Herbert Gorman, James Joyce: His First Forty Years (London: Geoffrey Bles [1926]) - extracts

Source: Copy in the possession of Bruce Stewart, Coleraine, Co. Derry, N. Ireland - purchased in Belfast for £2 in 1998. Note that the work was first published in New York by Huebsch while this edition bears the colophon ‘printed in U.S.A’ [title verso].

If Chamber Music brought nothing new into Irish letters except the advent of a finished craftsman [59] whose most unusual quality was his careful abnegation of all the impulses that made the Celtic Renascence what it was, Dubliners, on the other hand, did produce an unexpected note in the medley of native literary expression. Yet in spite of its unexpected -quality it was a consistent enough development. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World had already astounded and enraged that body of Irishmen who regarded the Gaelic nature with romantic veneration and exploited it in sentimental drool. According to this type of mind there were no bad Irishmen except informers; the only bad people were Englishmen. It is unnecessary to ridicule this point of view for its validity is in direct ratio to one’s blood-ties and mental approach. For years, for seven hundred years, in fact, it had been the general rule to regard the Irish people as a nation of persecuted saints, of long-sufferers in whose sacred house the iron foot of the armed stranger was dominant. Young Rory courted Kathleen in the original land of all the virtues and his inexhaustible humor was but a brave shield for his brooding sorrow. It was customary to regard the Irishman as a romantic, a struggler [60] for lost causes, “on every battlefield our dead, &c.” Now in a measure (in a large measure) there was a good reason for this idealization. No one can deny Ireland her far-flung dead. The legend of “Kelly and Burke and Shea” has been proven time and again. But such an heroic legend could not but persistently remove the Irishman from the hard actualities of existence and place him in a colored land of romance. He became like a profile on a medal; only one side of him was apparent. It was, of course, ridiculous to suppose that there was not another side for the Irishman is as human as any other person. Indeed, there were times when he seemed all too human, a creature of spontaneous instinct. He possesses his small conceits, his arrogances, his superstitious veneration of absurd and selfish aspects of life. His intolerances are as sharply defined as the intolerances of other people. It was this human side of him that was obscured by his native writers of romance. They never turned the medal. This was well enough in its way for it did impress upon the world at large the nationalistic unity of the Irish people, their implacable and reasonable desire to be themselves [61] alone and their heroic willingness to perish for an ideal that meant far more than the individual.

On the other hand this romanticization of the Irishman has, so far as the rest of the world is concerned, worked the nation an unintended wrong. It has obscured a distinguished cerebralization which manifests itself in more than a sharp wit. It is possibly because the Irishman has been so colored by romance, that we have grown to accept him as a creature of emotions, that James Joyce, at a first cursory glance, appears to be so un-Irish in his approach toward his work. Yet a little consideration will show him to be essentially Irish, the possible product of no other country. While the Irish were a dominated people it was, perhaps, but natural to regard them from a romantic sentimental point of view. But now the pendulum is swinging the other way. Passing from the romantico-sentimental stages the Irish mind will assert itself as a cerebral force, a force strengthened by the innate mysticism that is the heritage of its spiritual development. Joyce is Ireland’s first great cerebral writer. Being the first, it is but natural that he should be misunderstood by a people still lingering in an [62] old heroic tradition. Of course, the grey, drab realism of Dubliners enraged the Irish readers of that volume. “It isn’t a bit like Dublin ,” was the probable exclamation. Well, it is like Dublin just as it is like any other great city of the world where all the classes meet and clash. It doesn’t matter where the scene is laid for such sketches as are contained in Dubliners have a universal application. The prototypes of these frowzy Irish personages may be found in New York or London or Paris varied only according to minor national characteristics. And because this is so we have, almost for the first time in Irish literary history, a native writer who can view his own people with the sharp detachment from emotional ties and the deliberate dissection that is the backbone of great realism. Joyce is the first Irish realist and this statement is made with all due comprehension of the existence of Mr. George Moore. “Dubliners” is the first volume in which Irish realism reaches a perceptible plane of excellence.

Yet we must be careful about this realism and not depend too implicitly upon the atmosphere which it brings before us. I would not undertake [63] to assert that it was absolute for it is a manifest fact that Joyce has confined himself in Dubliners to a series of episodes selected for their consanguinity of mood. If the selection of incidents was not conscious it was the result of a sharply defined observation that was essentially centralized. Each sketch taken by itself may be strict bit of realism but the group considered as totality may give a wrong impression (or more strictly speaking, a misleading impression) of middle-class life in Dublin. In fact, there is a danger in venturing too far into realism that is fairly akin to venturing too far into romanticism. But we may confidently arrive at the conviction that taken one by one the sketches in Dubliners are vital and sincere creations, exceptional approximations of real slices of Irish life and that with their publication Joyce demonstrated the potentialities of a new mode in Irish fiction. [64; end Chap. II.]

