted entry, or our torches shall blaze again. This chattering Mary [178] was a girl whom he had never caught sight of at all. She had been hiding from him even in his presence. In every aspect she was an anger. But she could talk to the fellow with her...a skinny whipper-snapper, whom the breath of a man could shred into remote, eyeless vacuity. Was this man another insult? Did she not even wait to bury her dead? Pah! she was not value for his thought. A girl so lightly facile might be blown from here to there and she would scarcely notice the difference. Here and there were the same places to her, and him and him were the same person. A girl of that type comes to a bad end: he had seen it often, the type and the end, and never separate. Can one not prophesy from facts? He saw a slut in a slum, a drab hovering by a dark entry, and the vision cheered him mightily for one glowing minute and left him unoccupied for the next, into which she thronged with the flutter of wings and the sound of a great mocking.
 His aunt tracked his brows back to the responsible duties of his employment, and commiserated with him, and made a lamentation about matters with which he never had [179] been occupied, so that the last tag of his good manners departed from him, and he damned her unswervingly into consternation. That other pleasant girl, whose sweetness he had not so much tasted as sampled, had taken to brooding in his presence: she sometimes drooped an eye upon him like a question ... Let her look out or maybe he’d blaze into her teeth: howl menace down her throat until she swooned. Some one should yield to him a visible and tangible agony to balance his. Does law probe no deeper than the pillage of a watch? Can one filch our self-respect and escape free? Shall not our souls also sue for damages against its aggressor? Some person rich enough must pay for his lacerations or there was less justice in heaven than in the Police Courts; and it might be that girl’s lot to expiate the sins of Mary. It would be a pleasure, if a sour one, to make somebody wriggle as he had, and somebody should wriggle; of that he was blackly determined. [180]

[Later - after the policeman’s failed proposal of marriage and assault on the younger man:] Mrs. Makebelieve understood also that the big man’s action was merely his energetic surrender, as of one who, instead of tendering his sword courteously to the victor, hurls it at him with a malediction; and that in assaulting their friend he was bidding them farewell as heartily and impressively as he was able. So they fed the young man and extolled him, applauding to the shrill winding of his trumpet until he glowed again in the full satisfaction of heroism. [... 213].


In that wide struggle which we call Progress, evil is always the aggressor and the vanquished, and it is right that this should be so, for without its onslaughts and depredations humanity might fall to a fat slumber upon its corn-sacks and die snoring: or, alternatively, lacking these valorous alarms and excursions, it might become self-satisfied and formularised, and be crushed to death by the mere dull density of virtue. Next to good the most valuable factor in life is evil. By the [226] interaction of these all things are possible, and therefore (or for any other reason that pleases you) let us wave a friendly hand in the direction of that bold, bad policeman whose thoughts were not governed by the Book of Regulations which is issued to all recruits, and who, in despite of the fact that he was enrolled among the very legions of order, had that chaos in his soul which may “give birth to a Dancing Star.”

[For full-text version, see RICORSO > Library > Authors > Classics > James Stephens - via index or as attached.]

[ top ]

Chapter XXIX [on Mrs Makebelieve’s lodger, a shop-clerk]: ‘[...] The young man repaid their hospitality by an easy generosity of speech covering affairs which neither Mrs. Makebelieve nor her daughter had many opportunities for studying. He spoke of those very interesting matters with which a young man is concerned, and his speculations on various subjects, while often quite ignorant, were sufficiently vivid to be interesting and were wrong in a boyish fashion which was not unpleasant. He was very argumentative, but was still open to reason; therefore Mrs. Makebelieve had opportunities for discussion which were seldom granted to her. Insensibly she adopted the position of guide, philosopher, and friend to him; and Mary also found new interests in speech, for although the young man thought very differently from her, he did think upon her own plane, and the things which secretly engrossed him were also the things wherewith she was deeply preoccupied. A community of ignorances may be as binding as a community of interests. We have a dull suspicion of that him or her who knows more than we do, but the person who is prepared to go out adventuring with us, with surmise only for a chart and enjoyment for a guide, may use our hand as his own and our pockets as his treasury. [Cont.]

