On this day…1 February

On 1 February 1902 Joyce read a paper on James Clarence Mangan to the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin.

Mangan (1803-1849) was an Irish poet closely associated with the Young Irelanders John Mitchel and Thomas Davis. A polyglot, Mangan knew German, French, Italian, and Spanish, and made translations “‘from the Ottoman’ or ‘from the Coptic’” (as Joyce notes) though it’s not clear how much of these oriental languages he actually knew.

A Romantic poet, Mangan also cut a Romantic figure. He was something of an eccentric, wearing a blue cloak, green glasses, a witch’s hat, and a blonde wig, and he was addicted to alcohol and opium. He lived his life in poverty and neglect, and died young of cholera, all of which has added to his Romantic persona. His poems were published under various names in magazines and newspapers including the Dublin University Review and The Nation, and he is now probably best known for his allegorical patriotic poems ‘Dark Rosaleen’ and ‘Kathleen Ny-Houlahan.’

In his paper to the Literary and Historical Society in 1902, Joyce (speaking on the eve of his twentieth birthday) does not simply offer an appreciation of Mangan’s work. Instead, he enlists Mangan for his own aesthetic projects. He represents Mangan as an artist outsider, as one whose “vices were exotic and who was little of a patriot.” Mangan, he says, “has been a stranger in his country, a rare and unsympathetic figure in the streets, where he is seen going forward alone like one who does penance for some ancient sin.” Though Joyce was not to experience literal exile for another two years, he was already experiencing alienation from his fellow students and, under the influence of Ibsen, already saw this alienation or internal exile as part of the role of the artist in society. In this way, Mangan, like Ibsen, was already a model for Joyce to imitate.

The Freeman’s Journal reported on Joyce’s paper the next day, saying: “Mr. James Joyce read an extremely able paper on ‘Mangan,’ and was deservedly applauded at the conclusion for what was generally agreed to have been the best paper ever read before the society.” The University’s student magazine, St Stephen’s, which had previously refused to publish another article by Joyce, commended “the Hatter’s”  paper saying that it “proved highly interesting.” And in May 1902, St Stephen’s published Joyce’s paper on Mangan.

In Trieste in 1907, Joyce planned to give a lecture on Mangan as part of a series of three lectures at the Università Popolare. In the end, he only gave one lecture, but he did write a lecture on Mangan, perhaps inspired by the ‘oriental’ feel of Trieste. But it’s clear that by 1907 Joyce’s view of Mangan had changed considerably. According to Richard Ellmann, Joyce no longer saw Mangan as a great poet but rather as a great symbolic figure: “…Mangan belonged…to Ireland’s past, not its present, and Joyce clearly dissociates his own personality from Mangan’s fainting rhythms.”

Mangan’s ‘orientalism’ – in the form of a Romantic connection with the ‘Orient’ – distinguished him from his contemporaries, and this aspect of his work is of particular interest to Joyceans who find connections between Mangan’s ‘Orient’ and the ‘oriental’ preoccupations of Joycean characters, from the boy in ‘Araby’ to Mr Bloom. There are several references to Mangan in Ulysses and in Finnegans Wake.


Sources & Further Reading:

Joyce’s Dublin and Trieste papers on James Clarence Mangan can be found in Occasional, Critical and Political Writings, edited with an Introduction and notes by Kevin Barry, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.


Bulson, Eric, “On Joyce’s Figura,” in James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 38, nos. 3/4 (Spring/Summer 2001), pp. 431-452.

Clare, Aingeal: “‘Pseudostylic Shamania’: James Joyce and James Clarence Mangan,” in Joyce Studies Annual 2009, pp. 248-265.

Ehrlich, Heyward, “‘Araby’ in Context: The ‘Splendid Bazaar,’ Irish Orientalism, and James Clarence Mangan,” in James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 35, nos. 2/3 (Winter/Spring 1998), pp. 309-331.

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

McCourt, John: The Years of Bloom – James Joyce in Trieste, 1904-1920, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2001.