[Chap. III:] James Joyce - Doubting Thomist and Joking Jesuit
For Joyce as for Yeats, the artist is the magician, controlling the spawning images - he is the demiurge breaking the flood; even though the Tower has become the students Martello Tower, and Kathleen ni Houlihan as shrunk to the Milkwoman.
[...] almost painful attempt to squeeze the macrocosm into the microcosm [...] the hitching of the stars and worms to Vicos waggon [sic], like the depiction of the organic and inorganic worlds on a notable cathedral from in Barcelona, was a feat of artificer rather than art, only partially successful in Ulysses, a heroic failure in Finnegans Wake.
It is in this human breadth that Joyce proves himself, most truly, a Catholic - even if he could only exhibit the Catholic temper by rejecting the Catholic faith, as he knew it; for Irish Catholicism, to hold its own in an English-speaking world, has been compelled to take on more than the narrowness of a Protestant sect. The lapsed Catholic has in fact peculiar advantages as a comic writer, since he is usually free from the perils of didacticism; and the famous subtlety of Jesuitism is near to the comic spirit. It is customary to assert that Ulysses is reeking with the sense of sin; but here, I  think, it is necessary to make some distinctions. Mr. Bloom, surely, knew little of the sense of sin; Mrs. Bloom even less. [Ftn.] The agenbite of inwit which vexes Stephen is filial remorse, and not directly concerned with theological sin at all. What the critics really have in mind, I think, is Joyces deadly clear-sighted, yet almost too-complacent, acceptance of human imperfection; he holds the mirror up to Caliban with a genial grin which is a little too near being a knowing smirk. we think of Mr. Eliots eternal footman who holds our coat - and snickers; and we are ashamed - for ourselves, and a little also for him. We can enjoy Leopold Bloom without quite liking to see ourselves in him or him in James Joyce. The impression that Joyce is an sordid writer is due less, I think, to the obscene pages - which in actual fact are few - than to his eerily-objective tone, giving to each fact as it comes precisely the same value as to the next - like a shopman showing his samples - never rising to sociological wrath or hinting at embittered idealism. One has only to compare it with the surgical, almost emetic, brutality of Mr. Aldous Huxley. The modern Anglo-Saxon reader is shocked by an author who sees with such clearness, [...130]
In the Portrait the only protagonist is the youthful Stephen, who view himself and his early escapades without irony - indeed with not a little ninetyish romanticism. The interest of the Portait is that the artist drew it when he was still very much of a young man, and it is full of the rather portentous morbidity of adolescence; its emotions are not remembered - and falsified - in a Goethean tranquillity. For in fact our teens are always ninetyish, and the age of Peter Pan was the age of Dorian Gray. Joyce had, I believe, escaped from the selva obscura by the time Ulysses was written; he had imagined a healthily pagan Vergil in Leopold Blook - an anti-self or mask in the Yeatsian sense - and could describe the lower regions with the almost tourist-like detachment of a Dante. Bloom certainly saved James Joyce - if he only gave rather passing ministrations to Stephen Dedalus. But in the Portrait he is indeed in Hell; and owing to the peculiar conditions of Catholic Dublin it was a medieval Hell. James Joyce was one of the few great men of this century who really in youth encountered religious dogma - in the old blood-and-thunder sense. It has some curious results - one of which was that he arrived at father-fixation by way of the theology of Nicaea. .
The description of the young Stephens transgressions, his repentance, and his brief religion devotionalsm, has a reality which moves and shocks us even through the mawkish aesthetic prose in which much of it is written. But one fears that these experiences left the man James Joyce - emotionally and intellectually - a little barren and burnt out. The young apostle who set forth in 1902 to smelt his countrys conscience was as incurious and closed against life as any of those wandering scholars who in such numbers have left her shores. And so, astonishingly, he was to remain through his long and restless existence - as it were a citizen of some Pompeii of the spirit, inwardly petrified by the lava that had fallen on his heart and brain: different indeed from that other wanderer with a religous - though not a medieval - background, D. H. Lawrence. Only his memories - and his comic sense - were left to him; a handful of remembered characters, like a travelling showmans puppets, still accompanied him as he passed to and fro across the ancient agitated continent of Europe -  indifferent to the its endless human culture and variety. He distended them grotesquely - planned their antics with the precision of a ballet-designer - and gave the word that strange, droll, uncomfortable masterpiece Ulysses. it was, perhaps, a suffient achievement for one life - though it presents only one day, and a dull one. (134-35.)
