On this day…15 April

On 15 April 1914 Joyce wrote to Katharine Tynan.

Joyce was writing to thank her for including three of his poems in her anthology, The Wild Harp – A Selection of Irish Poetry, published in London in 1913. Joyce also took the opportunity to point out a couple of mistakes that he would like to see corrected in any future edition.

Katharine Tynan (1859-1931) was a prolific writer of poetry and prose, closely associated with WB Yeats and other writers of the Celtic Revival. She was born in the same year as Joyce’s mother with whom she attended the Misses Flynn’s finishing school run by Joyce’s great-aunts at 15 Usher’s Island. She published her first book of verse, Louise de la Valliére, in 1885 and was an important figure in the Dublin literary scene of the day. She married Henry Hinkson in 1898 and they moved to England where she died in 1931.

The Wild Harp was published in London by Sidgwick & Jackson in 1913. In her introduction, Tynan claimed her anthology “is not intended to be at all representative of Irish poetry generally. Its intention is to capture for English ears, sensitive to a wild music, just such strains as might be sounded by the strings of a harp – something thin, strange, forlorn, something a little unearthly and exquisite, else there would be no reason to garner it.”

Three of Joyce’s poems from Chamber Music appeared in The Wild Harp: ‘Strings in the Earth and Air,’ ‘At that Hour,’ and ‘I Hear an Army.’ In his letter to Tynan in April 1914, he thanked her for the honour she had done him by including his poems though he adds that he hasn’t yet seen the book. Even so, he thought that the text of the poem ‘I Hear an Army’ that she has used contains two mistakes, and he asked that these be corrected in any subsequent printing.

Joyce was right to feel honoured: the anthology contained works by nearly forty Irish poets, including James Clarence Mangan, Samuel Ferguson, Thomas Moore, Douglas Hyde, WB Yeats, Dion Boucicault, Stephen Gwynn, George Russell, and Padraic Colum.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. II, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.