[Charwomen’s Daughter, Chap. XXIX - cont.} ‘As the young man had no more shyness than a cat, it soon fell out that he and Mary took their evening walks together. He was [183] a clerk in a large retail establishment, and had many things to tell Mary which were of great interest to both of them. For in his place of business he had both friends and enemies of whom he was able to speak with the fluency which was their due. Mary knew, for instance, that the chief was bald but decent (she could not believe that the connection was natural), and that the second in command had neither virtues nor whiskers. (She saw him as a codfish with a malignant eye.) He epitomised the vices which belonged in detail to the world, but were peculiar to himself in bulk. (He must be hairy in that event.) Language, even the young man’s, could not describe him adequately. (He ate boys for breakfast and girls for tea.) With this person the young man was in eternal conflict (a bear with little ears and big teeth); not open conflict, for that would have meant instant dismissal (not hairy at all--a long, slimy eel with a lot of sense), but a veiled, unremitting warfare which occupied all their spare attention. The young man knew for an actual fact that some day he would be compelled to hit that chap, and it would be a sorry day for the fellow, [184] because his ability to hit was startling. He told Mary of the evil results which had followed some of his blows, and Mary’s incredulity was only heightened by a display of the young man’s muscles. She extolled these because she thought it was her duty to do so, but preserved some doubts of their unique destructiveness. Once she asked him could he fight a policeman, and he assured her that policemen are not able to fight at all singly, but only in squads, when their warfare is callous and ugly and conducted mainly with their boots; so that decent people have no respect for their fighting qualities or their private characters. He assured her that not only could he fight a policeman, but he could also tyrannise over the seed, breed, and generation of such a one, and, moreover, he could accomplish this without real exertion.

Against all policemen and soldiers the young man professed an eager hostility, and with these bad people he included landlords and many employers of labour. His denunciation of these folk might be traced back to the belief that none of them treated one fairly. A policeman, he averred, would arrest a man for next door to nothing, and any resistance [185] offered to their spleen rendered the unfortunate prisoner liable to be man-handled in his cell until their outraged dignity was appeased. The three capital crimes upon which a man is liable to arrest are for being drunk, or disorderly, or for refusing to fight, and to these perils a young man is peculiarly susceptible, and is, to that extent, interested in the Force, and critical of their behaviour. The sight of a soldier annoyed him, for he saw a conqueror, trampling vaingloriously through the capital of his country, and the inability of his land to eject the braggart astonished and mortified him. Landlords had no bowels of compassion. There was no kindliness of heart among them, nor any wish to assist those whose whole existence was engaged on their behalf. He saw them as lazy, unproductive gluttons who cried for, ever “Give, give,” and who gave nothing in return but an increased insolent tyranny. Many employers came into the same black category. They were people who had disowned all duty to humanity, and who saw in themselves the beginning and the end of all things. They gratified their acquisitiveness not in order that they might become benefactors of their kind [186] (the only righteous freedom of which we know), but merely to indulge a petty exercise of power and to attain that approval which is granted to wealth and the giving of which is the great foolishness of mankind. These people used their helpers and threw them away; they exploited and bought and sold their fellow-men, while their arrogant self-assurance and the monstrous power which they had gathered for their security shocked him like a thing unbelievable in spite of its reality.

That such things could be, fretted him into clamour. He wanted to point them out to all people. He saw his neighbours’ ears clogged, and he was prepared to die howling if only he could pierce those encrusted auditories. That what was so simple to him should not be understood by everybody! He could see plainly and others could not, although their eyes looked straightly forward and veritably rolled with intent and consciousness! Did their eyes and ears and brains act differently to his, or was he a singular monster cursed from his birth with madness? At times he was prepared to let humanity and Ireland go to the devil their own way, he being well assured that without [187] him they were bound quickly for deep perdition. Of Ireland he sometimes spoke with a fervour of passion which would be outrageous if addressed to a woman. Surely he saw her as a woman, queenly and distressed and very proud. He was physically anguished for her, and the man who loved her was the very brother of his bones. There were some words the effect of which were almost hypnotic on him--The Isle of the Blest, The Little Dark Rose, The Poor Old Woman, and Caitlin the Daughter of Holohan. The mere repetition of these phrases lifted him to an ecstasy; they had hidden, magical meanings which pricked deeply to his heart-strings and thrilled him to a tempest of pity and love. He yearned to do deeds of valour, violent, grandiose feats which would redound to her credit and make the name of Irishmen synonymous with either greatness or singularity: for, as yet, the distinction between these words was no more clear to him than it is to any other young man who reads violence as heroism and eccentricity as genius. Of England he spoke with something like stupefaction: as a child cowering in a dark wood tells of the ogre who [188] has slain his father and carried his mother away to a drear captivity in his castle built of bones - so he spoke of England. He saw an Englishman stalking hideously forward with a princess tucked under each arm, while their brothers and their knights were netted in enchantment and slept heedless of the wrongs done to their ladies and of the defacement of their shields... “Alas, alas and alas, for the once proud people of Banba!”’

