Marvin Magalaner, ‘The Problem of Biography’ [Chap. 2], in Magalaner & Richard M. Kain, James Joyce: The Man, The Works, The Reputation [1956] (London: John Calder 1957), pp.15-43.

Among contemporary writers in English, Joyce has had by far the lion’s share of personal publicity. Even Hemingway, whose “death” recently evoked banner headlines usually reserved for armistices and murderers, has enjoyed long spells of comparative obscurity spent in the quiet of private life. Joyce’s comings and goings, on the other hand, his private spats, his tastes in wines and opera, the shade of his trousers, the degree to which he perspired, his off-the record judgments of the works of other artists - everything about him, in short-was fair game for the tabloid press, the austere academic journals, café gossip, and the inspired announcements of the faithful. Two full-length biographies, which appeared during his lifetime, added greatly to the store of information and misinformation concerning his every move. Swarms of interviewers, special correspondents, literary editors, cranks, and admirers descended upon the dignified figure, determined to break through his reserve. His life was most certainly not his own.

Yet, with all this glare from the spotlight of public notoriety, surprisingly little is really known about Joyce’s personal life. Or perhaps so much is known that the true picture fails to emerge from a twisted mass of contradictory testimony. Even intimates, eyewitnesses fail to agree on ostensibly undebatable points. Thus, the editor of a Parisian magazine, reporting on her first meeting with the novelist, recalls his “tall, painfully thin figure.” [n.1] Aidan Higgins, on the other hand, knew him as a “half-blind little person” [15] (italics mine) whose appearance might disappoint the expectant visitor . [n.2] Elliot Paul makes much of the fact that Joyce was a most fastidious dresser when he lived in Paris. [n.] But, during this same period, composer George Antheil says, “Joyce wore white duck (despite the fact that white ducks are not worn in Paris, even in midsummer).” [n.4]

Perhaps more important than these discrepancies in mere physical description are the various versions of Joyce’s attitudes toward his circle of acquaintances. His apparent aloofness has been quite differently interpreted, depending on whether the critic was friend or foe. So we have Margaret Anderson, the American editor who risked imprisonment to publish the episodes of Ulysses, finding that, under his reticence, Joyce was kindly, gentle, and fatherly, in spite of his suffering. [n.5] Djuna Barnes, writing for the gentle readers of Vanity Fair in 1922, agrees. He has, she discovers at their first meeting, the throat of a “stricken animal” and a head turned beyond disgust but not so far as death; “he is simple, a scholar, and sees nothing objectionable in human beings if they will only remain in their place.” [n.6] The reader is never told what this place is.

Ford Madox Ford (then Hueffer) suggests that it may be that of abject worshiper: “Mr. Joyce seemed to take little share in the rough and tumble of the several vortices. As befitted the English writer of distinction, he sat as if wrapped in sacred shawls, a high priest on an altar at which one was instructed to offer homage.” [n.7] Malcolm Cowley reiterates Joyce’s lofty position but is not as charitable in assigning motives. He ascribes the unique niche that the Irishman occupied in Paris to a rather narrow “pride, contempt, ambition”, found in his works and carried over into the life, consciously and arrogantly. Nor does he consider this “self-aggrandizement” justified by Joyce’s personal myth - a blind, hypochondriac author who lived in cheap bourgeois hotels, with “no companions of his own intellectual stature, and associated either with family friends or else with admiring disciples. Except in matters concerning literature and the opera, his opinions were those of a fourth- or fifth-rate mind.” Dissenting from the more favorable opinion of the Misses Anderson and Barnes. Cowley insists that Joyce is “inhuman and cold.” It was, he says, as if he had starved everything else in his life to feed his ambition . . selling youth, riches and part of his [16] common humanity.” Cowley leaves the interview chilled by the touch of “long, cold, wet-marble fingers.” [n.8]

It is hard to reconcile attributions of inhumanity, hypochondria, and coldness with the more florid anecdotes told about the Joyce of the 1920’s. Perhaps they should be prefaced with Joyce’s own admonition to Frank Budgen in an unpublished letter: “. never believe anything an Englishman tells you in the press or an Irishman in a bar about me.” [n.9] George Antheil, an American, tells how he and Joyce, driven on by their admiration for the music of Purcell, managed to crash three exclusive musicales sponsored by a French society woman before being discovered and unceremoniously ejected. [n.10] He tells too how Joyce contrived to get Adrienne Monnier, a literary friend whose austere manner of dress made her appear nunlike, to accompany him to the Moulin Rouge. Once there, Joyce was successful in convincing the cocottes who frequented the place that she was indeed a nun. His skill in deception, says Antheil, soon had them believing that the “nun” had been lured out of her convent and was now being spirited away to the United States for a gay time. So outraged was Joyce’s audience at the Moulin Rouge that he and his companions had to escape before violence occurred.” [n.11]

Reports of such undignified conduct are not limited to one source. Another American, Robert McAlmon, remembers meeting Joyce almost nightly in Paris for an aperitif and recalls fondly that the author “was ready to stay out all night […] never ready to go home at any hour.” “One night”, McAlmon says, “he wept in his cups when telling of the fertility of his forefathers. Joyce would sigh, and swear that by the grace of God he was still a young man and he would have more children before the end.” [n.12]

All critics agree that Joyce was a good husband and father and that he loved his home life. Few, however, concede that it constituted a suitable environment for an anti-Philistine author. Bourgeois, middle class in the extreme (representing everything that Joyce in his writing was not); its repugnant reality is usually captured by recalling the “roseate syphilis or “green gangrene” wallpaper and the two “color-retouched photographs” of Joyce and his wife above the gas fireplace. Heavy plush chairs and an upright piano complete the picture. Some attribute the ugliness of his surroundings to his semi-blindness. None have yet found fault with his hearing or [17] reconciled the happy-husband theme with the evidence that Nora was “scolding him loudly for getting egg all over the bedspread and wondering audibly why in the world didn’t he get up to work instead of sitting in bed all day writing.” [n.13] Paradoxes abound in the study of Joyce’s life.

The student who respects Joyce and admires his great talents may rightly have qualms about the relevance of these intimate details to a critical-biographical study. One advances to firmer ground by examining conflicting reports concerning the attitude of the writer toward his reading public. This is especially true in Joyce’s case since, in almost all his works, he treats of the artist as a part of, and in opposition to, his society. His theme is aloneness, apartness, the need for communication. It is inconceivable that the attitudes which he ascribes to his characters should not have been colored by his own experiences in similar circumstances. It is worth while, then, to clear away some of the misconceptions that are current concerning Joyce’s thinking.

The idea that Joyce was indifferent to his reading public is ridiculous. No artist spends almost forty painful years in an effort to say something with beauty and force while at the same time coolly rejecting an audience for his remarks. The real problem, of course, was to find readers sufficiently sophisticated and skilled to profit from their reading. On this count, Joyce was not enthusiastic, as this bitterly sarcastic (and unmailed) reply to a publisher’s request for Joyce’s endorsement of another writer’s book clearly indicates:

… the only things I can suggest as likely to attract the British reading public are a preface by Sir J. M. Barrie, author of My Lady Nicotine, opinions of the book (to be printed on the back of its jacket) from two deservedly popular personalities of the present day, such as, the rector of Stiffkey and the Princess of Wales and (on the front jacket) a coloured picture by a Royal Academician representing two young ladies, one fair and the other dark but both distinctly nicelooking, seated in a graceful though not unbecoming posture at a table on which a book stands upright, with title visible and underneath the picture three lines of simple dialogue, for example:
Ethel: Does Cyril spend too much on cigarettes?
Doris: Far too much.
Ethel: So did Percy (points)-till I gave him ZENO. [n.14] [18]

