Friday, 12 January 2018

Joyce and Eliot: Part 2 Beginning Finnegans Wake

'I remember Tom in Ottoline’s room at Garsington could anyone write again after achieving the immense prodigy of the last chapter?'  

Virginia Woolf, Diary, 15 January 1941
From Hayman's A First Draft Version of FW
Joyce was only 39 when he finished writing Ulysses - an event hailed by Ezra Pound as the beginning of a new era of human history (post scriptum Ulysses). How would he follow it up?

The answer came on11 March 1923 (during Year 2 p.s.U.), when Joyce wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver:

'Yesterday I wrote two pages – the first I have written since the final yes of Ulysses. Having found a pen, with some difficulty I copied them out in large handwriting on a double sheet of foolscap so I could read them. Il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio, the Italians say. The wolf may lose his skin but not his vice or the leopard cannot change his spots.'

What Joyce wrote was a comic sketch about Roderick O'Conor, featuring 'the last preelectric king of all Ireland', drinking the dregs in his 'house of 100 bottles'. He followed it with an even more bizarre piece about pious Saint Kevin of Glendalough retreating to a bathtub to contemplate the sacrament of baptism. Next came another comic sketch, in which Tristan and Isolde are reimagined as a 'Gaelic, rugger and soccer champion' and an Irish flapper. These sketches, all with medieval Irish themes, were the beginning of what would be Finnegans Wake.

That summer, from 21 June-17 August, the Joyces were in England, where Joyce renewed his friendship with T.S.Eliot. Here's a letter from Eliot to Joyce written on 25 June after a first meeting, in London:

'My dear Joyce
  Can you and Mrs Joyce have tea with me tomorrow (Tuesday) at 5.30 at Frascati's (Oxford Street near the corner of Tottenham Court Road)? There will only be Lady Ottoline Morrell, who is very anxious to meet you....
PS Please do not mention to Lady O.M. (if you come, as I hope you will) that you saw my wife. She isn't strong enough to see many people yet.'*

Frascati's was a sumptuous and elegant jazz age restaurant, which you can see and read about here. Sadly we don't know what they all talked about. I'd love to know how the Joyces, especially Nora, got on with the terrifying Lady Ottoline Morrell! 

Lady Ottoline by Augustus John
A later letter, on 29 June, announces a plan to meet again in Bognor, where the Joyces were going to spend the summer:

'My dear Joyce
  Don't forget to write to me here your address in Bognor. I hope you will have no trouble in finding a good hotel. I want to get a car one day when I am in Fishbourne and fetch you over and show you some of the waste lands round about Chichester.' 

The Eliots had rented a weekend retreat nearby,  at 2 Milestone Cottages, Old Fishbourne. Between Bognor and Fishbourne lies the village of Sidlesham, whose graves provided Joyce with the name for his hero, Earwicker. Did he find the Earwicker graves during a car excursion with T.S.Eliot?

On this 1918 map I've drawn arrows showing the Eliots' weekend cottage top left, the Earwicker graves bottom left, and the Joyces' hotel in Bognor bottom right. 

Here's the name for his hero, which Joyce found on the graves in Sidlesham churchyard.

Here's Joyce's hotel, the Alexandra, now a private guest house. I've visited it on two Joycean pilgrimages.

While Joyce was staying here, he wrote a fourth sketch, about St Patrick and the Druid - in pidgin English! He sent all these early sketches to Harriet Shaw Weaver, who typed them for him.

Joyce must have shown Eliot his new sketches, and talked about his writing. Eliot asked to publish a piece from Joyce's new work in his review, The Criterion, which he'd founded in 1922. But Joyce refused, as we know from a later letter sent to Harriet Shaw Weaver (see below). 

Joyce, Pound, John Quinn and Ford Madox Ford in Autumn 1923
Back in Paris that autumn, Joyce wrote a fifth sketch, the 'Mamalujo' episode, a 'study of old age'. This was the first piece he agreed to have printed.

'Mr Hueffer (Ford Madox Ford) has been made editor of a new Paris review. The editorship was offered by a financial group on condition that nothing of mine was published in it. Mr Hueffer then declined it. Finally the group gave in. Mr Pound (to whom I had shown the pieces I have written) came round to say that the front pages of the first issue were to be reserved for me with a trumpet blast. I had previously declined to allow these pieces to be sent to the Criterion and, while I was grateful to Mr Hueffer for the attitude he took up, I felt (as I tried to explain to him) that I could not allow them to be printed yet. The construction is quite different from Ulysses where at least the ports of call were known beforehand....
  I work as much as I can because these are not fragments but active elements and when they are more and a little older they will begin to fuse of themselves.'