[...; cf. later:] ‘In the evening of that day Mary and the young man who lodged with their neighbour went out for the walk which had become customary with them. The young man had been fed with an amplitude which he had never known before, so that not even the’ remotest slim thread, shred, hint, echo, or memory of hunger remained with him: he tried but could not make a dint in himself anywhere, and, consequently, he was as sad as only a well-fed person can be. Now that his hunger was gone he deemed that all else was gone also. His hunger, his sweetheart, his hopes, his good looks (for his injuries had matured to the ripe purple of the perfect [223] bruise), all were gone, gone, gone. He told it to Mary, but she did not listen to him; to the rolling sky he announced it, and it paid no heed. He walked beside Mary at last in silence, listening to her plans and caprices, the things she would do and buy, the people to whom gifts should be made, and the species of gift uniquely suitable to this person and to that person, the people to whom money might be given and the amounts, and the methods whereby such largesse could be distributed. Hats were mentioned, and dresses, and the new house somewhere - a space-embracing somewhere, beyond surmise, beyond geography. They walked onwards for a long time, so long that at last a familiar feeling stole upon the youth. The word “food” seemed suddenly a topic worthy of the most spirited conversation. His spirits arose. He was no longer solid, space belonged to him also, it was in him and of him, and so there was a song in his heart. He was hungry and the friend of man again. Now everything was possible. The girl? Was she not by his side? The regeneration of Ireland and of Man? That could be done also; a little leisure and everything that can [223] be thought can be done: even his good looks might be returned to him; he felt the sting and tightness of his bruises and was reassured, exultant. He was a man predestined to bruises; they would be his meat and drink and happiness, his refuge and sanctuary for ever. Let us leave him, then, pacing volubly by the side of Mary, and exploring with a delicate finger his half-closed eye, which, until it was closed entirely, would always be half-closed by the decent buffet of misfortune. His ally and stay was hunger, and there is no better ally for any man: that satisfied and the game is up; for hunger is life, ambition, goodwill and understanding, while fulness is all those negatives which culminate in greediness, stupidity, and decay; so his bruises troubled him no further than as they affected the eyes of a lady wherein he prayed to be comely.’ [For full-text version, see RICORSO > Library > Authors > Classics > James Stephens - via index or as attached.]

[ top ]

Insurrection in Dublin (Dublin: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1916), Foreword: ‘[…] If freedom is to come to Ireland - as I believe it is - then the Easter Insurrection was the only thing that could have happened. I speak as an Irishman, and am momentarily leaving out of account every other consideration. If, after all her striving, freedom had come to her as a gift, as a peaceful present such as is sometimes given away with a pound of tea, Ireland would have accepted the gift with shamefacedness, and have felt that her centuries of revolt had ended in something very like ridicule. The blood of brave men had to sanctify such a consummation if the national imagination was to be stirred to the dreadful business which is the organizing of freedom, and both imagination and brains have been stagnant in Ireland this many a year. Following on such tameness, failure might have been predicted, or, at least feared, and war (let us call it war for the sake of our pride) was due to Ireland before she could enter gallantly on her inheritance. We might have crept into liberty like some kind of domesticated man, whereas now we may be allowed to march into freedom with the honours of war. I am still appealing to the political imagination, for if England allows Ireland to formally make peace with her that peace will be lasting, everlasting; but if the liberty you give us is all half-measures, and distrusts and stinginesses, then what is scarcely worth accepting will hardly be worth thanking you for.’ (p.xii.)

Insurrection in Dublin (Dublin: Maunsel & Company Ltd 1916) [Chapter X: Some of the Leaders:] ‘The country was not with it, for be it remembered that a whole army of Irishmen, possibly three hundred thousand of our race, are fighting with England instead of against her. In Dublin alone there is scarcely a poor home in which a father, a brother, or a son is not serving in one of the many fronts which England is defending. Had the country risen, and fought as stubbornly as the Volunteers did, no troops could have beaten them - well that is a wild statement, the heavy guns could always beat them - but from whatever angle Irish people consider this affair it must [p.88] appear to them tragic and lamentable beyond expression, but not mean and not unheroic. / It was hard enough that our men in the English armies should be slain for causes which no amount of explanation will ever render less foreign to us, or even intelligible; but that our men who were left should be killed in Ireland fighting against the same England that their brothers are fighting for ties the question into such knots of contradiction as we may give up trying to unravel. We can only think - this has happened - and let it unhappen itself as best it may. / We say that the time always finds the man, and by it we mean: that when a responsibility is toward there will be found some shoulder to bend for the yoke which all others shrink from. It is not always nor often the great ones of the earth who undertake these burdens - it is usually the good folk, that gentle hierarchy who swear allegiance to mournfulness and the under dog, as others dedicate themselves to mutton chops and the easy nymph. It is not my intention to idealise any of the men who were concerned [p.89] in this rebellion. Their country will, some few years hence, do that as adequately as she has done it for those who went before them.’ (pp.87-89.)