What, then, was a public brought up on this tripe to do when confronted with the difficulties of Ulysses? Margaret Anderson passes on Joyce’s answer. Joyce, she says, “doesn’t consider it a valid excuse for people to say they can’t read him because he is too hard to understand. When he was a young man he wanted to read Ibsen . so much that he learned Norwegian…. He feels that people can make the same effort to read him. [n.15] When Joyce was not making extravagant demands on the time and attention of potential readers of his books (like the probably apocryphal pronouncement, “I spent seventeen years writing Finnegans Wake; I expect my readers to devote their lives to reading it”), he displayed a more normal anxiety at the task that he had laid out for them. He worried lest the public misunderstand his meaning. He was saddened, according to Maria Jolas, that the Wake was hardly noticed upon publication in 1939 because of the outbreak of war. [n.16] Thirty years earlier, he had been equally concerned, says his brother Stanislaus, lest, owing to their mundane subject matter, the ostensibly unspectacular short stories he was preparing should alienate readers. He often spoke at that time of the “two or three unfortunate wretches who may eventually read me.” [n.17]

Joyce’s attitude toward the professional reader - the journalist-critic, the publisher’s reader, the fellow author - has been somewhat distorted by Herbert Gorman’s attempt to make a martyr of the author of Ulysses. Confusing Stephen Dedalus’ creed of “silence, exile and cunning” with the mature Joyce’s anxious willingness to make a living and to get his works before an audience, Gorman paints the picture of an intractable artist, impervious to bad reviews, and lack of reviews, and numbed into insensitivity through frequent rebuffs from publishers.” [n.18] Quite the reverse of this, Joyce was extremely eager for critical attention and for applause. He may write the publisher Grant Richards, in an important unpublished letter, “Critics (I think) are fonder of attacking writers than publishers; and I assure you their attacks on me would in no way hasten my death”, [n.19] but in letter after letter to the same man, he speaks of his disappointnient at not finding certain reviews among the clippings sent to him by Richards: “I shall . write to my brother and ask him to search the files. [n.20]

Like a normal human being, he worries about his reputation in [19] the literary community. He speaks in an unpublished letter to Frank Budgen of Marcel Proust, saying almost in a tone of relief that he “cannot see any special talent” in the work of the Frenchman. He adds wistfully, “I think a fall of mine would not altogether disappoint some admirers. It seems to me I have made a bad impression here [in Paris]. I am too preoccupied (Bloomesque word) to rectify it.” [n.21]

Certainly, when it was a question of pleasing publishers, or meeting their objections, Joyce went out of his way to come to a suitable agreement. The long account of the correspondence with Grant Richards concerning Dubliners (given by Herbert Gorman) shows to what lengths he was willing to go. In one letter, which Gorman does not publish, the author even offers to omit five stories - one third of the entire collection - if the publishers will agree to the inclusion of a different, disputed story. [n.22] There are few writers who would make such an offer, and it should eradicate the vague, romantic notion of Joyce as the immovable rebel, unwilling to give an inch to the encroachments of Philistine conventions.

Critics are sharply divided on Joyce’s relationship to Ireland. In this matter it is not possible to accept their judgments at face value. It is in the nature of things that Marxists should interpret his exile from Dublin’s fair city in one way, that fervent nationalists should see it in another light, that Irish Catholics should place upon it still a third interpretation, and that most literary critics should see it in literary perspective.

Not even Joyce’s words themselves, treasured and preserved and later recorded by his awed interviewers, may be accepted without question. It was a subject so close to the raw edges of the exile’s nerves that he was often forced to hide his true feelings behind a conventional oath, a snarl, a bitter paradox, or a dignified understatement. If the words of Francini-Bruni, who gave up his friendship with Joyce to discredit him in public lectures, may be believed, the Irish exile thought poorly of his birthplace. He quotes Joyce as saying that “the Emerald isle is a field of thorns . hunger, syphilis, superstition, alcoholism. Puritans, Jesuits and bigots have sprouted from it. The Dubliner is of the mountebank race the most useless and inconsistent … However Ireland is still the brain of the United Kingdom.” [n.23] Perhaps to Djuna Barnes he [20] came closest to a matter-of-fact statement, though it covers only a small part of the relationship: “The Irish are people who will never have leaders, for at the great moment they always desert them. They have produced one skeleton - Parnell - never a man.” [n.24] Alfred Kerr describes vividly Joyce’s reaction, during an interview, to the mention of the Irish. The author dropped his calm aspect and became sharp. The Norwegians expelled Ibsen, he recalled, and the Irish had never forgiven Joyce for painting certain types of his countrymen and the city of Dublin. [n.25] Revenge was the spur.

There was no reason, indeed, why Joyce should have remembered the Ireland he left behind with any pleasure. Even those who should have understood his feelings - the literary elite of Dublin gave him no encouragement. If we may believe Stanislaus Joyce, the poet A.E. (George Russell) told him that his brother was a worthless cad and that starvation on the Continent would do him good. In fact, says Stanislaus, when Joyce reported from Europe that he had found a job as teacher in the Berlitz schools, Stanislaus woke the poet after midnight to taunt him. [n.26] When Joyce worked at the library in Dublin, the staff did little more than tolerate him. The professors at the university regarded him with suspicion for his unorthodox behavior and his dangerous reading of authors like Maeterlinck and Ibsen. Religious authorities warned his favorite aunt, Josephine Murray, not to let her children fraternize with their strange cousin. And the “greats” of Ireland, George Moore and William Butler Yeats, though they may have recognized the genius in the youth, were puzzled and repelled by his attitude and beliavior. This is not to say that Joyce was blameless or that he tried in any substantial way to alleviate the rapidly deteriorating situation. There is much biographical truth in the portrait of Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses, wandering from place to place in Dublin, seemingly doing his best to antagonize even those who are trying to be on his side. But his youthful arrogance does not change the fact that his memory of this period in his life was sad and bitter.

Critics have tried to read more than this personal bitterness into his is voluntary exile. Marxists like D. S. Mirsky find that Joyce is an “apostate-emigrant.” Being a member of the Irish intelligentsia, the author, according to this theory, was lost in Ireland because that country did not have an industrial bourgeoisie for the intelligentsia [21] to represent. Thus, people of Joyce’s stamp “could have no base, and … had to be ‘expatriated.’” [n.27] Intense Irish nationalists enjoy picturing Joyce in headlong flight from his birthplace in order to avoid military involvement and the duties of militant citizenship, like the Easter Rising of 1916. What they often fail to realize is that Joyce has done more to enhance the reputation of modern Ireland internationally than all the brave soldiers of Ireland - and has probably suffered more in the process.

Yet, in spite of all this, in spite of the unpleasantness of personal reminiscences, Joyce apparently never lost his affection for - and certainly not his interest in - his own city. A group of his Irish friends have testified unanimously to this. Con Curran relates:

Ah yes, over and over again, of course, seeing him in later years, and asked [sic] him when he was coming back to Dublin, his invariable reply was: “Have I ever left it?” His love of Dublin was as great as his friendship for the people he knew in his youth in Dublin. To be a Dubliner of his generation was the passport to his house in Paris, or wherever he lived, in his later years.

Another tells how

If you asked him if he’d see anybody, his first question was always: “Do they come from Dublin?” And if they came from Dublin he would always see them … his wife told me that his room was always full of Dublin papers, and I remember once a friend arriving from Dublin and Joyce spent the whole evening arguing whether the price of bread had gone up or down, because the friend said it had gone up and Joyce maintained that it hadn’t. [n.28]

Literary critics with no ax[e] to grind are content to accept the fact that Joyce did leave Dublin and that his permanent exile did produce prodigies - some feel, truly great prodigies - of literary effort, which no modern Irishman who has stayed at home has yet produced. These critics would undoubtedly second the fervent opening of the prayer by Trinity College’s Sir John Mahaffy, while objecting to its conclusion: “Thank God, they have both cleared out of Dublin [Joyce and George Moore], but not before they had squirted stink like a pair of skunks on all the decent people…. It’s an ill bird that fouls its own nest. James Joyce is a living argument in defence of my contention that it was a mistake to establish a separate university [22] for the aborigines of this island - for the cornerboys who spit into the Liffey.” [n.29]

How may the bewildered student account for the widely divergent judgments expressed by competent scholars, people who were intimately acquainted with Joyce and his affairs, and ranking novelists like Arnold Bennett and Virginia Woolf, who disagree sharply concerning their Irish colleague? There is, of course, the fact that Joyce has been dead only fourteen years. Even before his death he had attained the status of a myth, as had Odysseus in his lifetime. His premature attainment of mythical proportions without the usual time lag to allow for appropriate public reception of the myth has encouraged confusion. The whole truth about the mythical hero cannot be told because his contemporary subordinates in the story are still very much alive - not only alive but embroidering the Joyce myth with their own designs, shaping to their own ends, or to what they think would be Joyce’s ends, the very myth of which they are a part. Such unorthodox practice, engaged in on a wholesale basis, must result in contradictions. It has meant the quite understandable suppression of important but embarrassing correspondence, some unwillingness to admit to the charmed circle of initiates those less fortunate than themselves, and a very human attempt to cash in on the notoriety of the leader. It has also meant, up to this time, the appearance of only one real biography - and that by a close friend of Joyce, supervised and censored by Joyce throughout.