Chapter III: With A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Joyce became quite definitely himself. He was one of many in Dubliners , albeit he stood head and shoulders, above most of his contemporaries in the creation of the realistic sketch, but in his first novel he became something quite dissimilar to either the novelists of his day or those who had passed before. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is more than a distinguished novel or a surprising revelation of nascent powers; it is no less than the introduction of a new form, a new modus operandi for revealing life. The progress of the novel throughout the years since Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding led surely to this genre. The spirit was in the air and more than Joyce became explorers seeking to understand it. At first the English-written novel was a matter of loose episodes, discursiveness, [65] essentially didactic in its tendencies. There were times when the novelists became to all purposes the essayists. This loose, all-embracing, easily attained form maintained for a long period of time. George Eliot, Charles Dickens, William, Makepeace Thackeray (excepting perhaps the astonishingly tight-constructed Henry Esmond ), and certainly such lesser figures as Reade, Bulwer Lytton, and their, kindred, regarded it as the natural end of technique. When a more disciplined form did make itself evident it came from across the Channel; it was best exploited and perfected by the brothers Goncourt and Gustave Flaubert. This form, tighter, visualizing life sharply through unexaggerated photography, has remained, except for minor changes, the technical expression of all the great novelists that followed the Victorians. It reached its apotheosis, I believe, in the best work of Henry James, The Ambassadors , for instance.

At its heels barked a sort of mongrel cur of literature, a cross between fiction and documentary propaganda, which is best represented by the, later work of H. G. Wells. But this is a transient form depending wholly upon the sociological, [166] economic, and, infrequently, æsthetic propaganda of the day. It possesses no permanent value. It was from the Flaubertian form of fiction that the authentic artists stepped off in search of new methods and these new methods, (no more, perhaps, than the experiments of our day,) reveal themselves in the work of James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Dorothy Richardson, Jules Romains, and, on a lesser level, in such efforts as those perpetrated by Waldo Frank (vide City Block and Rahab ) and Evelyn Scott (vide The Narrow House ) and, perhaps, Sherwood Anderson as he appears in Many Marriages . It is not enough to postulate that all these writers are attempting to turn the mind of humanity inside out, to shout “Freud” at these undoubtedly sincere workers. At their greatest, they must attempt the almost impossible task of co-ordinating the subconscious, of noting the reactions of the essential mind to the entire cosmos.

It is easy enough to draw the parallel between the old form and the new but not so easy to define the difference between, for instance, Dorothy Richardson and Marcel Proust after the simple notation of the superficial variances of style and [67] nature. That, however, will be intimated in the chapter concerned with Ulysses ” for it is more pertinent there. But with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man we are concerned with the old (James and Flaubert) and the new. Popular psychology divides human nature into a number of forms, self-will, emotion, passion, intellect or cerebration. All of these divisions partake of one another. The intellect is colored by the emotions and self-will is promoted by subconscious passion. But for laboratory reasons they may be treated as individual properties of the mind. The early novelists were not particularly concerned with more than emotion, self-will and passion. And even these qualities were handled with fumbling fingers. The characters were subdued to the exigencies of the plot. The reader viewed these created figures as though they were cut out of pasteboard. It was rarely that anything existed behind them. And yet they were real enough in a way. They existed. They possessed human attributes. They were as near to life as the psychology of their day permitted them to be. Their perversions were mainly the fault of strained situations, caricature, sentimentality, the [68] rigid application of ethical concepts. So much of life was given and no more of it. What did appear was well enough (it is a futile and unnecessary task to laugh away the characterizations of Thackeray and Dickens) but what vast demesnes of the human mind were left unexplored! What terrible silences ensued on certain aspects of life! There was a distinct line marking off fiction from actual life. This line had been occasionally crossed. Daniel De Foe (perhaps, the first realist) crossed it. Henri Beyle crossed it. And with the arrival of Gustave Flaubert and Edmond and Jules de Goncourt an entire movement in letters swept across it. In English letters it flowered greatly in the work of Thomas Hardy and George Meredith. The American entry was the solitary figure of Henry James. But even in the work of these men there were obvious deficiencies. A certain honesty, a certain impartiality (admittedly almost a god-like trait) was yet to be attained. The impersonal naturalism of Madame Bovary was well enough, an enormous step in the right direction, but the subsequent realism. of Emile Zola was twisted to a definitive purpose which made it one-sided. As Holbrook [69] Jackson has pointed out there was no essential difference between the Rougon-Macquart series and Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King.” Both preached the triumph of virtue, coming from opposite attitudes. An incurable Romanticism animated the realists. The new movement in fiction, which naturally flowered out of the impersonality of Flaubert and the cerebration and thought-splitting of Henry James, was to be an impartial recording of the sub-conscious mind, an honesty that was devastating in its relentless prodding and refusal to dart off down any of the tempting by-ways that beckoned so implacably on all sides. The dates appended to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are “Dublin, 1904-Trieste, 1914” and there is no reason not to believe that Joyce had reached this new movement through his own deduction and cerebration before any other Irishman or Englishman had consciously formulated it. He himself declares: “I began this novel in notes before I left Ireland and finished it in Trieste in 1914. Before I left I offered an introduction chapter to Mr. Magee [John Eglinton] and Mr. Ryan, editor of Dana. It was rejected.” The original publication of [70] the novel was in the pages of The Egoist, London, where it was serialized from February, 1914, to September, 1915, an appearance wholly due to the kindly offices of Ezra Pound.