[ top ]

The Crock of Gold (1912): ‘What the heart knows today, the head will understand tomorrow.’ (Pan edn. 1953, p.111.) Further: ‘They swept through the goat tracks and the little boreens and the curving roads […]. And they took the Philosopher from his prison, even the Intellect of Man they took from the hands of the doctors and lawyers, from the sly priests, from the professors whose mouths are gorged with sawdust, and the merchants who sell blades of grass - the awful people of the Fomor […] and then they returned again, dancing and singing, to the country of the gods […].’ (The Crock of Gold [1912], NY: Collier 1967, p.228; quoted in Donald Morse, ‘Making the Familiar Unfamiliar: The Fantastic in Four Twentieth-century Irish Novels’, in That Other World [... &c.], ed. Bruce Stewart, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1998, p.269.)

Self-Portrait: ‘I think I portray living, or the sense of being alive … the feeling of the wind, the sun, of spaces, of things that can be touched and digested by man, rather than of things which he is capable of doing, such as the murder and adultery and the trade-trickery which many others (and legitimately) write about. They give the idea of action, I try to give the idea of being … The parts of my books that I read with pleasure, and upon which I expend all the writing and art and craft that is in me, are precisely those parts which other people treat with disdain, i.e., the hingeing-on parts.’ (James Stephens, letter, cited by PJ Kavanagh in Spectator, 7 Jan 1995). Further, ‘[T]he beginning of chapters where one is only preparing for the story, the end of chapters where one is wiping up the mess which the action has made, into these I put all the energy I have got, much more than in the important places.’ (Letter of 1917; quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, ‘Stephen’s and staring, Spectator, 2 Sept. 1995, p.33.)

Delight & sadness: ‘Unless delight is behind the writer of even a sad tale, his very sadness will be untrue; for it is the function of the artist to transform all that is sad, all that is ugly, all that is “real” into the one quality which reconciles the diversities that trouble us; into pure Poetry.’ (On Prose and Verse, 1928; cited in Donald Morse, op. cit., 1998, p.269.) [Cf. W. B. Yeats’s conception of ‘tragic joy’ - as given under Yeats, Quotations, infra.]

[ top ]

Stephen Brown
, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists The Charwoman’s Daughter (1912); The Crock of Gold (1912); Here are Ladies (1913); The Demi-Gods (1914).

Mark Storey, Poetry and Ireland since 1800, A Source Book (1988), pp.178-88, reprints ‘The Outlook for Literature with Special Reference to Ireland’, from Century Magazine (1922).

Georgian Poetry 1911-1912 (The Poetry Bookshop MCMXVIII [1918]), incls. poems by Stephens, viz., ‘In the Poppy Field’; ‘In the Cool of the Evening’; ‘The Lonely God’ [all from The Hill of Vision]. Note: edn. printed by W H Smith with title facing ‘published December, 1912’.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2; selects from The Hill of Vision “Light-O’-Love”; from Songs of the Clay, “The Ancient Elf”; from Collected Poems, “The Snare”, “A Glass of Beer”, “I Am a Writer”; also, extracts from The Crock of Gold (Bk. 1, Chap. VII); and Hunger (1918), based on the Lock-Out Strike of 1913. REFS & REMS, 521, 781, 1010, 1023, 1025, 1026, 1220; 1219, BIOG, WORKS & CRIT.

Hyland Books (Cat. 214) lists The Crock of Gold [first illustrated edn.] (1922), ill. b Wilfred Jones [Hyland 214]; another edn. 1926, ills. in colour and decorative headings and tailpieces by Thomas Mackenzie; Deirdre, Do., French trans. (1947); another edn. (NY 1970), ills. Nonny Hogrogian

Library of Herbert Bell, Belfast, holds Green Branches (London 1917)); Irish Fairy Tales, ill. Arthur Rackham (London 1920); The Charwoman’s Daughter (London 1912); Where There are Ladies (London 1913); In The Land of Youth (London 1914); The Demi-Gods (London 1914); The Adventures of Seamus Beg (London 1916); The Insurrection in Dublin (Dublin 1916); Insurrections (London 1917); Reincarnations (London 1918); The Hill of Vision (London 1922); Deirdre (London 1923); The Crock of Gold (London 1923); The Crock of Gold (London 1926); Etched in Moonlight (London 1928); The Outcast (London: Faber & Faber, 1929), col. fp. by Althea Willoughby; Strict Joy (London 1931); Kings & The Moon (London 1938).