Organizations devoted to the study of, and the dissemination of information about, important writers perform a serious and worthwhile function. The Browning and Tennyson we know today are what they are to us partly because their legend and their works were interpreted and given shape and context by members of “societies” established in their name. It is debatable, however, whether these poets have not suffered, as well as profited, at the hands of their overenthusiastic admirers. The repugnance with which Tennyson was viewed during the Edwardian age and down even to the nineteen forties inay well have been the sharp reaction to having a literary god foisted upon a new generation of less devout worshipers.

Adherents of the Joyce-as-deity school, for all their considerable value, have done harm in the long run to their hero. True, they [23] have brought together Joyceans to talk, to marvel, to project books, to plan exhibitions, and to afford an in-person view of great-ones-who-knew-the-master. But they have, at the same time, distorted the emphasis from the works (and why else is Joyce remembered?) to the eccentricities of an all too human being. Publications of such groups are quaint and biographically interesting, but they skirt the significant all too often. They brook no real and basic criticism of Joyce, as man or author, allowing only mention of trivial foibles recalled wistfully with an expression halfway between a smile and a sigh. Tempest-in-teapot controversies generated by such an obviously cultist environment lend no honor to Joyce’s name and no light to biographical scholarship. An article in The New York Times attacks Peter Kavanagh for attacking Joyce “so viciously and unjustifiably, that I attacked him [Kavanagh] and we haven’t spoken since … . We just slaughtered Kavanagh. He could not answer. He was beaten to a pulp.” In a letter to the newspaper, Kavanagh replied that he “never attacked James Joyce or his works … . What I did attack-and what turned my hearers … puce with anger - was the cult of Joyce, the devotees who worship the dead Master with the insane fury of the possessed. Joyce was sane enough: it is his commentators who are mad.” The rebuttal, heavy with the weight of six outstanding American Joyceans, is reminiscent of a religious affirmation or a political credo: “We attended the meeting of the James Joyce Society … at which Dr. Peter Kavanagh spoke and confirm that Dr. Kavanagh violently attacked Joyce and his works as reported …” [n.30] Without going into the rights and wrongs of the situation, one can see the danger and the damage, certainly unmerited by the dead author, to Joyce’s reputation among neutral readers of the Times . The same kind of danger, now dissipated, once threatened Joyce from his closest “friends”, the extreme avant-gardists of the transition group under Eugene Jolas, who, after the excitement of the publication of Ulysses, declared “The Revolution of the Word” and implicated the innocent Joyce in outlandish literary excesses. But that story is better saved for the discussion of the Wake .

The problem of Joyce’s biography is further complicated by frequent excursions into print of Joyce’s personal enemies. Safe from personal rebuttal by the dead artist, bristling Dubliners like Oliver [24] St. John Gogarty are doing their utmost to prove that Joyce’s fame is an unfortunate mistake. One cannot blame Gogarty, the model for Buck Mulligan in Ulysses, for wanting to get even with the eccentric youth who shared his Martello Tower and later revealed him in literature at his Shaun-like worst. Yet there should be a difference between legitimate revelation of Joyce’s weaknesses, literary and personal, and the actual attempt to write off the entire career of the most exciting and influential novelist of this century as “a gigantic hoax … one of the most enormous leg-pulls in history.” [n.31] People who have read the sermon on Hell in A Portrait, or the ending of “The Dead”, or “Proteus” in Ulysses need no reassurance that Gogarty’s condemnation is extravagant. Nevertheless, the fact that it is there and must be taken into account, if only to be discarded, serves to cloud the biographical horizon. And the fact that no proof is offered makes difficult a point-by-point refutation.

This does not prevent Mary Colum from leaping into the breach with a spirited defense of Joyce as a serious artist and an equally lively attack upon Gogarty for the “misinformation” in his article. She complains that, although Gogarty met Joyce only once after his twenty-second birthday, he has made readers think he was an intimate of the mature novelist. Thus “he has succeeded in placing all over the country in strategic positions attacks and misinformations about Joyce, his family, his friends, his readers, and his work.” [n.32] Mrs. Colum proceeds to detail Gogarty’s inaccuracies in scathing understatement and effectively demonstrates the paucity of fact in his broadside attacks. It should be stressed that even Joyce’s firmest supporter acknowledges his humanity and fallibility as person and artist. The objection is to groundless criticism of the man.

Mention of some of the inaccuracies in this one Gogarty article will indicate the difficulty that the student of Joyce may encounter through indiscriminate acceptance of “expert” criticism: Gogarty attributes the publishing difficulties of Dubliners to the wrong publisher, he misquotes a line from one of Joyce’s books, he calls one female critic “Mr.”, he confuses the name and the nationality of Joyce’s patron, and so on through a long list of small but significant errors. [n.33]

Irish literary friends and enemies of Joyce, on one issue at least, [25] are united. They feel, with some heat, that no biographer or critic has a right to speak of Joyce authoritatively unless he himself is a product of Dublin, preferably of 1904 vintage. Gogarty avers: “When I read those who although they have never been in Dublin set themselves up as ‘guides to Joyce’ or as masters of ‘The Master,’ I feel sorrow for their ignorance and then anger at their presumption.” [n.34] And Padraic Colum, than whom Joyce has no more sincere booster, has been heard to say that to know Joyce one must know Dublin. These people have a point. Certainly it would not do to write a definitive biography of Hardy without spending time on his heath, or of Faulkner without examining Yoknapatawpha County’s acres. But no critic would insist that a capable job might not be done by an Englishman on Faulkner or an American on Hardy. Similarly, for Joyce, what may be lost in terms of the feel for the local argot may be compensated for by detachment and scholarship, the first impossible for the native Dubliner, the second too often considered unnecessary in dealing with the rowdy boy down the street. It is interesting that even among Irish critics the expatriates almost alone have dealt with their famous problem child.

There is a middle group of Irish intimates of Joyce, represented, for instance, by J. F. Byrne, the Cranly of A Portrait, whose biographical information has been valuable but who have distorted the emphasis of their contributions. Byrne’s autobiography, Silent Years, illustrates this tendency. From the point of view of the Joyce scholar, it is valuable for its picture of elementary school life in the 189o’s; for its account of how Joyce came to give the name Cranly to Byrne; for a visit to the famous number seven Eccles Street, which turns out to have been Byrne’s home for a number of years. The book sets straight several details of Joyce’s brief flirtation with a career in medicine. Yet, when it comes to the subtle, symbolic undercurrents of Joyce’s autobiographical novels, Byrne appears wholly innocent of any insight, even when he himself, as Cranly, is immediately concerned. He makes no reference to his role as Judas or as John the Baptist - both strongly hinted at in A Portrait . Instead, he devotes a long section of presumably literary criticism to the discovery of an error in Joyce’s mathematics in the Ithaca episode of Ulysses . And of serious disagreements with his now famous friend he gives only a suggestion, feeling, apparently, that the time [26] has not yet arrived for the full biographical story. That such books are appearing at all is a hopeful sign for the future biographer. [n.35]

It must be remembered, moreover, that Joyce himself unwittingly added to the possibility of biographical chaos by creating such a vivid fictional counterpart of himself as Stephen Dedalus. In his own mind at least a tenuous connection existed, for as early as 1903 he was signing his early versions of stories from Dubliners with the pseudonym “Stephen Daedalus.” [n.36] Though he later realized that too often fact was confused with fiction, Joyce with Dedalus, he tried in vain to insist upon the fallacy of equating the two. He reminded Frank Budgen, who reminded his readers, that the Stephen of A Portrait and Ulysses was a sketch of the artist as a Young Man. The reminder, however, has been little heeded. just as Byron, in spite of his denials, will be remembered always as Childe Harold, even the mature Continental artist, James Joyce, is fated to immortality as the priggish aesthete of fiction. Many biographical critics, blinded by their idea of what Stephen should be and do and say, have found what they were looking for in his creator.