Joyce was well to the fore in breaking away from the established style. Because this first novel is so unmistakably a departure from an existing tradition that had given evidence of superb achievement and was therefore not particularly frayed, we must regard A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as more important from a pioneer point of view than even Ulysses. It established a position from which progress to Ulysses was a consistent enough development. Possibly few people imagined that Joyce would carry the theory which he had unmistakably enunciated in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to such a perilous length. Possibly he could have gone on writing subjective novels which departed no more than this first effort from the tentative application of a wholly new technique in fiction but this was hardly to be expected. He was too arrogant an individualist to repeat his successes. He possessed too unresting an intellect not to carry his own theories to their ultimate goal. [71] And because this was so it is a dubious matter to bracket him with contemporary writers. As he defiantly stood outside of his own Irish Renascence so did he stand outside of the broad stream of European culture. We can hardly imagine him seriously weighing the opinions of others. Indeed, it is quite possible that he regards himself as a literary Ubermensch. He deliberately passes beyond good and evil.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, of course, is autobiography. Indeed, the progress of Joyce’s mind since Dubliners has been almost wholly autobiographical, Most of the time he is concerned with himself and his reactions to environment. The emphasis is upon spiritual environment. With this for his subject-matter Joyce set out with his new technique and delivered himself of a novel that is mainly subjective but which is starred with the most distinguished objective pictures. The story is one of the boyhood and youth of Stephen Dedalus, an Irishman brought up and educated by Jesuits. Stephen is sensitive, brooding, delicately cerebrated. Upon the clear slate of his consciousness his environment draws dark and forbidding lines. […; 72]

[…]

In essence the book describes a formal, tawdry [73] environment crushing a spirit that was born to be free, a spirit that will fight back and follow the flame which it sees dancing before it. Stephen knows that he is being crushed by a physical and intellectual leanness, that the props beneath him are rotten. As we witness the Dedalus family disintegrating throughout the pages of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man we observe, at the same time, the result of this gradual sinking in the muck on the sensitive mind of the young man. What progress can there, be in a life like this for him? The gradual knowledge comes to him that he must leave it, that he must exile himself from it and long before those final pages when eventually he does prepare to leave Ireland it is quite perceptible that Stephen is an exile. A lonely figure amongst his friends and surroundings, it is permitted him to view them as strangers. They are outside his life but not until he has tried the prop of his religion and found it a thing that buckles beneath him. We must never lose touch with this thread of religion in Joyce’s work for it is everywhere evident. The Roman Catholic tenets that formed the child’s mind, that frightened the child’s body into shaking fits of vomiting, [74] have so permeated the mentality of the man that it is at the back of practically every thought and action. There are times when Joyce writes impartially but we feel that behind these impartial sentences there is a far from impartial man. In order to write so he must lift the scourge to his own back. Roman Catholicism is in his bones, in the beat of his blood, in the folds of his brain and he cannot rest until it is either removed or clarified. It is his misfortune that it may never be removed. It will pervert his nature (it does so in Ulysses ) but it is there, twisted out of all resemblance to itself even in the frankest passages. The vivid, highly-functioning mind of the Stephen Dedalus of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the mind of a Medieval Catholic. If the same mind had been twisted to the other side of the line it would have been the intense visioning of a religiast.

This careful subconscious delineation of the mind that is so vast a part of Joyce’s first novel is occasionally cut into by the most careful realism. Ezra Pound wrote, when the book was first published, “James Joyce produces the nearest thing to Flaubertian prose that we have now [75] in England .” He was perfectly correct. When Joyce is describing a scene he set it down with a cold precision that leaves nothing unsaid and not a thing over-emphasized. Here there is evident that same pellucid technique which has been pointed out as being the chief virtue of the sketches in Dubliners . […; 76.]

[…]

[… F]rom episode to episode we follow the career of Stephen, his gradual apprehension of the tawdriness and hypocrisy of his environment confirming in his artistic consciousness the lonely arrogance of his nature. The only escape from this state of affairs is flight.

He begins to doubt the very thing which has sharpened and made acute in him the power to doubt. In other words his religious training has super-refined his capacities of spiritual observation and religious analysis so that he may behold how far apart the theory and the actuality stand. “It is a curious thing, do you know,” remarks Cranley [sic] in that last conversation in the book, “how your mind is supersaturated with the religion in which you say you disbelieve.” Now the entire progress of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a consistent exposition of Cranley’s statement. As a boy at school Stephen did believe, believe madly in his religion, but it was an emotional faith engendered by direct appeals to the senses. With his immersion in scholastic philosophy and the clarifying of his brain-powers for meticulous reasoning he practically destroys [79] the Stephen that once existed by a cold albeit somewhat forced logic. It is Stephen’s tragedy to destroy that image of himself which all his senses cry out to be. In its place rises the bitter figure which cries, “I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church; and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use, silence, exile and cunning.” But before that moment is reached we witness this youth bearing the ambitious name of the old Greek artificer (surely a symbolic touch) pass through that dark valley in which the juvenile scaffoldings of one’s life crash down before the cold wind of reason.

[…]

At least as far as sheer art was concerned A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was the coffin-lid for the emaciated corpse of the old genre of the English novel. It was a signpost pointing along that road which led to Ulysses and which still stretches wide and inviting albeit stony and difficult for other novelists who would be among the outriders of our intellectual progress. [100; end Chap. III.]

