City(e)scape 1

SHARP_336770hThe current issue of The Times Literary Supplement, despite the exotic and even scary cover (Beauty and terror), has something of a metropolitan theme (and will keep Malcolm happy for these couple of posts)


With both The Guardian‘s  Doonesbury strip and the TLS rear-gunner NB (initialled J. C., so assume James Campbell) Malcolm starts at the back and works forward. Since J.C. subtitles NB as ‘Londoners’ we know where we’re heading. It’s a subtle sophistication: NB‘s first and main item concerns James Joyce in London  (‘Londoners’ — geddit?)

This includes the quite perverse statement:

In an article in the current James Joyce Quarterly, Gordon Bowker writes that the Irish writer’s link with the former ruling power “has not received the attention it deserves”.

Really? Really?

Malcolm diffidently suggests that Bowker revisits Oxen of the Sun. What Joyce does there is filter the authentic voices of Dublin through the tradition of ‘English’ authors, or rather those represented by a couple of contemporary collections: William Peacock’s The English Prose: From Mandeville to Ruskin (1903) and George Saintsbury’s The Anthology of English Prose (1912). Anyone who, like Malcolm, studied the snippets anthologised for Leaving Certificate (1960) will see where this sub-litcrit is coming from.

Those who wrestle Joyce’s Episode into submission may well do so with help from the explanatory letter Joyce sent Frank Budgen on 20 March 1920:

Am working hard at Oxen of the Sun, the idea being the crime committed against fecundity by sterilizing the act of coition. Scene, lying-in hospital. Technique: a nineparted episode without divisions introduced by a Sallustian-Tacitean prelude (the unfertilized ovum), then by way of earliest English alliterative and monosyllabic and Anglo-Saxon (‘Before born the babe had bliss. Within the womb he won worship.’ ‘Bloom dull dreamy heard: in held hat stony staring’) then by way of Mandeville (‘there came forth a scholar of medicine that men clepen etc’) then Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (‘but that franklin Lenehan was prompt ever to pour them so that at the least way mirth should not lack’), then the Elizabethan chronicle style (‘about that present time young Stephen filled all cups’), then a passage solemn, as of Milton, Taylor, Hooker, followed by a choppy Latin-gossipy bit, style of Burton-Browne,  then  a  passage  Bunyanesque  (‘the reason was that in the way he fell in with a certain whore whose name she said is Bird in the hand’) after a diarystyle bit Pepys-Evelyn (‘Bloom sitting snug with a party of wags, among them Dixon jun., Ja. Lynch, Doc. Madden and Stephen D. for a languor he had before and was now better, he having dreamed tonight a strange fancy and Mistress Purefoy there to be delivered, poor body, two days past her time and the midwives hard put to it, God send her quick issue’) and so on through Defoe-Swift and Steele-Addison-Sterne and Landor-Pater-Newman until it ends in a frightful jumble of Pidgin English, nigger English, Cockney, Irish, Bowery slang and broken doggerel. This progression is also linked back at each part subtly with some foregoing episode of the day and, besides this, with the natural stages of development in the embryo and the periods of faunal evolution in general. The double-thudding Anglo-Saxon motive recurs from time to time (‘Loth to move from Horne’s house’) to give the sense of the hoofs of oxen. Bloom is the spermatozoon, the hospital the womb, the nurse the ovum, Stephen the embryo.

Letters of James Joyce, vol. 1, ed. Stuart Gilbert (New York, 1966), pp. 139-40.

Hardly hidden in there is the Anglo-Irish thing that plagues us all: Swift (born Dublin, 1667), Steele (born Dublin, 1672), Burke (born Dublin, 1729), Goldsmith (born Roscommon or Longford, probably 1730) — all who made their reputations in London. In fact the ‘nationality’ crisis is implicit throughout: Mandeville was really Jan de Langhe from Ypres, a Fleming writing in Norman-French, Sir Thomas Maleore may have been Welsh … Newman, the London High Anglican who translated himself from London to Dublin(at the request of the Irish bishops) establishing the Catholic University of Ireland.

Anyway, back to J.C. filleting that James Joyce Quarterly:

EarwickerThe English were generous to Joyce, Bowker says: he received a grant from the Society of Authors and a pension from the Royal Literary Fund. In 1923, T.S.Eliot, who would later publish Finnegans Wake at Faber, took him to see (in Eliot’s words) “some of the waste lands around Chichester”. On a gravestone in Sidlesham churchyard, Joyce read the name “Earwicker”. Thus, Bowker writes, “an ancient English name stands at the centre of Finnegans Wake and winds through it”.

Nora Barnacle, who loved London, went shopping while Jim And Anna Livia set about enlarging basic Irish-English. He and Nora were married at Kensington Register Office in 1931 (Pound was married at the church next door). In the Electoral Register for 1931-2, James Joyce of 28b Campden Grove is listed as eligible for jury service. The other tenants were Nora and May Joyce … A neighbour was called Miss Gertrude Stein.

Quite what all of that ‘proves’, beyond West London being then, as now, cosmopolitan and liter-arty, is beyond Malcolm’s comprehension.


1 Comment

Filed under Dublin., History, James Joyce, London, Times Literary Supplement

One response to “City(e)scape 1

  1. Pingback: City(e)scape 2 | Malcolm Redfellow's Home Service

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