A further and somewhat similar difficulty that comes from accepting semiautobiographical fiction as autobiographical fact lies in Joyce’s method of constructing his main characters. Like many writers, he found it valuable to use the strict and narrow facts of his own life and those of his family enriched but often sharply modified by factual material from the careers and the writings of others with whom he might have felt a kind of spiritual kinship. Yet since his borrowings are often not explicitly admitted in his ostensibly autobiographical fiction, the reader can hardly be blamed for ascribing to Stephen-Joyce and to the other characters in the novels personality traits that they may not, in actuality, have possessed.

It is possible to point out rather clearly how this tendency to borrow alters, even if only slightly, the view we get of many of Joyce’s protagonists. It can be shown that Stephen, in A Portrait, is what he is partly because Joyce wished to present him as a literary counterpart of Claude Melnotte, the hero of Bulwer-Lytton’s play, The Lady of Lyons ; [ Fnt37] or that Stephen inherits all the characteristics of Joyce’s boyhood hero, James Clarence Mangan, as recorded in Mangan’s painful fragment of autobiography-and that Stephen’s father resembles Mangan’s father more closely than he does Joyce’s. [27] One might even show Joyce’s debt to Gerhardt Hauptmann’s hero, Michael Kramer; and to Nietzsche’s Zarathustra in fashioning a surrogate of himself, the unfortunate Mr. james Duffy of the short story “A Painful Case.” [n.38]

I should like to develop here, in some detail, only one such literary-autobiographical borrowing-Joyce’s almost certain debt to the nineteenth-century Irish poet, James Clarence Mangan. [n.39] Joyce contributed an essay on Mangan to the undergraduate literary review in 1902. In it, referring evidently to Mangan’s recently published autobiographical fragments, Joyce tells how

In a moment of frenzy he [Mangan] breaks silence, and we read how his associates dishonoured his person with their slime and venom, and how he lived as a child amid coarseness and misery and that all whom he met were demons out of the pit and that his father was a human boa-constrictor … [40]

The fact that Joyce mentions the figure of the boa constrictor, taken directly from the poet’s account of his life and found in none of the contemporary reviews or biographies, is strong evidence that the young novelist had seen Mangan’s Fragment of an Unfinished Autobiography . [n.41] Since Mangan was one of Joyce’s few heroes at this time, it is more than reasonable to suppose that he would have read the book when it was published, sold, and discussed in Dublin. It is also safe to assume that the young artist who, in 1902, was examining his own memories of childhood, preparatory to writing Stephen Hero and the later works, must have been startled by what he found in Mangan’s book. For the picture of himself that Mangan paints is the picture of several of Joyce’s autobiographical heroes and of young Joyce himself.

Mangan recalls that he sought relief from the ugliness of poverty and unpleasantness of family relations in “books and solitude.” “I shut myself up in a close room; I isolated myself in such a manner from my own nearest relations, that with one voice they all proclaimed me ‘mad.’” Later, he confides: “I loved to indulge in solitary rhapsodies, and, if intruded on upon those occasions, I was made very unhappy. I merely felt or fancied that between me and those who approached me, no species of sympathy could exist; and I shrank from communion with them as from somewhat [sic] alien [28] from my nature … . It was a morbid product of … pride.” He complains too of having to “herd with the coarsest of associates, and suffer at their hands every sort of rudeness and indignity …” [n.42] The boy who feels this way is surely the boy of the story “Araby” and of Joyce’s other autobiographical prose. The youngr narrator of “Araby” shuns people too and hides from his uncle and from his girl friend, who is identified only as “Mangan’s sister.” (The similarity in names is interesting though nothing would be gained from pushing too far a seeming coincidence.) The boy narrator cannot stand to be “jostled by drunken men and bargaining women.” He ignores the sights and sounds of exterior reality and bears his “chalice safely through a throng of foes.” He prefers the dark rooms of a lonely house to companionship and warmth. “The high cold empty gloomy rooms liberated me”, [n.43] he says. Like Mangan, he engages in solitary rhapsodies and is annoyed by interruption.

It goes without saying that this striking of Byronic poses, this unwillingness to herd with men, this adolescent desire to live a life apart did not originate with Mangan or with Joyce. Coleridge in his letters comments on his own romantic childhood-one that bears many resemblances to that of Stephen Dedalus. And Tennyson’s moody ruminations in graveyards are well known. Joyce did not need to discover Mangan’s autobiography to imitate the literary, romantic conception of childhood. But that he did discover it and use it seems evident from the parallel lines of development that both authors follow.

Thus, Mangan’s preoccupation with romantic isolation and retreat to a dream world plays a large part in A Portrait of the Artist. Like young Mangan, Stephen Dedalus lives “in his imagination … through a long train of adventures” based on his reading. Mangan’s boyhood feeling that other people were “alien from my nature” finds its counterpart in Joyce’s description of Stephen’s emotions:

The noise of children at play annoyed him and their silly voices made him feel, even more keenly than he had felt at Clongowes, that he was different from others. He did not want to play. He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld. [29]

And where Mangan, from boyhood on, is haunted “by an indescribable feeling of something terrible … some tremendous danger”, Stephen, even in the “sunbonnet” stage, feels himself a gloomy figure amid the gay cocked hats.” In later boyhood, he is happy “only when … far from them [people’s voices], beyond their call, alone or in the company of phantasmal comrades.” Even after Stephen has grown to manhood. the necessity for isolation bothers him as it does Mangan: “To merge his life in the common tide of other lives was harder for him than any fasting or prayer.” [n.44]

It is impossible to know how much of Stephen Dedalus would have been differently presented if Mangan’s autobiography had not caught Joyce’s attention. Consequently, for those biographical commentators who insist upon too close identification of Stephen with Joyce, the risk of distortion and misrepresentation is considerable.

Compounding this biographical confusion is Joyce’s deliberate projection, throughout his career, of successive images of himself as artist, images that are as much ironic distortions as reflections. His as yet unpublished essay of 1904, “A Portrait of the Artist” now in Miss Sylvia Beach’s possession, begins with an incisive discussion of the difficulties of portraiture.

By means of his full treatment of the early Dublin years we are able to visualize the successive masks that the young Joyce adopted. The Portrait itself is a gallery of images - the shy schoolboy, subject to reverie yet capable of defying tyranny courageously; the sex-tormented adolescent; the religious devotee as narcissist; the arrogant artist seen half ironically in the conclusion of the book, but with full seriousness in Stephen Hero . As the images merge into one another, so the ideal changes - from Byron to Ibsen to Rimbaud. It was Stephen’s preference for Byron that aroused Heron’s antagonism in A Portrait . Stanislaus Joyce, who recalled the Byronic phase, found it followed by admiration for Shelley. A Shelleyan idealism colors the essay on Mangan, and Stephen cites Shelley for his concepts of the imagination and his vision of the cosmic spaces. While an undergraduate Joyce had attracted attention, both at home and in the college, as a disciple of Ibsen; in his essay “The Day of the Rabblement” he even dares to consider himself a successor. The [30] torch passed to Hauptmann, may be taken by the young acolyte, “the third minister will not be wanting when his hour comes.”