Chap. IV

[…]

With the creation of Leopold Bloom, Joyce set at rest forever the suspicion that he was a one-character creator, that his autobiographical instinct circumscribed his imagination so completely as to render impossible another such sustained and lengthy achievement as Stephen Dedalus. We must always bear in mind that Stephen is Joyce himself or rather Joyce as he sees himself, that many of his movements, his [134] entire environment and, perhaps, most of his actual conversation is as autobiographical as it is fictional. A great creative instinct is required to make such a personal shadow of one’s self live for strange readers but an even greater creative instinct is necessary to make possible the complete success of such a meticulous characterization as that of Leopold Bloom, the Dublin Jew. That Joyce does this, that he makes this figure so poignantly real, so complex and yet so comprehensible, assuredly places Bloom among the few great creations in letters, with Falstaff, with Don Quixote, even with such a caricature as Pickwick. It may seem straining a theory too far to so classify Leopold Bloom for the three creations just enumerated are, to say the least, unreal if viewed with the hard logic of the realist. But it is in the spirit that they are akin to Bloom. Into their creation, as into the creation of Bloom, went a certain gusto (Arthur Machen would mistakenly affirm it to be ecstasy), a certain completeness . They were all men suffering from self-delusions and, from a particular viewpoint, they were ordinary men, cowardly, lecherous, pompous, self-inspired. Their weakness was [135] their strength. And it is the weaknesses of Leopold Bloom that eventually become his vindication. As Stephen Dedalus is an individual and yet a representative aspect of the tortured aristocrat of art so is Leopold Bloom the common man of business, bitten by vague desires and sorrows, animal-like in his appetites (he eats with relish “the inner organs of beasts and fowls”), inwardly sentimental (under the pseudonym of Henry Flower he carries on an amorous correspondence with a young girl), weak-willed enough to let life drift for the most part, viewing his buxom, high-blooded wife’s infidelities with a fatalistic detachment, spontaneously spurred to tiny kindnesses such as leading blind men across dangerous roads and feeding birds, politic, careful of his health, doing nothing to excess, occasionally drinking, and once (as we know from the Walpürgisnacht scene) getting thoroughly drunk and wallowing in filth. He is stirred by music; he has a European respect for the artistic, temperament; he is a man of peace, a temporizer. And yet withal he is fashioned into a high tragic figure, comical in some aspects but with a comicality that is almost on the verge of tragedy. [136]

Bloom is the one consistently sympathetic character in Ulysses for there are times when Stephen Dedalus arouses an impatience in the reader. It is true that we are rather impatient with Bloom at times but it is a different sort of impatience. It is a friendly impatience, an unformulated desire for his welfare and hope that he will suddenly burst forth and assert himself. Stephen, we feel, is strong-willed enough, selfishly self-centred enough to travel through the drab days of his existence, tortured perhaps, but with a mordant realization of aristocratic aloofness, of unquestioned superiority, that will see him through. He is a man who has lost life. He is the irreligious Catholic who understands only too clearly from the training and examples of soutaned clericals how intricate the mind is, how proud and majestic the estate of man may be, and then, having lost his faith, must inevitably observe humanity as an intelligent brood of filthy animals. But Bloom has never possessed life. There are times when he feels it knocking at the locked door of his mind, when he suspects that beyond himself stretch the illimitable plains of being which he may never hope to explore, but [137] these hints come only in desultory flashes. His dead son, little Rudy, might have lived his life for him. Vicariously Bloom might have ventured through the dark labyrinths of time. But Rudy is dead; he cannot hope to live in his son. So we have Bloom the son-less father and Stephen, the fatherless son, the self-appointed outcast from the ordered condition of things. Bloom is the wandering Ulysses seeking vainly for his home; Stephen is a new type of tragic Telemachus who has given up all hope of finding a father. The construction of the book, astonishingly simple, is but the unconscious wanderings of these two spiritual outcasts to the Fate-appointed meeting late at night in the brothel of Mrs. Bella Cohen on Tyrone Street, lower, where the father finds the son and for a brief instant of time lives and knows himself for a man.

It is by the most desultory chain of incidents that the two men eventually meet. […; 138]

[…]

If we closely observe the Dublin which Joyce [151] unfolds before us we shall see that it is not a metropolis at all. It is a huge overgrown town with all the petty instincts of a town. It is outrageously provincial, honeycombed and humming with small scandals and furtive spyings upon one’s neighbors. Everybody knows everybody else. Bluster and hollow swank and sodden drunkenness are never much farther than around the corner. The unsophistication of town is here, the unhesitating pushing of local phenomena to the status of universal interest. For many of these people the world is bounded by the Hill of Howth and Dalkey. Just how true this is some other Dubliner must demonstrate. But viewed from the outside and with the application of a cursory knowledge it would seem to be but partially true. Dublin , after all, is the mouth of Ireland ; through it the island speaks. There is a concentrated nationality here which viewed from a certain attitude of mind actually might, seem to resemble provincialism. Years of political subjugation and unresting conspiracy on the part of a proportion of the intelligentsia might easily distort the point of view of a people so closely bound by ties of tradition and ambition. [152] After all, there is no reason why a dominated race should trouble their minds with cosmopolitanism. They are circumscribed by their passion and their patriotic impulses forbid them to pass beyond the fiery ring of hate which is their spiritual bulwark and the source of their strength. In such a small inwardly-concerned area petty hates and scandals are bound to spring up and clash against one another.

