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.

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