Recollections by friends of the early years create the picture of a likeable student, serious but gay, a picture that seems confirmed by the tone of references to Joyce in St. Stephen’s, the college magazine. In the June, 1901 issue we read of “Jocax, the prophet”, who has “inveighed with wonted vehemence against his fellow members [of the Debating Society] for not understanding his sublimities.” In December of the same year, Joyce being nineteen at the time, a facetious essay appeared, inspired by the “Rabblement” pamphlet. In mock-Elizabethan style the author protested against this “rebell” as an Italianate and corrupt influence, but the editor assures his readers that the “ dreadful Mr. Joyce is quite a respectable person in private life.” He is “the hatter” when he gives the paper on “Drama and Life” in March 1902 but is conceded to have reached “to no mean height of eloquence”, though only the faculty sponsor, Magennis, could penetrate “the mist that overhung the writer’s closing remarks.” Even the caustic footnote in the Jesuit account of University College, A Page of Irish History (1930), grants Joyce a certain ability:

during his student days James Joyce was not taken seriously. It was understood that he had a weird sort of talent, but no one in the college seems to have guessed that he was destined to achieve almost world-wide celebrity. [n.45]

As “the mystic Jocax”, “the dreaming one of Nola,- “the Mad Hatter”, or “dreaming Jimmy”, Joyce’s reputation was already being created and his masks receiving amused attention.

Joyce was always preoccupied with “anti-selves”, Hugh Kenner notes, the major roles being “the young Rimbaud in Dublin, a Svevo-like accountant of ethical balances in Trieste, and a pallid disciple of Huysmans and Lautreamont in Paris.” These faces, those of Stephen, Bloom, and Shem, have their opposites. Lynch and Mulligan confront Stephen in A Portrait and Ulysses ; Richard Rowan’s opposite in Exiles in his own hidden side; Shem and Shaun provide a final music-hall variant of the conflicting ego and alter ego.

The main obstacle to understanding James Joyce, however, lies in the environmental circumstances of his childhood and adolescence and concerns chiefly his relationship to his nation. When Gabriel [31] Conroy, in “The Dead” - shouts at Miss Ivors, “I’m sick of my own country, sick of it”, he is certainly speaking for Joyce as the author might have spoken at twenty-one. Stephen’s remark, that Ireland is like the old sow that eats her farrow, reinforces the extravagant bitterness and dark hopelessness of his youthful feeling. Yet all evidence points to the Joyces as a particularly patriotic family and to young James as a fervent nationalist. The alteration in attitude from childhood to majority must be sought in events rather than in an inexplicable change of personality.

Actually, the attitude is one of frustration - the frustration of “Araby” and “An Encounter” and “The Sisters”, in which the search for a father and a secure fatherland is unsuccessful. This ingrained frustration may be traced to Joyce’s ambivalent feeling for Parnell and for what he symbolized to the child and to the man. The knowledge of what was as a result of Parnell’s downfall, and what might have been had his policy and influence prevailed, changes positive love of nation to active disgust and colors all subsequent decisions of the disillusioned artist. Further, the tangible results for Joyce and his family of Parnell’s shifting fortunes blend into, and become identified with, the ebb and flow of Joyce’s youthful patriotism. The outcome seems to be that Joyce finds it impossible to separate his attitude concerning his own fate from his feeling for Ireland and the symbol of Parnell. Though fragments of this national background of Joyce’s youth have been examined by Gorman and by Robert Kelly, [n.46] the problem of biography requires another look.

The Joyce family had been for years a distinguished Irish clan. It had given its name to the famous “Joyce’s Country- of Ireland and had supplied the Irish with their most distinguished political leader of the first half of the nineteenth century, Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator. Because of his connections, John Stanislaus Joyce, the Simon Dedalus of fiction, had a sinecure in the office of the Collector General of Rates so that he might uphold the gentlemanly tradition of respectability without the burden of work. In February 1882 Joyce was born into a family that had apparently hitched its wagon to the right political star. Parnell’s superiority as a leader was acknowledged even by his enemies, and John Stanislaus might well have been on his way to a magistracy as a political hanger-on [32] of the Great Man. The spirit of optimism, general throughout Ireland because of the failure of England’s Coercion Bill and the immediate prospect of long-withheld Home Rule, brightened the Joyce household as well. [n.47]

Only three months after Joyce’s birth, however, all was changed by the senseless murder of Lord Cavendish and his subordinate by patriotic extremists in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. As a consequence, Joyce’s early childhood was lived in an atmosphere of overwhelming coercion. England applied the screws:

The ordinary processes of law were suspended, trial by jury gave place to trial by judges, who were given complete power to decide questions of fact … . The Viceroy was given power to suppress public meetings and … newspapers. Boycotting was declared illegal … . It was the complete Coercion Act. [n.48]

It may be objected that, serious as these punitive measures might have been for the adults of Ireland, they could have had no influence on a sensitive child under ten years of age. Yet, though it may be admitted that even a James Joyce of six or seven would have remained innocent of legal or political issues, he could not have been untouched by the spirit of the time, by the atmosphere at the dinner table (witness the Christmas dinner scene in A Portrait ), by the emotional reaction of his father to daily twists and turns of national politics. In Ireland, where small children re-enact scenes of national excitement rather than cops and robbers, Joyce had to be aware, even without A Portrait ’s red brush for Michael Davitt and green brush for Parnell, of the emotional complex that was Irish political life. [n.49]

To be aware of a national attitude at this time was to be aware of Parnell as hero. just as small children loved or hated the myth of Franklin Roosevelt during the 1940’s, without knowing the merits or demerits of N.R.A. or the recognition of Russia’ simply because of the attitude to which they were exposed at home, at school, and in the play center, so young Joyce acquired his hero ready-made. Most young Irishmen, says Donat O’Donnell in Maria Cross, were drawn to Parnell, for in him the anticlerical, anti-British, and even anti-Victorian forces of the time were exemplified. The artist who was later to adopt Ibsen, Mangan, Sullivan, and Homer as heroes [33] placed all his vague childhood longings for accomplishment in this bearded St. George, a St. George who fought the British dragon for Ireland. Religious tales may well have entwined themselves into the political myth until Parnell acquired attributes of Christ and his angels, struggling against evil in the world. If Gladstone could tell an interviewer in 1897 that ‘Parnell was the most remarkable man I ever met … and the most interesting … Parnell was supreme all the time”, [n.50] it is no wonder that to an unsophisticated child who looked to his father for a sense of values Parnell should have assumed superhuman proportions.

For young Joyce to have known even vaguely of the brave fight waged by The Chief to recover the political ground lost by the assassinations, so that by 1886 it was possible for Gladstone to argue seriously in Parliament for an Irish Home Rule Bill, was bound to make the aftermath of the Parnell affair shockingly bitter. Parnell’s vindication during the libel trial of The Times was no preparation, even for hardened veterans in politics, for the fall which was to come just two years later over an issue that had nothing to do with the political well-being of Ireland. In the late 1880’s his supporters still attributed to him the strength of lions. He had seemingly weathered every storm and had come within hailing distance of securing a free Ireland. It appeared appropriately paradoxical, therefore, that his downfall should come, not at the hands of his English enemies in and out of Parliament, but through the manipulations of a political adventurer, Captain W. H. O’Shea, with whose wife Parnell had long been carrying on an affair. Named corespondent in the politically inspired divorce proceedings, Parnell, a proud figure to the last, maintained a silent aloofness. So strong was his position in Ireland that after the divorce trial and its attendant disclosures, he was elected unanimously by party heads as their leader. Only then were political lines drawn and the fight to depose him begun. Only then did T. M. Healy give vent to his real feelings of hatred for his superior - the sordid story of which nine-year-old Joyce told in his first published work, Et Tu, Healy! So Parnell was unceremoniously dropped by the very people whose cause he had brought to the edge of success. This was in December 1890. In the following year, Parnell died. [34]

Repudiation and death, though not related in fact, were linked by millions of sentimental Irishmen like Joyce’s father.

- The story is very short and sweet, Mr Casey said. It was one day down in Arklow, a cold bitter day, not long before the chief died. May God have mercy on him.
Mr Dedalus took a bone from his plate and tore some meat from it with his teeth, saying:
- Before he was killed, you mean. [n.51]

A letter in United Ireland in January 1892 plays the same tune:

If my boy ever rats on a man like Parnell … I believe I’ll rise up out of my grave and disown him … And now Parnell is dead. I cried and cried when I heard it … . they’ve broken his brave, iron heart, those miserable hypocrites and traitors … he could have saved [notice the verb] us all … But they killed him with their hatred, these middle class hypocrites, who only hated him because he loved the people so. [n..52]

The heat of controversy so affected the nine-year-old Joyce that, in Et Tu, Healy, as his brother Stanislaus recalls, Parnell is likened to an eagle, looking down on the grovelling mass of Irish politicians from

His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time
Where the rude din of this … century
Can trouble him no more. [n.53]

Joyce’s distrust of political matters and his eagerness to expose the falseness of oratorical bombast-explicitly illustrated by the Circe episode in Ulysses and by Shaun’s speeches in Finnegans Wake . For a boy just entering adolescence, Parnell’s death meant the death of national hope, unless a true successor could be found. Fifteen years later, in “Ivy Day in the Committee Rooin”, it is clear that no such hero has arisen and that “the grovelling mass” is blindly tearing Ireland to pieces.