The national patriotism of Joyce has never been particularly in evidence although there are moments when we feel that a stout emotion is but thinly concealed. Even in the graveyard scene we feel that the references to Robert Emmet and Parnell are animated by a bitterness occasioned by the realization (personally arrived at, of course) of how far the Irish have fallen from the ideals of their heroes. There are Stephen’s memories of the old Fenian, Kevin Egan. “They have forgotten Kevin Egan, not he them. Remembering thee, O Sion.” When Joyce is bitter about the nationalism of Ireland we shall find that it is generally occasioned by a contempt for boastfulness, loud words, melodramatic gestures, such an intolerant attitude as that evinced by the [153] irate Citizen in Barney Kiernan’s, for instance. Sentimentality is unendurable to Joyce; he will not accept it in any form. Bluster of any sort awakes a sharp impatient ridicule in the author and this is quickly evident in the first of the eight chapters which follow the Glasnevin episode. […; 154.]

[…]

Above all things one must not fall into the inclination to romanticize or sentimentalize [169] Bloom. It is true that he arouses sympathy but it is awakened by a sort of tacit understanding of his matter-of-fact humanity. The sentimentalist is bound to come a series of severe croppers [sic] if he begins to apply the traditional scale of emotional values to Bloom. Progress may be safely made for a few paragraphs or even a few pages at times but the awkward moment implacably occurs when Bloom experiences some bawdy thought or falls lamentably from the plane upon which he has been placed and so wrecks the appealing sentimental scaffolding which has been so naturally erected. Life itself is the precedent for such a development, of course. No man or woman is unalterably appealing; moments inevitably occur that are small, disgusting, the results of mental limitations and the frailty of flesh. Viewed with a large tolerance Bloom, however, is more sympathetic than revolting. He is the limited intellect of man progressing dubiously through a world that is, for him, essentially one of flesh and the five senses. Because these awkward moments occur when his congenital animalism frankly and spontaneously reveals itself [170] Bloom is bound to startle the readers who have reached a circumscribed maturity by hedging by the thousand-and-one conventions of reticences and ethical concepts.

Yet undoubted moments do occur when the sympathies and almost the affections of his readers lift Bloom to a higher plane than usual. Such a moment is that to be found in the quarrel in Barney Kiernan’s public house where Bloom, is attacked by the irate Citizen, an unnamed character who seems to be a mingling of the Irish aborigine, the swashbucklerism of the Clan na Gael, and the principles of Sinn Fein carried to a ludicrous extreme. In this chapter several prose styles are intermixed. The actual tale of Bloom’s misfortune is told in the rich colloquial language of a bar hanger-on and various aspects of the situation are emphasized and satirized by the introduction of paragraphs written in a stilted, mock-heroic manner and sometimes in a ridiculous journalese. Bloom has gone to Barney Kiernan’s to meet Martin Cunningham with whom he is to talk over the matter of the late Paddy Dignam’s insurance. The usual public-house group is there [171] gathered and the usual conversation, sometimes bawdy and often profane, goes its surprisingly natural course. […; 172.]

[…]

The chapter which […] follows the incident with the Cyclops-Citizen possesses a scandalous interest as well as an extremely important illustration of Bloom’s nature. It contains the Nausikaa-Gerty MacDowell episode which, appearing in the Little Review originally, subjected that magazine to the tyranny of the American Society for the Suppression of Vice and abruptly ended the serialization of Ulysses in the United States . It is difficult to follow the twistings of those official minds which agreed that this episode was pornographic. It is frank (for a brief moment rather startlingly so) and a sexual incident is attributed to Bloom which (while most natural) has never before been exploited in English fiction, so far as I know. But the chapter is not pornographic. [176] A serious purpose informs it. There is even a strange beauty implicit here. But more than the beauty is the effect on Bloom’s mind of the na?ve exhibitionism of the hardly matured Gerty MacDowell. Bloom is essentially carnal but no more so than the average man in the street unless we allow for a certain suppressed imaginativeness which threads his faintly oriental mind. And Gerty MacDowell, overfed on trashy novels of a romantic order, is as normal as any other girl. The situation for her is an isolated one, a vibrant moment when the Earth-Spirit dominates her. Invisible tentacles of sex wind about her and she is shameless with the frank shamelessness of the young animal-spirit. For a brief while her blood is agitated by the mysterious urge of Gea, the Earth-Mother. But it is a broken spell, one that does not last. To observe the full, lusty, rich approximation of Gea we must wait until the very last chapter in the book, that astonishing edifice of smoothly running thought wherein Marion Tweedy Bloom empties the deepest hollows of her dark, sensual consciousness.

As for Bloom the perception of Gerty MacDowell’s hesitating carnality is quickened by the [177] natural feeling of loneliness and injustice which must have been his after the humiliating episode at Barney Kiernan’s public house. It has been evident before that Bloom slips easily into sentimentalities and there is no reason in this case why this weakness of moral discipline might not have accelerated his response to the Sandymount Nausikaa’s visual appeal to the senses. (pp.176-78.)