To Harriet Shaw Weaver, 9 October 1923

Joyce's description of these pieces as 'active elements' is fascinating. He seems to have  found, as he went on, that his book was beginning to write itself. His early sketches became what David Hayman has called 'prime nodes', which generated new material. In a brllliant 1978 essay, 'Nodality and the Infrastructure of Finnegans Wake', Hayman described the sketches as 'texts or pretexts to which the rest of the Wake will be added as commentary or shadow text'. 

So 'Mamalujo' was published as 'From Work in Progress' in the transatlantic review on 1 April 1924Work in Progress  became Joyce's working title, used right up until Finnegans Wake was published in 1939.

Meanwhile, the book was taking a whole new direction with the growth of his central character, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, his wife Anna Livia Plurabelle, and their children Shem, Shaun and Issy. Joyce set aside the early historical sketches, and began to develop the Wake family. By March 1924, he had written rough drafts of seven of the eight chapters of Book 1 of the Wake (the opening chapter would be written in 1926). 

In 1925, Joyce felt ready to publish more extracts from his new book. He gave the opening of the HCE chapter, telling how his hero got the unusual name of Earwicker (FW pages 30-34) to Robert McAlmon, his friend and patron. McAlmon published it the Contact Collection of Contemporary Writers, in May 1925.

In February 1925, Joyce, suffering from severe conjunctivitis, got Lucia to write to Eliot agreeing to publish another extract in Criterion. Here's the letter that Eliot sent in reply, on 26 February 1925:

Dear Miss Joyce,
  Thank you so much for your letter as we have been very anxious for news of your father's health. I am very sorry to hear that he has been having such acute trouble and that the physicians have not yet finished with him....
  I am delighted to hear that I may soon have some of his work to publish. Will you tell him that I have refrained from bothering him but had been constantly hoping to hear. I should like to have the manuscript as soon as possible for the June number, as the April number has already gone to press.

On 15 April, Eliot wrote to Sylvia Beach, who had forwarded Joyce's piece:

Dear Miss Beach
  Thank you for your letter and for Mr Joyce's MSS. which I am delighted to have. Will you, when you can, convey my and my wife's deep sympathy to him and to Mrs Joyce? I should be very grateful if you would let me know later the result of the operation.

The text sent to Eliot was an early version of the wonderful Letter chapter (FW 104-25) which begins:

In the name of Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven!

This was published as 'Fragment of an Unpublished Work', in Criterion III, July 1925. 

I couldn't find the issue with Joyce in
Joyce continued to have severe eye problems, and was told he needed yet another eye operation (the eighth). It was while waiting for this, in Rouen in August, that he wrote his parody of The Waste Land which I included in my last post. 

But we shall have great times,
When we return to Clinic, that waste land
O Esculapios!
    (Shan't we? Shan't we? Shan't we?) 

At the same time, he wrote a letter to Eliot which has not survived. But here's Eliot's reply, dated 24 August 1925:

Dear Joyce,
  I was glad to have a letter from you after being without news of you for a long time. I hope to be able to get to Paris before the end of the year, but I am not certain and therefore it is good news to hear that you are likely to be in London in January. I am sorry to hear about your past and future operations and hope that the next one will be the last.

Eliot stands proudly outside the Faber office in 1926
In late 1925, Geoffrey Faber, who had been running a scientific press, restructured it as a general publisher, Faber and Gwyer, and invited Eliot to join the board. Faber and Faber, as it was later called, also took over the Criterion as a house journal. This meant that Eliot could give up his day job working for Lloyds Bank and become a full-time publisher of books.
But would he be able to publish James Joyce? 

*A big theme running through Eliot's letters is Vivienne's mental and physical health. She was diagnosed with a bewildering variety of illnesses (entero-colitis, enteric influenza, septic influenza, malnutrition, anaemia, complete exhaustion, general neuritis, rheumatism all over her body, violent neuralgia). She had electric treatment, Plombieres treatment (colonic irrigation), 'manipulation and hand vibration', a starvation diet and psychoanalysis. None of it helped.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Eliot and Joyce: Part 1 Ulysses

T.S.Eliot was perhaps Joyce's most loyal friend. He was the only leading supporter of Ulysses to admire Finnegans Wake, which he published at Faber and Faber in 1939. At Faber, he almost single-handedly created a Joyce industry. Without Eliot, promoting Joyce in the heart of the British literary establishment, would we even have a Finnegans Wake?