The sparkling Parnell era coincides for Joyce with his childhood period of familial love, social and financial security, and religious wholeness. Joyce’s father, who “had a hairy face”, and whose political fortunes fell with Parnell’s, may sometimes have been confused, by the boy, with the bearded lion. Not long after the repudiation [35] of Parnell, John Stanislaus starts his family on its nocturnal flights to avoid creditors. Parnell’s loss of prestige in Parliament is matched by Stephen’s feeling of inferiority when questioned about his father’s affairs and the status of the family. Finally, the unity and strength of Stephen-Joyce’s religious allegiance and inclination are shaken by the division he finds in his own home in the Parnell case. The Christmas dinner scene in A Portrait is ample evidence of his shock at the revelation that his two chief childhood authorities, his nurse and his father, might be at variance concerning the role of the church in political affairs. The frightening idea that the church might be wrong in an official action and a secular hero right must have been particularly influential at this point, when the church was still an abstraction and Parnell a very tangible and immediate god.

Lord Morley, commenting on Parnell’s death, writes:

I cannot explain it [the public outpouring of emotion] save by the intensity of countless private griefs and by the reactions of a general sense of consternation as at the happenings of something incredible and monstrous-that together create a sort of collective nerve tensity which carries individuals out and away beyond their normal depth. Certain it is that public sorrow in Ireland was manifest on a scale and to a degree unparalleled… . And the public funeral in Dublin was an immense spectacle of human emotion … . [n.54]

Such a spectacle to a nine-year-old could have gone a long way toward deifying its principal figure. The insistent rumors that Parnell was not dead but was seeking, through the device of a simulated decease, to start a fresh career elsewhere”, .15 were certainly as important as Irish myth in bringing to birth Joyce’s saga of Finn-Again, when the mature author came to construct his own religious pattern. But many years had to elapse between the fall of the hero and Joyce’s attempt to put Humpty Dumpty together again in the Wake . In the interim, Joyce’s articles on Parnell in European newspapers and his occasional lectures on the subject showed that the national tragedy had not left his mind or his heart. Maria Jolas has reported that, in later life, his interest in national and international politics was keen, possibly because during the war a shift in the political winds might have had personal consequences for him and his expatriate family. [n.56] During all his life, however, he sought to [36] escape personal involvement in political affairs and to order his life around a more stable support - the private integrity of the artist inviolable by the whims of Healy or Quisling.

Recovery from this childhood wound was expensive. It required voluntary exile from Ireland. It meant insult from those who saw Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, Joyce’s schoolboy friend, die violently but heroically in the Easter Rising in 1916 and who castigated slackers like Joyce for peaceful abstention. It undoubtedly had something to do with the stiffness that characterized Joyce’s approach to new acquaintances and to popular causes. He had been burned once, at a sensitive age, and he intended to withhold giving himself completely to all but a few safe friends and to any movements. His reluctance, even after he had won fame as a writer, to become involved in the affairs of Ireland as Yeats had - Joyce adamantly refused the offer of a seat in the Irish Academy - though explicable on other grounds, may have been induced by fear that those who rise in Ireland are headed for a fall. Perhaps cyclical rise and fall in Finnegans Wake recall most obviously the pattern of Paradise lost and regained, but to Joyce, Parnell is as illustrative of the working out of the pattern as Adam. No public event in his life did more to color his personality and his work than Ireland’s treatment of The Chief.

The final and most significant problem in Joyce’s biography is to see plainly and unemotionally Joyce’s place in or out of Catholicism. Even if the author had not made the religious crisis and aftermath the central issue of all his semiautobiographical works, it would have great importance in enabling the reader to understand a major contemporary writer. But Joyce’s dramatization of his personal struggle makes the problem paramount.

Most critics agree with Gorman that Joyce’s “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 there, twisted out of all resemblance to itself.” [n.57] Few, however, agree on what this means. Reading the story of Stephen-Joyce’s apostasy in A Portrait-especially the influence of the sermon on Hell -Thomas Merton experiences a strong impetus toward conversion to Catholicism. [n.58] For each critic who believes, like Elliot Paul, that Joyce enjoyed his status of nonbeliever, there is another who insists [27] upon the anguish that his lack of belief caused Joyce. For each statement like Lloyd Morris’ that Joyce may have eagerly wished to return to Catholicism [n.59] there is a counterbalancing argument, such as the one put forward by Morris Ernst and based presumably on Joyce’s own words, that the Irish author had never really left the church. [n.60]

While he lived, Joyce added greatly to the critical confusion. A wearer of many masks, especially when his deepest feelings were involved, he presented a deliberately ambiguous picture of his war with Catholicism. He could be, at one moment, the impudent gamin sticking out his tongue at the bishop - in this vein is the story told by his friends of the turn of the century about his seeking out innocent priests in the reading room of the National Library in order to deliver petty insults. Or, again, he might be the proud intellectual Stephen, rejecting in the lofty tones of Lucifer an oppressive domination that his spirit abhors. Or, as in Stephen Hero, his complaint might be delivered by Stephen, the social critic, in whose breast burns a fierce resentment against a religious system whose representatives pick their way with unmoved placidity among the “cringing warrens” of the poor. Or, finally, the author might appear as the caustic defiler of a proud and holy tradition in the obscene and blasphemous passages of Finnegans Wake . It is difficult to separate the author from his various poses, but the attempt is worth making.

As a child Joyce had the standard, normal Catholic upbringing of an Irish youngster of the 1880’s. His good-tempered, pious mother personifies the strengths and weaknesses of Irish Catholicism during that period: her skill in music brought remarkable beauty to the middle-class suburban hearth; her deep religious sense, not so much a conviction as an intuition, gave her the emotional strength to compensate for physical weakness; her routine adherence to the demanding ritual calendar supplied a center of meaningful activity about which family life and religious hope might revolve. If she worried out loud, it was not about creditors or bedbugs-matters of immediate concern to Stephen Dedalus - but about the irreverence or profanity of her brood, the external signs of troubled spirits. From such maternal singleness of mind, one might have expected priests and nuns to come. One of Joyce’s sisters did enter a religious [38] order. And the stress on respectability through religious conformity brought Joyce very close to a Jesuit novitiate. [n.61]

Perhaps if his father had been less like the Martin Cunningham of Ulysses, a “good practical Catholic” in Bloom’s words, Joyce might have followed the pattern of unquestioning belief his mother set for him. But first his father and then his intellect intruded upon comfortable acceptance. Whatever else religion may have meant to John Stanislaus, it meant a way of getting on in the world. There is every evidence on this score that Joyce’s father and his counterpart, Simon Dedalus, were of one mind. The kind of religious education his children received was less important than the social and vocational contacts to be made while receiving it. “The Jesuits cater for the upper classes”, says Mr. M’Coy in “Grace”. Joyce’s father was well aware of this distinction that set the order apart from the less respectable Christian Brothers. Perhaps the latter was all right for Paddy Stink, but for Stephen-Joyce it would be a Jesuit future. “They’re the boyos have influence.” [n.62]

This intrusion of a materialistic attitude into Joyce’s religious environment served to reveal the obverse of the coin of his mother’s piety. The idea that, in a practical sense, being “religious” might “pay” disturbed him when he was old enough to understand its implications. As a youth, he was idealistic enough to condemn tacitly any outward conformity to the demands of respectable religion when inner compulsion was lacking. In “Grace” he has only scorn for Kernan and his friends as they assume postures of deep piety in the Jesuit church while their minds and spirits are elsewhere. The care with which they kneel on handkerchiefs and protect their hats points up cuttingly the primacy of their material considerations. Young Joyce, observing Dublin folk and folkways, saw that religion was not always synonymous with belief. The caricature of Shaun is artistic expression of this discovery.