[…]

Chap. VI.

[On the Walpurgisnacht episode, i.e., Circe:]

[…] Real flesh and blood characters move and have their being in this scabrous nighttown of Dublin , in the brothels, and, side by side with. them, mingling, holding, converse, are visualized figments of the mind and inflamed imaginations. Stephen Dedalus retains his entity throughout but Bloom, more incoherent in his cerebral adjustions and weaker in intellectual intensity and concentration, time after time changes into visualizations of the thoughts which rush across his befuddled mind. All that he has desired or dreaded or dreamt or been fascinated, or revolted by takes him and colors him chameleon-like. He becomes a squire of dames, a prisoner in court, Lord Mayor of Dublin , an Emperor, an Irish emigrant, a woman, anything that pops into his mind, anything that is suggested by the most chance remark or situation. The whole day rushes back across his helpless mind, all the people he has met, all the gossip he has heard, all the thoughts which had passed across his consciousness. In astonishing garb and blasphemous attitudes all these half-digested morsels of observation and subconscious reception dart [186] out of his brain, spurting about like bits of colored glass from a smashed kaleidoscope. Part of this is occasioned by the same pathological principle which causes a victim of delirium tremens to see snakes. The rest is the result of Joyce’s extravagant imagination.

Treading this mad imbroglio is a coherent scheme of actual action which often loses itself in some unbelievable situation only to reappear farther on and progress toward the natural end of the drunken orgy. Slowly we witness the percolation into Bloom’s mind of the lonely status of Stephen Dedalus and his self-assumed guardianship of that tortured, imagination-inflamed poet. The sonless father is approaching the fatherless son. And yet it would not be wise to emphasize this situation too much. It is more implicit than directly developed. We sense the kinship there and for one moment near the close of the scene we behold it as an actuality but it is postulated, for the most part, in an indirect, almost reticent manner. Indeed, we are never quite certain what Stephen’s real thoughts are concerning Bloom. We must take them for granted and be satisfied that there is [187] nothing manifestly against the assumption that the younger man has sensed a curious kinship between himself and the Jew. Bloom’s attitude is more specific. We do know that he has seen the vision of his little dead son over the prostrate body of Stephen. […; 188.]

[…]

The scene in Bloom’s home is fashioned from a long litany of queries and responses, a method that suggests an examination paper more than anything else. The author is evident here. He stands above his two characters questioning their impulses and thoughts and then setting down the answers. The likenesses between the two men are starkly enumerated; both of them were sensitive to artistic impressions, preferring music to plastic or pictorial arts; both preferred a continental to an insular life; both disbelieved in orthodox religions. Bloom, if anything, is of a scientific disposition; Stephen, of course, is the acutely developed artist’s mind. Stephen observes in Bloom the accumulation of the past with all its littlenesses, superstitions, vague endeavors to free itself from the entangling centuries of existence; Bloom observes in Stephen, perhaps vaguely, the predestination of a future, the cerebral revolt that will no longer bow the head in any temple of man’s creation. Yet they stand in the silence of kinship a moment at the door before they part while the bells in the church of St. George ring out. [206]

What echoes of that sound were by both and each heard?
By Stephen:
   Liliata rutilantium. Turma circumdet.
   Jubilantium te virginum. Chorus excipiat.
By Bloom:
   Heigho, heigho,
   Heigho, heigho.

It is in this manner that they part. For these two men the day has ended. Evening has found itself for both of them and the still stars look down upon the silent stage from which the hubbub has faded. It is on such a note as this that most people, perhaps, would imagine the book to end. But there is yet to come one more chapter, a chapter as astonishing in its content as in its typographical composition. Briefly: for 42 pages there is a portrayal of the thoughts rushing through Marion Tweedy Bloom’s head as she lies in bed on the verge of slumber. There is not a comma or a period in this entire chapter; it runs along unbrokenly just as the thoughts in a person’s head might do. This is the chapter of which Arnold Bennett wrote: “I have never read anything to surpass it, and I doubt if I have ever read [207] anything equal to it.” (pp.206-07.)

[…]

