On this day…23 February

On 23 February 1917 ‘A Study in Garbage’ appeared in Everyman magazine.

‘A Study in Garbage’ was the title of an anonymous review of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that appeared in Everyman magazine on 23 February 1917. A Portrait had been published in serial form in the Egoist magazine from February 1914 to September 1915. But problems with printers in England meant that it was only published in book form for the first time in America in at the end of December 1916.

The anonymous reviewer in Everyman emphasised not just the difficulty but the dirt of the book, claiming that it “is an astonishingly powerful and extraordinary dirty study of the upbringing of a young man by Jesuits which ends…with his insanity.” The reviewer admits that the ending of the book is impressionistic and difficult to unravel, but it is the dirt that is of most concern. “Mr. Joyce,” the reviewer claims, “is a clever novelist, but we feel he would be really at his best in a treatise on drains…”

Perhaps the interesting aspect of the review today is in the very first line, where the reviewer claims that “Mr. James Joyce is an Irish edition of Mr. Caradoc Evans.” Caradoc Evans (1878-1845) was a Welsh writer whose first published work was a collection of short stories called My People: Tales of the Peasantry of West Wales (1915), which is now compared to Joyce’s Dubliners. My People was so vilified that Evans was referred to as “the best-hated man in Wales” for a while.

Though Evans’ stories had rural settings, whereas Joyce’s Dubliners had urban settings, Evans tried to shock his readers with his realistic depictions of poverty and hypocrisy in a way that was similar to Joyce in Dubliners. Perhaps it was as a result of the anonymous Everyman reviewer that Joyce learnt of Caradoc Evans, but his interest in Evans’ work becomes more specific seven years later, in 1924, when Joyce is working on what was to become Finnegans Wake.

According to Wim van Mierlo, Joyce added notes from his reading of Caradoc Evans to his interest in Celtic topics of all sorts in 1924. Apparently, he only read (or had read to him) the first four stories of My People, and Joyce’s notes indicate that his real interest was in Evans’ language, particularly the local rhythms and idioms. Nonetheless, the notes are quite extensive indicating Joyce’s interest in the works of this Welsh author to whom he had been compared in ‘A Study in Garbage.’


Sources and Further Reading:

Deming, Robert H.: James Joyce – The Critical Heritage, vol. I 1907-1927, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970.


Read Wim van Mierlo on Joyce & Caradoc Evans here.