The biographer must return again and again to the Parnell affair. Though Joyce must have believed, before Parnell’s repudiation, that not all Catholics embraced the church with like motives and equal depths of religious intensity, he had no reason to imagine this church as anything but an ideal, benevolent spiritual mother. The cruel shock of hearing the venerable institution denounced in blasphemous epithets as partisan, calculating, anti-Irish, parasitic, [39] and worse in his own home, by people whom he had always supposed to know everything, made a deep impression. Though for several years there was outwardly little change in his attitude, the skepticism of his late adolescent years undoubtedly had its origin in just such unresolved dilemmas of childhood. In the restrictive atmosphere of Clongowes or Belvedere, there was little opportunity for an intellectual and emotional break with the forms and requirements of the faith. Not until his days at University College did Joyce reach the conclusions imparted to Cranly by Stephen in the Portrait dialogue.

That conversation shows the strength of the hold that the church still has over his mind, if not over his will. Though his adult decision is that “I will not serve”, he admits freely that at school he did believe. His problem arose when he could not always “unite my will with the will of God.” His fear now is not so much of damnation and punishment as of “the chemical action which would be set up in my soul by a false homage to a symbol behind which are massed twenty centuries of authority and veneration.” [n.63] It is not a question of conversion to anything but rather the greater difficulty of having to surrender one sanctuary, through conscience, without being able to replace it immediately with another. Not until middle age when he is able to erect his obscure Viconian citadel does Joyce truly resolve his problem.

In considering the problem of biography, one must be impressed by the fact that, though hundreds of people have contributed their two or three pages of personal reminiscence, only one full-length biography exists. Though the reader may take his pick of extensive biographical accounts of Joyce’s much less controversial contemporaries - Yeats, Henry James, Gide - only Herbert Gorman’s biography of Joyce is available to those interested in the author of Ulysses. Potential biographers who came after Gorman were deterred, perhaps, by his status as official biographer, with an inside track to intimates of his subject and the approval and active help of Joyce himself in preparing his study. By the 1930’s Joyce was sufficiently entrenched as a distinguished man of letters to be able to take a positive role in arranging details of operation for books about himself. In a letter to Frank Budgen (1 March 1932), he tells his friend that Gorman and Golding are doing biographies and that Duff is [40] writing a book about him. “Your [sic] will be the seventh book mainly about a text which is unobtainable in England.” [n.64] He tells Budgen to see Stuart Gilbert’s book and Paul Smith’s key to Ulysses so that Budgen will not duplicate the work of the others. Joyce goes on to reject Budgen’s request that he be allowed to use the Joyce-Budgen correspondence in his book because, as Joyce puts it, “this invades Gorman’s ground.” Budgen is given the right, however, to use the material of their correspondence provided that it is not published in quotation. This shrewd parceling out of his life and work to selected friends undoubtedly must have discouraged objective and unattached scholars from intruding while Joyce lived.

They were surely not deterred by the consideration that Gorman had already said all that could be said, for the limitations of his important contribution were immediately very evident. Though an unrivaled collection of source materials such as the citations from early notebooks, it provides no clues to Joyce’s attitude toward Ireland, his religious position, or his mature aesthetic. The critics recognized that Gorman’s attempt was far from the last word. Zabel found the biographer “obtuse” in dealing with such problems, and judged that the “rough, rapid, graphic, and gross” style “does not make one regret the absence of formal criticism .” [n.65] The author - never fully emerges”, Stonier complained, though this may be the fault of Joyce as much as of Gorman. The book “evades nearly all the issues” and is neither critical nor sensitive enough to appeal to those who already know Joyce, for much of the detail is “aimless local color.” [n.66] The Irish Times also considered the portrait “negative and anaemic”; to Donagh MacDonagh, Gorman displayed “the most amazing lack of emotional or poetic perception” and portrayed “a completely externalized Joyce”, utterly devoid of the spirit seen in his work:

not for a moment the Stephen Dedalus who blows like a clear wind through even the most sordid passages of his saga, not for a moment the humorist whose laughter is everywhere in his work. [n.67]

Conal O’Riordan was amazed “that so long a book … should yet tell us so little of what is essential.” The book has generally been considered sketchy, discursive, and badly written, though Louise Bogan found that the “devotion and naiveté” of its author [41] might make it better than the work of a “more detached and wiser man” in that he “lets through facts which might have been suppressed by a more subtle mind. [n.68]

The most sustained and intelligent attack on Gorman’s abilities as a biographer comes from Amsterdam, where J. Den Haan’s long critical essay on Joyce, Mythe van Erin, appeared. After trying to categorize the major works touching on Joyce’s life - those by Harry Levin, Richard M. Kain, and Herbert Gorman - he evaluates the latter book as the worst biography he has ever read, especially in those chapters dealing with the author’s mature years. Den Haan attributes the trouble partly to the friendship between Joyce and his Boswell, partly to the personal attention that the novelist gave to the preparation of his own biography. The critic feels that Joyce deliberately enmeshed Gorman in a web of trivial personal details to distract him from writing of Joyce’s friends and enemies in any specific and vital environmental context. The work becomes, in Den Haan’s words, the history of Joyce’s writing but not the history of the man himself. The critic notes in extenuation the fact that it is hard to write a biography about a living man, his family, and his acquaintances. He is amused, however, by the number who, spurred on by revelations of the subject himself, have succeeded only in chasing shadows obligingly set up for them by a seriousfaced Joyce, grinning behind his mask.’ [n.69]

Most critical readers find Gorman’s emotional adulation distasteful. To the London Times his “ecstasy about his hero recalls the gentleman of Marie Lloyd’s song of praise, ‘Everything he does is so artistic.’” Joyce was regarded by another reviewer as “a sufficiently massive figure not to need inflating.” In the biographer’s reverent eyes, Joyce was always right and the world always wrong. The romantic clichè of the persecuted artist is always at hand, though, as Mary Colum remarked, Joyce “had good friends and wise appreciators.” [n.70]

The “many raw, over-simple and stupid” attacks on Ireland were resented by The Irish Times; not only Ireland, but the Catholic church and the British Empire are excoriated “because they did not instantly adjust themselves when … Joyce and they were not completely in agreement” (22 March, 1941). Mary Colum also resented Gorman’s attitude, that “of a prosecuting attorney”, and [42] stated that “his country did not do badly by him” in providing him with a superior education and a stimulating environment. One suspects, however much the observation is resented by idolators of Joyce, that much of Gorman’s patronizing tone may be directly traceable to Joyce’s own arrogance. The fact is that Dublin had been, since the mid-eighteenth century, more than a provincial city, and even today maintains much of the eighteenth-century tradition of polite learning. Though Trinity College, with Tyrrell, Lecky, and Mahaffy, maintained a prestige not equaled by Joyce’s alma mater, University College prepared many who were destined to play important roles in modern Ireland. One of the sources of Joyce’s antagonism may have been the fact that the Mulligans and Lynchs, despite their vulgarity, attained honors which he had failed to achieve.

But these are comparatively small matters. It took forty years from the turbulence of the spirit described in Ulysses to the relative calm of the Wake . Joyce’s forty years of wandering in the wilderness were the direct consequence of the author’s apprenticeship to maturity-his first two decades. No biographer has yet dealt satisfactorily with the shaping forces of this formative stage. Perhaps Richard Ellmann’s projected biography of Joyce, based on exhaustive researches in Ireland and elsewhere, will supply the background for further study. At the moment, however, Joyce’s biography is very much a problem - in fact, the problem of Joyce scholarship.