After hearing of Joyce's death in 1941, Virginia Woolf looked back in her diary at Eliot's 'rapt' response to Ulysses:

Then Joyce is dead–Joyce about a fortnight younger than I am. I remember Miss Weaver, in wool gloves, bringing Ulysses in type script to our tea table at Hogarth House. Roger [Fry] I think sent her. Would we devote our lives to printing it? The indecent pages looked so incongruous....I remember Tom in Ottoline’s room at Garsington sayingit was published thenhow could anyone write again after achieving the immense prodigy of the last chapter? He was for the first time in my knowledge, rapt, enthusiastic.

Eliot and Woolf at Garsington in 1924, photographed by Ottoline Morrell

To trace Eliot's relationship to Joyce, I've been reading the massive new edition of his collected letters, which is being published by Faber. There are seven volumes so far, but they only go up to 1935. It's a long story, so this first post will just follow him through the Ulysses years, covered in the first volume.

Eliot first encountered Ulysses in The Little Review, the US journal whose European editor was his close friend Ezra Pound.  The journal published most of the novel serially from 1918 to 1920 (when the Society for the Suppression of Vice got the publication stopped for obscenity). Its splendid tagline was 'making no compromise with the public taste'.

You can read facsimiles of the publication thanks to the wonderful Modernist Journals Project, from Brown University and Tulsa. The very first episode is here.  Eliot was also an assistant editor on the British Journal, The Egoist, which was having even more trouble trying to publish the book. The British printers refused to set the opening chapter because of 'snotgreen' and 'scrotumtightening', so the publication began, in 1919, with the second chapter, which you can read here.

In his letters, Eliot's first mention of Joyce is on 30 June 1918, writing to Scofield Thayer, poet, publisher and editor of The Dial:

'Do you see the Little Review? I hope so. There you can watch...particularly the superb new novel of Joyce, which I do commend to your attention. You no doubt have read The Portrait of the Artist by him. The best living prose writer.'

After the May issue of the Review, which carried 'Scylla and Charybdis', was stopped for obscenity by the US Post Office, Eliot wrote to John Quinn, the New York lawyer and art patron who funded the journal:

'The affair is only one more episode in a national scandal. I should like to do everything I can about it over here. The part of Ulysses in question struck me as almost the finest I have read: I have lived on it ever since. You know the trouble the Egoist came up against in attempting to print Ulysses here.
  I am sorry to say that I have found it uphill and exasperating work trying to impose Joyce on such 'intellectual' people, or people whose opinion carries weight as I know, in London. He is far from being accepted, yet. I only know two or three people, besides my wife and myself, who are really carried away by him. There is a strong body of critical Brahminism, destructive and conservative in temper, which will not have Joyce. Novelty is no more acceptable here than anywhere else, and the forces of conservatism and obstruction are more intelligent, better educated, and more formidable.'

To John Quinn, 9 July 1919


The best known Eliot and Joyce story is of their first meeting, in Paris in 1920. He'd gone with Wyndham Lewis to Paris to give Joyce a pair of old brown shoes from Ezra Pound. It's told in Lewis' memoir, Blasting and Bombardiering, which mocks Joyce as a bogtrotting provincial. 

'You think he is proud as Lucifer?'
'I would not say Lucifer!' Eliot was on his guard at once...
'You would not say Lucifer? Well I daresay he may be under the impression that he is being 'as proud as Lucifer', or some bogtrotting humbug of that order. What provincials they are, bless their beastly brogues!'
'Provincials - yes!' Eliot agreed with contemptuous unction. 'Provincials.'

I've posted about it here.

Thanks to Eliot's Letters, we now have his own account of this meeting, as well as this delightful drawing he made. 

'We dined with Joyce in Paris, as you will I am sure be interested to know. Fritz Vanderpyl, a friend of Pound and myself, was also present, and I enclose a sketch (by me) of the party. Joyce is a quiet but rather dogmatic man, and has (as I am convinced most superior persons have) a sense of his own importance.  He has a sort of gravity which seems more Protestant than Catholic. He is obviously the man who wrote his books – that is, he impresses you as an important enough personage for that.'

To Sydney Schiff, 22 August 1920

'Did I tell you that I met Joyce in Paris last Autumn? I found him quite charming and I liked him; though I can see that he is certainly a handful, with the true fanatic's conviction that everyone ought to forward the interests of his work.'