It is merely trite to say that Joyce never really got free of his religion or his country. We know that, if he had not become a writer, he had two possibilities open to him: he could have become a Jesuit Father or (though we hear less of this in the Portrait) a perhaps celebrate concert-singer - one of those many Dublin tenors who have won fame in the New World. It seems as if these missed vocations haunted him, ghost-like, to the end - with all the mystery of that enigma of the <possible> which harried Stephen Dedalus. [Quotes Time has branded them and fetteed they are lodged in the room of the infinite possibilities they have ousted. And in the hospital scene he muses theologically on neo-Malthusianism.) Joyce, after all, was never quite like other writers - born not made; his writing was always, in a sense, [... 136]
I regret therefore that Finnegans Wake seems to me to be the great fall of Icarus, Humpty Dumpty, or howe ver the genius of Joyce be named. Joyce, it seems to me, - a master-builder in the style of his hero Ibsen - could not ascend a second time to the height of a great epical conception.
What Finnegans Wake is not is a profound revelation of the Unconscious, a reflex of the mind in trance - expcept in the sense in which every work of art is that. Rather, in some ways, it is less one than most, becuase Joyce is such a very deliberate craftsman. His monologue interieur is very definitely the stream of <consciousness>; and usually, even in Ulysses, it is not even any conceivable stream, but an artful build-up disguised by the omission of stops. The musings of Mr. Earwicker, in the course of seventeen years elaboration, must have lost anything they possessed of the glory and the freshness of a dream. Only - like every humorist - Joyce deliberately makes ordinary life, for his comic purpose, a little more unconscious, automatic and monstrous than it is in fact is. Joyces characters (from the early Dubliners onward) are in the plight - familiar in nightmare - of not being able to lift their feet or throw off their paralysis. But the atmosphere is not one of dread so much as an almost half-witted amusement - the rather gruesome laughter of John Bulls Other Island. Like the priest who broke the chalice in his first story, they are discovered laughing like softly to themselves in the confession box. / Actually there have been many prose-writers whose work has a dream-laden atmosphere; but Joyce is not one of them. [...] it does not appear that Joyce  was much interested in their work or in his own dream states, [Ftn] or (except superficially) in dream psychology.
The ambition to write a Prophetic Book has ruined more than one artist. Joyce regretted that Yeats did not use the theories of A Vision for a work of art on the grand scale; but Yeatss Instructors - or his aesthetic instinct - wisely forbade such an attempt. He had the unfortunate example of his first teacher, Blake, for a deterrent.  Joyce, unlike Yeats and Blake, was neither poet nor philosopher - though he was a genuinely philosophical novelist and an intensely poetic short-story writer. There was, however, a restless Irish ambitieux in him, forever pressing for new conquests - a daemon such as inhabited no other writer I can think of but Rousseau. The youthful Stephen Dedalus had declared that he felt himself to be the slave of two masters - the imperial British state and the holy Roman catholic and apostolic church. From the first he received - with an inner resistance - his language, from the second his philosophy, and though he was to show in Ulysses that he could prose it with Malory or Macauley, and in the Portrait that he could discuss aesthetics with Aquinas, this was all in the nature of a very Irish bravura-performance. It is true that in the process he had created an unforgettable gallery of character-studies - characters which indeed attain the status of symbols or archetypes - and had written one of the great comic books of the world, worthy to rank with Gargantua, Gulliver or Tristram Shandy; but with these achievements he was by no means content. He had still to fulfil that rather bombastic programme of his youth - to forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of his race. But how was he, self-outcast and - with all his miscellaneous erudition - oddly ignorant of his time, to do any such thing? True, he carried Ireland everywhere with him like a pilgrims pack, but his ireland was the Dublin of the Pigott Forgeries, Erin go Brath, and the joke giant Finn McCool. Of the Irish language, and the forces that were shaping the Ireland of today, he knew nothing - had never, in his impatient youth, wished to know anything. Tant pis! He would bring together these miserable  shreds of Hiberniana and the little he knew of post-Scholastic European thought - he would do it by a daring exploitation of those new theories of the Collective Subconscious which, it so happened, were stirring in Zürich during the time of his residence there. He would imagine a great drama in which the Vico Road in Dalkey merged with Giambattista Vicos cycles, in which the notable bookshoop of Messrs. Browne [sic] and Nolan was one with Giordano Bruno of Nola, in which the Phoenix Park (a traditional mis-spelling, incidentally, of the Gaelic name) became the locus of Adams Fall (that felix culpa) and the Phoenixs fiery rebirth. He would invent a new language to fit this material, as the exiled Dante created, in effect, a new language (not, it is true, a nonsense-language) to write the Divine Comedy. The experiment was arresting, and - up to a point - amusing; but it was not very like a dream. He took seventeen years over it, and the result was the weirdest folly in the history of verbal architecture. As one of Joyces earnest apologists [L. A. G. Strong] has phrased it, It remains a brilliant and formidable feat of literary pioneering, to which all future artists in words must be in our debt, if only because it shows some things to be impossible. (Italics mine.) I think one really cannot say fairer than that!