Notes on chapter 2
1. Allanah Harper, ‘A Magazine and Some People in Paris’, in Partisan Review, IX (July-August 1942), p.315.
2. Aidan Higgins, ‘Aspects of James Joyce’, in The Fortnightly, MMI (n.s.) (April 1951), p.265.
3. Elliot Paul, ‘Farthest North’, in The Bookman, LXXV (May 1932), p.157.
4. George Antheil, Bad Boy of Music (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1945), p.146.
5. Margaret Anderson, My Thirty Years’ War: An Autobiography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1930), p.244.
6. Djuna Barnes, ‘James Joyce’, in Vanity Fair, XVIII (April 1922), p.65.
7. Ford Madox Ford, It Was the Nightingale (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co. 1933), p.203.
8. Malcolm Cowley, ‘The Religion of Art: Readings from the Lives of the Saints’, in New Republic, LXXVII (January 3, 1934), p.218-20.
9. James Joyce, unpublished letter to Frank Budgen, dated 9 Sept. 932, now in the Yale University Library. This letter and all other unpublished letters of Joyce quoted in whole or part in this book are published here with the generous permission of Miss Harriet Weaver and the Administrators of the Joyce Estate. Faber and Faber, Ltd., and The Viking Press have also approved the publication here of these letters. These publishers plan to bring out in the future a volume of Joyce’s letters.
10. Antheil, Bad Boy of Music, p.151.
11. Ibid., p.155.
12. Robert McAlmon, Being Geniuses Together: An Autobiography (London: Secker and Warburg, 1938),pp.14-15.
13. Antheil, Bad Boy of Music, p.152.
14. James Joyce, typewritten letter, unsigned, to ‘Mr. Huntington’, in dated 22 May 1932, now in the Yale University Library.
15. Anderson, My Thirty Years’ War, p.248.
16. Maria Jolas, ‘Joyce in 1939-1940’, in Mercure de France, CCCIX (Mai-Aoiut 1950), p.48.
17. Stanislaus Joyce, ‘Tarly Memories of James Joyce’, in The Listener, XLI (May 26, 1949), p.897.
18. Herbert Gorman, James Joyce (NY:Rinehart & Co. 1939).
19. James Joyce, unpublished letter to Grant Richards, dated 20 May, 1906, now in the New York Public Library. Acknowledgement is gratefully made to the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of the library as well as to the Administrators of the Joyce Estate, and to The Viking Press and Faber and Faber, Ltd., for permission to quote from the letter.
20. James Joyce, unpublished letter to Grant Richards, dated 2 Feb. 1915, now in the Yale University Library.
21. James Joyce, unpublished letter to Frank Budgen, dated 24 Sept. 1920, in Yale University Library.
22. James Joyce, unpublished letter to Grant Richards, dated May 20, 1906, in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection.
23. Alessandro Francini-Bruni, Joyce spogliato in piazza (Trieste: La Editoriale Libraria 1922), p.30.
24. Barnes, in Vanity Fair, XVIII (April 1922), p.104.
25. Alfred Kerr, ‘Joyce en Angleterre’, in Les Nouvelles littéraires (11 Jan. 1936), p.6.
26. Stanislaus Joyce, The Listener, XLI (26 May 1949), p.896.
27. D. S. Mirsky, ‘Joyce and Irish Literature’, in New Masses, XI (3 April 1934), p.31-32.
28. ‘Portrait of James Joyce: The Artist in Maturity’, in ed. W. R. Rodgers, presented over the B.B.C. Third Programme, 13 Feb. 1950.
29. Gerald Griffin, The Wild Geese: Pen Portraits of Famous Irish Exiles (London: Jarrolds Publishers, n.d.), p.24.
30. See Peter Kavanagh’s letter in The New York Times Magazine (28 Feb. 1954), p.6, and accompanying material. See also ibid., 14 Feb. 1954, p.53, and 7 March 1954, p.6.
31. Oliver St. John Gogarty, ‘They Think They Know Joyce’, in The Saturday Review of Literature, XXXIII (18 March 1950), p.6.
32. Mary Colum, ‘A Little Knowledge of Joyce’, in The Saturday Review of Literature, XXXIII (29 April 1950), p.8.
33. Ibid., passim.
34. Gogarty, The Saturday Review of Literature, XXXIII (18 March, 1950), p.37.
35. J. F. Byrne, Silent Years: An Autobiography with Memoirs of Jamm Joyce and Our Ireland, with a Foreword by Harvey Breit (NY: Farrar, Straus & Young, 1953).
36. In The Irish Homestead, 1903-1904.
37. See below, Chapter 5.
38. Marvin Magalaner, ‘Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hauptmann in James Joyce’s “A Painful Case”, in PMLA, LXVIII (March 1953), pp.95-102.
39. For a more extensive treatment of the Joyce-Mangan relationship. see Marvin Magalaner, ‘James Mangan and Joyce’s Dedalus Family’, in Philological Quarterly, XXXI (October 1952), pp.363-71.
40. James A. Joyce, ‘James CIarence Mangan’, in St. Stephen’s [University College, Dublin] (May 1902); rep. in Patricia Hutchins, James Joyce’s Dublin, pp.57-59.
41. James Clarence Mangan, ‘Fragment of an Unfinished Autobiography’, in The Poets and Poetry of Munster (5th edn.; Dublin: James Duffy & Co., Ltd. n.d.).
42. Ibid., pp.xxxvii-xl.
43. James Joyce, Dubliners (NY: The Modern Library, n.d.), p.35, 38.
44. James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (NY: Modern Library, 1916), pp.68, 70-71, 75, 93, 175.
45. A Page of Irish History, ed. Fathers of the Society of Jesus (Dublin & Cork, 1930).
46. Gorman, James Joyce, chaps. 1 and 2; Kelly, in PMLA, LXIV (March 1949), pp.26-39.
47. For biographical data see Gorman’s opening chapters; for the Irish political events of this period, see Dorothy Macardle, The Irish Republic (London: Victor Gollancz, 1937), and P. S. O’Hegarty, A History of Ireland Under the Union, 1801-I922 (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. 1952).
48. O’Hegarty, History of Ireland, p.519.
49. Joyce, A Portrait, Chap. 1.
50. Henry Harrison, Parnell Vindicated: The Lifting of the Veil (NY: Richard R. Smith, Inc., 1931), p.68.
51. Joyce, A Portrait, p.36.
52. Donald R. Pearce, ‘“My Dead King” in The Dinner Quarrel in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist ’, in Modern Language Notes, LXVI (April 1951), p.250-51.
53. John J. Slocum & Herbert Cahoon, A Bibliography of James Joyce (1882-.1941) (Yale UP 1953), p.3. [Hereafter Slocum-Cahoon.]
54. Harrison, Parnell Vindicated, pp.94-95.
55. Ibid.
56. Maria Jolas, Mercure de France, CCIX (Mai-Aoiut, 1950), p.45.
57. Herbert Gorman, James Joyce: His First Forty Years (NY:B. W. Huebsch 1925), p.75.
58. Thomas Merton, Elected Silence (Dublin, 1949), pp.168-69 [in the United States as The Seven Storey Mountain.]
59. Lloyd Morris, A Threshold in the Sun (NY: Harper & Brothers 1943), p.244.
60. Morris L. Ernst, The Best Is Yet (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1945), p.118.
61. Stephen-Joyce’s mother is best seen in the portrayal of Mrs. Daedalus in Stephen Hero, ed. Theodore Spencer (Norfolk, Corm.: New Directions, 1944).
62. Joyce, Dubliners, p.208.
63. This dialogue begins in A Portrait on p.281.
64. James Joyce, unpublished letter to Frank Budgen, dated 1 March 1932, now at Yale University Library.
65. M. D. Zabel, ‘Wild Goose’, in The Nation, CL (9 March 1940), p.339.
66. G. W. Stonier, The New Statesman and Nation, XXI (8 March 1941), p.256.
67. Donagh MacDonagh, The Dublin Magazine (Oct.-Dec. 1941), p.71.
68. Conal O’Riordan, Time and Tide (15 March 1941); Louise Bogan, Partisan Review, VII (1940), pp.318-20.
69. J. Den Haan, Joyce, Mythe van Erin (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 1948), pp.16-18 et passim.
70. ‘James Joyce’s Rebellion’, in Times Literary Supplement (1 March 1941); S. MacP, in The Bell, 11 (Aug. 1941); Mary Colum, ‘Portrait of the Artist’, in The Saturday Review of Literature, XXI (16 March 1940), p.10.

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