To John Quinn, 9 May 1921

So Eliot's 'contemptuous unction' towards Joyce might have been imagined by Lewis.


In Spring 1921, Joyce sent Eliot manuscripts of the 'Oxen of the Sun', 'Circe' and 'Eumaeus' episodes. In his letter to Quinn, above, Eliot, said, 'The latter part of Ulysses, which I have been reading in manuscript, is truly magnificent.'

Eliot wrote to Joyce:

'My dear Joyce,
  I am returning your three manuscripts by registered post as you require, and I am exceedingly obliged for a taste of them. I think they are superb – especially the Descent into Hell, which is stupendous. Only in detail I object to one or two phrases of Elijah: 'ring up' is English, 'call up' the American; 'trunk line' is applied to the telephone service, is English, the American is, if I remember, 'long distance'. I don't quite like the wording of the coon transformation of Elijah, either, but I cannot suggest any detailed alteration. But otherwise I have nothing but admiration; in fact, I wish, for myself, that I had not read it.'

To Joyce, 21 May 1921

Eliot also mentioned the manuscripts in a letter to Robert McAlmon, in which he warned him of the dangers for a writer of living in Paris:

'The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulus, and like most stimulants incites to rushing about and produces a pleasant illusion of great mental activity rather than the solid results of hard work....Joyce I admire as a person who seems to be independent of outside stimulus, and who therefore is likely to go on producing first-rate work until he dies....Joyce has form, immensely careful.  And as for literary – one of the last things he sent me contains a marvellous parody of nearly every style of English prose from 1600 to the Daily Mail.'

To Robert McAlmon, 23 May 1921

Eliot summed up the book's significance in his review  'Ulysses Order and Myth' in The Dial in November 1923:
'I hold this book to be the most important expression which the present age has found; it is a book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can has given me all the surprise, delight, and terror that I can require....Mr. Joyce’s parallel use of the Odyssey...has the importance of a scientific discovery....In using the myth, in manipulating a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity, Mr. Joyce is pursuing a method which others must pursue after him....It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.'


For the same episode of the Dial, Eliot wrote to the eminent literary critic, George Saintsbury (1845-1933), asking him to write an article on Joyce's style and prose rhythms. Saintsbury's History of English Prose Rhythm had been Joyce's major source in writing the parodies in the 'Oxen of the Sun' episode. Joyce also wanted Saintsbury to read his book:

'It would perhaps be well to send a copy (press) to Professor George Saintsbury. I am old fashioned enough to admire him though he may not return the compliment. He is however quite capable of flinging the tome back through your window, especially if the 1922 vintage has not matured to his liking.'   

Joyce to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 17 November 1922

'the 1922 vintage': Saintsbury was a famous wine connoisseur.

Saintsbury wrote Eliot an elegant letter turning down the proposal:

'Dear Mr Eliot
  I'm afraid it's no go. There is no prudery in me but I have what the doctors I believe call an 'irritable vomiting centre' and Mr Joyce unfortunately acts on it like ipecacuanha or a feather. It is a pity: for not only are his more serious or serious-parodist pieces sometimes very good, but he has an odd faculty of more pictorial or musical than purely literary composition. The long bar room piece in the middle is a sort of sonata with the two girls being in and out of it like mottoes. But when you're always expecting to have to run to the side of the ship as you turn the pages it ceases to be delightful. So I must decline to be happy with either of the two ladies who offer themselves so generously and together on this occasion.'

11 February 1923.

Ipecacuanha is a Brazilian plant used as an emetic. Its name means 'roadside sick-making plant'!

I doubt if Eliot shared Saintsbury's opinion with Joyce. If he had, Joyce would probably have used it in Finnegans Wake, as he used The Sporting Times review of Ulysses:

'The main contents of the book are enough to make a Hottentot sick' 

Sporting Times,  1 April 1922

'you squandered among underlings the overload of your extravagance and made a hottentot of dulpeners crawsick with your crumbs.' FW 193.02


In late 1921, Eliot wrote his most famous poem, The Waste Land. Like Joyce, he was manipulating 'a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and history' (Margate Sands and Carthage; Tiresias witnessing the typist and the young man carbuncular) and using myths (the Grail Legend and the Fisher King) to 'give a shape and significance' to his work.

The poem was greatly influenced by the late Ulysses chapters he'd been reading. In the original version, Eliot even included a drunken visit to a Brothel based on the 'Circe' episode.