Belfast Public Library holds Adventures of Seumus Beg (1915); The Charwoman’s Daughter (1912); Collected Poems (1912); Crock of Gold (1913); Deirdre (1923); Here Are Ladies (1913); Hill of Vision (1912); Insurrection in Dublin (1919); Irish Fairy Tales (1920); Kings and the Moon (1938); The Outcast (n.d.).

[ top ]

The Crock of Gold (1912) is an amalgam of existential whimsy, theosophy and folk-tale with a cast of leprechauns, talking animals, the god Angus Óg as well as two philosophers married to the Grey Woman of Dun Goftin and the Thin Woman, ending with a magnificent hosting of the Sidhe. The story begins when Meehawl MacMurrachu’s skinny old cat kills a robin redbreast on the roof one day, thus setting in motion a long and peculiar chain of events since the robin is the particular bird of the Leprecauns of Gort na Gloca Mora, causing them to retaliate by stealing Meehawl’s wife’s washing-board - whereupon Meehawl turns to the Philosopher who lives in the centre of Coilla Doraca (a pine-wood) for advice on how to find it. The chain of events leads on further until Angus Ó, the god, becomes involved and ends up marrying Caitilin, the daughter of a local farmer. Stephens returned to this a mythological formula though handling it more effectively in The Demi-Gods (1914). [Notes in part from Fantastic Fiction website, online; accessed 20.08.09.)

W. B. Yeats: Yeats’s personal library, now held in the NLI (Dublin) contains a copies of The Hill of Vision (MS 40,568 / 231; O’Shea Cat. 2002: 6 shts); Reincarnations (MS 40,568 / 232; O’Shea Cat. 2004: 2 shts).

James Joyce (1): Joyce envisaged when the met that he might complete Finnegans Wake; but see Stephen’s opinion of Joyce on the publication Dubliners, to the effect that “we in Dublin knew the poet to be the real Joyce”]. James Stephens’s view, reported in Ellmann’s James Joyce, ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle is the greatest prose ever written by a man (James Joyce [159], p.617; quoted in John Bishop, The Book of the Night 1989 [q.p.].)

James Joyce (2): Joyce translates “St Stephen’s Green” into French, Germna, Latin, Morwegian and Italian to celebrate joint-fiftieth anniversary in May 1932; and further, ‘He hoped to have Stephens translate it into Irish, but Stephens did not know the language well enough’ (Ellmann, James Joyce, 1959; 1965 Edn., p.668.) Ellmann quotes Stephen’s ‘modest poem’ and asserts that it ‘scarcely demanded such linguistic virtuosity’: ‘The wind stood up and gave a shout./He whistled on his fingers and//Kicked the withered leaves about/And tumbed the branches with his and//And said he’d kill and kill and kill/And so he will and so he will.’ (Ibid., ftn.)

[ top ]

SignedS”: ‘The attribution of “The Greatest Miracle”, signed “S” in the United Irishman, 16 Sept. 1905, to Stephens is a canard: Seumas O’Sullivan wrote it and republished it in Essays and Recollections (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1944), pp.141-43.’ (See Vivian Mercier, ‘John Eglinton as Socrates: A Study of “Scylla and Charybdis”’, in James Joyce: An International Perspective, ed. Suheil Bushrui & Bernard Benstock, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1982, p.66, n.)

Austin Clarke reports in A Penny in the Clouds (Chap. 3) that Stephen McKenna ‘taught Irish to James Stephens, and to his enthusiasm and help we owe Reincarnations [1918].’

F. R. Higgins told Austin Clarke how he mistook James Stephens for a bundel of rags in the wind as he walked through Rathgar, drowned in an outsized French cavalry officer’s cloak.

Portraits: oil portrait by Patrick Tuohy, now in the National Gallery of Ireland, shows him in his ‘candle-extinguisher’ coat; an early portrait was made by Estelle Solomons, while a third, by William Rothenstein, is in the possession of Iris Wise, who holds the copyright of his works. Solomons was a neighbour with a studio in the flat above him on Brunswick St. (see Hilary Pyle, Estelle Solomons, Patriot Portrait, 1966). The Rothenstein portrait of Stephens was lent to the Irish Portraits Exhibition in 1965.

[ top ]