So much conscious moralizing has gone into my remarks concerning Joyce’s work that there is likely to be a misconception concerning the author’s objective. I do not believe that he is either moral or immoral; he is unmoral. He is a tremendous individualist possessing all the arrogant self-concentration of the individualist. With a vast simplicity he ignores all our established codes and usages, writing exactly what he desires to write in the manner which seems most feasible to him. We must never forget that he has deliberately burst from the shell of an ethical system for this explains in some measure his intensity, his terrific lunging against an established order of things. There is self-laceration in Ulysses as well as a unique tyranny that is essentially cerebral over an environment-formulated emotionalism. The saints, approached [214] from a certain attitude, were no more than perverted tyrants and, although Stephen Dedalus is neither St. Stephen nor Lucifer, he might easily (by a slight shifting of mental values) have become either. As it is he is a religiast without a religion, an organism crying for that very thing which the brain persuades him does not exist. Whether or not, deepseated in his consciousness, the implacable Roman Catholic still has his habitation will be a matter of argument. Certain Roman Catholics will assert that this is so, that Stephen Dedalus, is an Aquinian, that he cannot be judged from a knowledge of the American type of Roman Catholicism, that one must understand the subtle complicated existence of the European type. This may be so. The statements in this book are, of course, made from an American point of view. And from that viewpoint it seems very plain that Stephen has turned his back upon religion that hardly ever relaxes its grasp upon sensitive communicant. It is possible that this statement may be somewhat shaken by the presentation of the argument that it is from the contemporary manifestations of the Church that Stephen Dedalus’ mind revolts. That, in [215] Dublin, at least, the Roman Catholic Church (as viewed by Stephen) may seem to have developed into a Puritanical enterprise in almost everything but name, is one of the manifestations which has been suggested to me by a Dublin Catholic. But as far back as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen seems to have made up his mind about even the essential core of religion. There, in answer to Cranley’s question, “… you do not intend to become a protestant?” Stephen answers, “I said that I had lost the faith but not that I had lost self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?” In either case he refers to the churches as absurdities. And yet in the back of Stephen’s mind that instinctive, deeply-planted Aquinianism constantly manifests itself. He is an astonishing modern product of scholastic philosophy. The more one thinks about Stephen Dedalus the more complicated his mentality becomes. It might almost be affirmed that he is as complete and irritating a creation as Hamlet. [216; end of Chap. VI.]

the work would suggest it to be a growth and not an effort which sprang forth fully conceived to the last particular. During the years while Joyce labored at "Ulysses" there were times undoubtedly when shifts of specific incidents, suddenly illuminated moments and spontaneously acquired episodes, varied the procedure of creation. This would not have been the case (at least, to any extent) had the novelist paralleled the "Odyssey" in a close chronological fashion with his modern applications of spiritual resemblances and drawn a meticulous chart from the Greek epic. Instead of this, the parallelisms with the "Odyssey" do not follow the absolute scheme of Homer’s work except in a general fashion. Rather are these parallelisms subdued to the exigencies of this momentous day traversed by Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. While it is true that "Ulysses" opens with three chapters descriptive of Stephen’s venture on the clay much as the "Odyssey" narrates the departure of Telemachus in search of his father the bulk of the, book is not to be so easily associated with Homer.;~, And because this is so the importance of the like. ness between "Ulysses" and the "Odyssey" it,

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diminished. At the same time we must not belittle this resemblance for it is more than an artful dodge; the entire symbolism of the book depends upon it and the success with which it is handled.

Joyce’s technical procedure is absolutely his own and the symbolism relating to the Homeric aspects is notable particularly because it falls in with that of the "Odyssey" so naturally. The .theoretic critic is apt to over-emphasize the like- ness through a hasty desire to demonstrate his own familiarity with Homer and because certain of. the episodes are so obvious. But "Ulysses" is a great and moving book even to the reader quite ignorant of Homer. It is true that the "Odyssey" is knit by a circumscribed theme which reaches its apogee and d6nouement with the twanging of the huge bow and, the hissing of the arrows in the dishonored Ithacan palace but the epic, for all this, must be regarded as a picaresque achievement. "Ulysses," in spite of the wanderings of Stephen and Bloom, is not, in its essence, a picaresque book. It is a carefully built-up edifice with every chapter peculiarly adapted to the action which it circumscribes and in totality a

[219]

rounded whole. Just as Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom pass through many diverse situations so, too, does the prose pass through many diverse styles. There is an inevitable progress here, a philosophical and spiritual pilgrimage, with hardly an extraneous incident for the sake of the incident Here, perhaps, is one reason why Joyce deranged his Homeric parallelisms. It is only where his theme naturally falls into Homeric analogies that he emphasizes the kinship to an absolute duplication of action. An instance of this is the scene where the Citizen in Kiernan’s pub flings the biscuit tin after Bloom. His eye is put out by fire-the sun, for instance, as the eye of Polyphemus is put out by fire-a blazing torch, in the Odyssey .

1 have said that these parallelisms are the result of a desire on Joyce’s part to have a structural scaffolding and while this. is generally true it is, perhaps, more accurate to limit (or enlarge) this desire to a symbolic scaffolding. With The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man finished Joyce turned to the large mass of material which, was to result in Ulysses . The Homeric like-’ ness must have been a revelation to him. Here