The Waste Land facsimile, published by Faber

At the end, the narrator is saved from arrest by a passing Mr Donavan, just as Stephen Dedalus is by Corny Kelleher in 'Circe'.

CORNY KELLEHER (To the watch, with drawling eye.) That's all right. I know him.  ....Leave it to me, sergeant. That'll be all right. (He laughs, shaking his head.) We were often as bad ourselves, ay or worse. What? Eh, what?
FIRST WATCH (Laughs.) I suppose so.




The Waste Land and Ulysses were both published in the same year, 1922, exploding like twin modernist bombshells on literatureUlysses, in particular, was so momentous that Ezra Pound saw it as marking the beginning of a new era of world history. He dated it from 29 October 1921, the day Joyce finished Ulysses, and announced the new era with a calendar in the Little Review of Spring 1922.  His 'p.s.u.' stands for 'post scriptum Ulysses' (after Ulysses was written).

Liitle Review (Modernist Journals Project)



Richard Ellmann quotes the Diary of Helen Nutting, in which she records Joyce saying, after reading The Waste Land, 'I had never realised that Eliot was a poet.' She replied, 'I liked it too, but I couldn't understand it.' Joyce asked, 'Do you have to understand it?'

A 1920s notebook entry of Joyce's, quoted by Ellmann, says 'T.S.Eliot ends idea of poetry for ladies'.

Joyce also praised Eliot as a fellow realist in two conversations with the romantic idealist Arthur Power (not a fan):

'Idealism is a pleasant bauble, but in these days of overwhelming reality it no longer interests us....We regard it as a sort of theatrical drop-scene. Most lives are made up like the modern painter's themes, of jugs, and pots and plates, backstreets and blowsy living-rooms inhabited by blowsy women, and of a thousand daily sordid incidents which seep into our minds no matter how we strive to keep them out. These are the furniture of our life which you want to reject for some romantic and flimsy drop-scene....Eliot has a mind which can appreciate and express both and by placing one in contrast to the other he has obtained striking effects.'  

Conversations with James Joyce 86-7

Sitting in a bar in the Champs Elysees, Joyce quoted the Shakespeherian Rag section of The Waste Land, which Power did not like. Power responded with some lines of Browning's Sordello, which Joyce found full of clichés.

'Haven't we had enough of all that. It was written in a tradition that is...already dead....Did you ever hear anyone talk like Browning's characters?....The Waste Land is the expression of our time in which we are trying to lift off the accumulated weight of the ages which was stifling original thought: formulas which may have meant something in the past but which mean nothing today. Eliot searches for images of emotion rather than for an ordered sequence, and in this he is related to all the other modern poets.'

Conversations with James Joyce p.116-7

Joyce seems to have known most of Eliot's poem by heart. He parodied it in a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver:

Rouen is the rainiest place, getting
Inside all impermeables, wetting
Damp marrow in drenched bones.
Midwinter soused us coming over Le Mans
Our inn at Niort was the Grape of Burgundy
But the winepress of the Lord thundered over that grape of Burgundy
And we left it in a hurgundy.
    (Hurry up, Joyce, it's time!)

I heard mosquitoes swarm in old Bordeaux
So many!
I had not thought the earth contained so many
    (Hurry up, Joyce, it's time)

Mr Anthologos, the local gardener,
Greycapped, with politeness full of cunning
Has made wine these fifty years
And told me in his southern French
Le petit vin is the surest drink to buy
For if 'tis bad
Vous ne l'avez pas payé
    (Hurry up, hurry up, now, now, now!)

But we shall have great times,
When we return to Clinic, that waste land
O Esculapios!
    (Shan't we? Shan't we? Shan't we?) 

14 August 1925, Selected Letters, p.308

Eliot's poem also found its way into Finnegans Wake:

A pause. Their orison arises misquewhite as Osman glory, ebbing wasteward, leaves to the soul of light its fading silence (allahlah lahlah lah!), a turquewashed sky.Then:
   — Xanthos! Xanthos! Xanthos!    235.06-7

Apart from 'wasteward' that echoes three parts of Eliot's poem:

'looking into the heart of light, the silence' TWL 41
'Weialala leia / Wallala leialala' TWL 278
'Shantih shantih shantih' TWL 433

And sunrise at the book's end is announced with another triple Shantih:

Sandhyas! Sandhyas! Sandhyas!
Calling all downs. Calling all downs to dayne. Array! Surrection!