On 22 July 1929 Édouard Dujardin wrote to Joyce praising Ulysse.
Dujardin, author of Les Lauriers sont coupés which had influenced Joyce’s use of interior monologue, had been reading the newly published French translation of Ulysses, and wrote on 22 July to describe the experience.
Joyce had met Dujardin as recently as the Déjeuner Ulysse, held on 27 June to celebrate Bloomsday and the publication of the French translation of Ulysses earlier in the year. Joyce had evidently suggested an English translation of Dujardin’s Les Lauriers sont coupés, and in his letter Dujardin says that he is sending a copy of the book to Joyce’s agent Eric Pinker.
Dujardin goes on the say that he and his wife are just finishing reading Ulysse. He says he can add little to what he had told Joyce at the Déjeuner, but says that the experience of reading Ulysse was like his first experience of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, an almost religious experience. This was high praise indeed from Dujardin. He had travelled to London in 1882 to see the Ring there, and later that year attended the premiere of Parsifal at Wagner’s theatre in Bayreuth. That experience had been like a religious conversion and Dujardin founded the Revue Wagnérienne in 1885 to provide a forum for French Wagnerites.
Indeed it was from Wagner that Dujardin developed his idea of interior monologue, in an effort to reproduce in prose Wagner’s unending or continuous melody and his use of leitmotifs. Joyce had picked up a copy of Les Lauriers sont coupés in Tours in March 1903 and it had a significant influence on his use of interior monologue.
In 1917, Dujardin visited Switzerland for a production of his play Marthe et Marie, but he and Joyce didn’t meet at the time. Apparently, Dujardin’s son worked at the French Consulate in Zurich, and Joyce got Dujardin’s address from him. He wrote to ask where he might be able to obtain another copy of Les Lauriers sont coupés as he had left his own copy in Trieste.
Joyce was happy to acknowledge his debt to Dujardin, and after receiving Dujardin’s letter in July 1929, he contacted his agent, Eric Pinker, to see if he could find a publisher for an English translation. Joyce also inscribed Dujardin’s copy of Ulysses in French – to the discoverer of interior monologue, from the unrepentant thief!
The English translation of Dujardin’s book was eventually made by Joyce’s friend Stuart Gilbert and was published by New Directions in 1938 under the title We’ll to the Woods No More. Shortly after Joyce received a copy of the translation, he wrote to Dujardin, hoping that the long-delayed publication of his book in English would give him some pleasure.
Sources & Further Reading:
Dujardin, Édouard: The Bays are Sere & Interior Monologue, introduced and translated by Anthony Suter, London: Libris, 1991.
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982
Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I, edited by Stuart Gilbert, vols. II & III, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1957 & 1966.