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was something definite with which to deal, something that would permit him to carry on still further the technical exploration which had started so brilliantly in "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," something which would aid selection and place in a huge scheme the astonishing book which he was to write. At the same time, a vast symbolism presented itself, a symbolism which would do no less than set off one world against another, the mythic heroics of the past with the dark and destructive materialism of the present. Stephen, sprung from a middleclass Dublin family, was a phoenix, a rare creature of the spirit partially broken by environment and continually tortured by spiritual and æsthetic reflections who possessed no father on earth. And there was to be Bloom, Bloom who, in the words of Ezra Pound, "is the basis of democracy; he is the man in the street, the next man, the public, not our public but Mr. Wells’s public; for Mr. Wells he is Hocking’s public, he is 1’homme moyen sensuel ; he is also Shakespeare, Ulysses, The Wandering Jew, the Daily Mail reader, the man who believes what-he sees in the papers, Everyman, and “the goat”. … This [221] is all true enough; but Bloom is more than that. He is a fumbling desire, a subconscious stretching of an interior self toward unknown but dimly apprehended things. There is a void in his nature which might have been filled by living vicariously through a son. It is easy to see how Joyce related these two characters to Telemachus and Ulysses. And with this relationship established the entire theme must have begun to flower out in his mind. Here was his modern Ulysses and his modern Telemachus; therefore he had but to mull over his material and select those incidents that would accord with the various scenes in the "Odyssey." At the same time he was careful to use these classical parallelisms only in so far as they forwarded the theme which already in its generic outline was laboring in his mind for expression. He subdued nothing to technique or symbolism but rather shaped these things into an inevitable, frame for his subject matter. If certain scenes were lacking in the original conception the Homeric situations would suggest parallels to him but never to a deliberate straining to so symbolize them. This was not merely a question of sitting down and saying, “Now what [222] will we do for a modern prototype of Calypso?” That entered into it (it must have) but it is safe to assert that the whole scheme flowered naturally and without too conscious attempts at these likenesses. Having reached this place in his creative progress the definite growth of the structure began.

Much has been stated about the composition of "Ulysses" and among other things it has been asserted that the various chapters were written in colored crayons in order to make clear the symbolism. The manuscript which I have seen (one that Joyce sent in batches to Mr. John Quinn and which was later put up at auction) is not at all unusual. It is presumably the first complete draft (there must have been multitudes of notes and tentative sketches preceding it and these were quite likely set down in varied hues as a working guide) and it may be of some interest to describe it. About three-quarters of the material is written on sheets of white paper (smaller than the usual type-writer size) and the rest is set down in note-books. It is all done in black ink and the handwriting is quite clear. The specification of parts is limited to a few abrupt captions [223] which furnish no more than stray hints as to the Homeric analogies. For instance, the notebook containing that chapter of questions and responses in which Stephen is at. Bloom’s home after the terrific Walpurgisnacht is simply labelled “ Ithaca ”. The copy is clean with but few corrections or blocked-out passages. Joyce, except in some of the note-books, begins in the centre of a page and leaves the left-hand side of the sheet clear all the way down for possible corrections.

All this, of course, is of minor interest. The thing that matters is the reason for the Homeric scaffolding. Part of this reason, I have already ventured to assert, is for structural purposes and for a patent symbolism which would not be too far from ordinary culture. The rest of this reason, I am inclined to believe, lies in the opportunities for vast irony which the construction offered Joyce. The whole book, in a way, is an ironic comment on life. Set against Homer it becomes a colossal accusation. If we see Bloom as a modern Ulysses how much more poignantly (and ironically) do we observe the peregrinations of this wanderer across the wine-dark sea of life [224; plate on facing page shows facs. page of autograph MS of Ulysses’s first page 'courtesy of the Anderson Galleries, Mr. Mitchell Kennerley, President’.] which is here represented as Dublin? […; 225]

[…]

Symbolism such as this removes the work from the ordinary category of the novel. Ulysses is not a novel in the common sense of the word for it is a definite step beyond that limited literary form. Someone has said that the novel is the confession of a society but Ulysses crosses the line between contemporary confession and an intimated philosophy (intimated perhaps negatively) for the future. In essence it is a new art-form, a cross between the novel as we understand it and the epic. Allied to these qualities are the philosophical and æsthetic adumbrations.

Mr. T. S. Eliot recently attempted to explain the reason for Joyce’s use of Homer in Ulysses and his explanation comes sufficiently close to my own convictions to be set down here. He writes: “In using, the myth, in manipulating a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity, Mr. Joyce is pursuing a method which others must pursue after him. They will not be imitators, any more than the scientist who uses the discoveries of an Einstein in pursuing his [227] own, independent, further investigations. It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.”

Mr. Eliot is too dogmatic in the main and he builds from the premise that the novel is obsolescent but in the concluding sentence of his paragraph he touches upon the real reason for the Homeric analogies. They furnish a method “of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and significance.” I do not see that it matters whether it is a “panorama of futility and anarchy” or a millenium of milk and honey. The mythic parallel may be used in either case and in so stating I do not misunderstand the purport of Mr. Eliot’s particular thesis. At the same time it is easily postulated that Ulysses crosses the literary Rubicon that separates the novel, intense and cerebral as it has become, from an art-form that is broader and more inclusive than anything we have yet seen. A great door has been flung open and what progress may be made from this frontier is but a matter of speculation. It is possible that James Joyce will yet show us what [228] lies beyond the mountainous achievement of Ulysses for it is rumored that he is already busy on another work which will take a decade to complete.

Coming to the conclusion of a brief study that is obviously mainly a matter of exposition it is perceptible that much must be left unsaid. There is work for expert theologians as well as critics of letters in the last two books by James Joyce. But certain things may be confidently set down and amongst them is the assertion that if Joyce were never to do another book there can be but small doubt that he has securely established himself as the most extraordinary practitioner of letters in our day. There is a somewhat lurid light about the eminence upon which he stands, and, perhaps, he will always be approached rather gingerly by certain readers suspecting the smell of brimstone. The trenches of conservatism are deep and it is only a minority who lift their heads above it. But that minority will recognize James Joyce for what he is and he can hardly ask for more. [229; end Chap. VII; end text.]




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