On this day…1 June

On 1 June 1889 CK Ogden was born

Charles Kay Ogden was an English linguist and philosopher with a keen interest in literature and psychology. He was co-author with IA Richards of The Meaning of Meaning, and his translation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico Philosophicus was published in 1922, the same year as Ulysses.

In 1929, Joyce suggested that Ogden might write a preface to Tales Told of Shem and Shaun. Joyce hoped Ogden might discuss the mathematical structure of his Work in Progress. Though Ogden chose not to discuss the structure, Joyce still described Ogden’s preface as ‘useful.’

At the time, Ogden was keenly promoting Basic English, an international language of 850 words in which, he claimed, everything could be said. In 1927, he founded the Orthological Institute at Cambridge to promote Basic English and to train teachers. Realising the usefulness of voice recordings for language teaching, he equipped the Institute with what he claimed were the largest recording machines in the world, and he organised recordings by contemporary writers including Joyce and Shaw.

Joyce chose to read part of the ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ section that had been published for the first time in Le Navire d’Argent on 1 October 1925. For the Orthological Institute’s recording in August 1929, Ogden had part of the text of ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ produced in half-inch letters on large sheets to make it easier for Joyce to read. Even so, the light in the recording studio was not enough for Joyce to see even half-inch letters, and Ellmann claims that he was prompted in a whisper during the recording. Despite the prompt, Joyce faltered during the first attempt and the recording had to start again.

The eight-and-a-half minute recording took up two sides of a twelve-inch disc and sold for two guineas (£2 2s), a large amount of money at the time. Two years later, Ogden said that the first impression had sold out but demand for the recording continued. He said a second impression was being prepared, though he also noted that the price was being halved.

Sylvia Beach thought the recording was beautiful and she was amused by Joyce’s rendering of the brogue of an Irish washer-woman. Ogden also made a translation of the last four pages of ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ into Basic English with Joyce’s assistance. It was published in the journal Psyche in October 1931.

CK Ogden died in 1957.


Sources & Further Reading:

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