On Thursday 7 January 1904 Joyce wrote ‘A Portrait of the Artist.’
The essay was written in a notebook belonging to his sister Mabel, and Joyce offered it to John Eglinton for publication in Dana, a new magazine of which Eglinton was one of the editors. However, Eglinton rejected it.
The essay, dated 7 January 1904, was written in a Vere Foster’s Ruled Exercise Book that has the name of Joyce’s ten year old sister Mabel on the front cover. It seems to be a fair copy with only a few corrections, and was possibly made from earlier drafts or notes.
Joyce recycled some of his earlier epiphanies for this essay, and parts of the essay were later used in Stephen Hero and even in Ulysses. A scene set on a beach may be the basis for the ‘bird-girl’ scene in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and a reference to “the general paralysis of an insane society” is likely related to the paralysis that is a central theme in the stories in Dubliners.
Twelve issues of Dana – A Magazine of Independent Thought appeared between May 1904 and April 1905 edited by John Eglinton (pseudonym of William Magee, an assistant librarian at the National Library of Ireland) and Fred Ryan. Joyce offered Eglinton his manuscript at the Library one evening and, according to Eglinton, Joyce put the manuscript back in his pocket “when I handed it back to him with the timid observation that I did not care to publish what was to myself incomprehensible.”
Eglinton’s rejection was taken well by Joyce who now saw how he might turn his essay into a larger work and, by 10 February 1904, Joyce had finished the first chapter of Stephen Hero. And so, according to Scholes & Kain, “This little essay represents not only Joyce’s manifesto but the commencement of his serious work as a literary artist.”
Eglinton did publish ‘A Song’ by Joyce in the August 1904 edition of Dana but another poem, ‘Bid Adieu,’ wasn’t accepted. There are several mentions of Dana in the ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ episode of Ulysses in which John Eglinton appears as a character, and Joyce had a copy of Dana and a copy of Eglinton’s book Bards and Saints in his Trieste library.
Mabel’s notebook was kept by Joyce’s brother Stanislaus until late 1927 or early 1928. Stanislaus had a typed copy of the essay made before he returned the notebook to Joyce. On 20 January 1928 Joyce wrote a note in the back of the notebook describing the contents as a first draft with a sketch of plot and characters. He then sent the notebook to Sylvia Beach.
‘A Portrait of the Artist’ is reproduced in Scholes & Kain, and in Anderson’s edition of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. A facsimile of the original notebook can be found in the James Joyce Archive, volume 7, pp. 70-94. The original notebook is now in the Joyce Collection at the State University of New York at Buffalo. John Eglinton’s recollections of Joyce are also reproduced in Scholes & Kain.
Anderson, Chester G (ed.): James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Text, Criticism & Notes, Viking Critical Edition, New York: Viking, 1968.
Scholes, Robert, & Richard M Kain (eds.): The Workshop of Daedalus – James Joyce and the Raw Materials for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1965.