On this day…14 August

On 14 August 1904 Joyce got the proofs of ‘The Holy Office from the printer.’

Joyce wrote his satirical poem ‘The Holy Office’ at the beginning of August 1904.  He submitted it to his friend Constantine Curran for publication in St Stephen’s, the student magazine of University College Dublin. On 8 August Curran rejected the poem and Joyce tried instead to have it privately printed.

He took the poem to the Dublin Printing Company, and on 14 August they sent him the proofs of the booklet, asking for them to be corrected and returned. However Joyce wasn’t able to pay for the printing and the print company refused to give him the printed sheets unless he paid for them.

Joyce didn’t find the money to pay the printer before he left Dublin in October 1904. Writing from Pola in mid-November 1904, Joyce told his brother Stanislaus that he had written to the Dublin printer and hoped his poem would be released in a week. This didn’t happen, possibly because the Dublin printer had already discarded the printed sheets. Nothing of the Dublin printing of ‘The Holy Office’ is extant. Instead, Joyce organised to have the poem printed in Trieste, and 50 copies of the poem were sent to Stanislaus in June 1905 for distribution in Dublin.

The poem is a satirical attack on Dublin literary society. Joyce, figuring himself as ‘Katharsis-Purgative,’ refuses to be associated with WB Yeats, George Russell, JM Synge, Oliver St John Gogarty, Padraic Colum, William Magee (who wrote under the name John Eglinton), George Roberts, or Seumas O’Sullivan. But he is still useful to them:

But all these men of whom I speak
Make me the sewer of their clique.
That they may dream their dreamy dreams
I carry off their filthy streams…

But this also allows Joyce to remain separate from them, aloof, and unbowed, like a heretic at the stake, or a stag escaping the pursuing pack:

Where they have crouched and crawled and prayed
I stand the self-doomed, unafraid,
Unfellowed, friendless and alone,
Indifferent as the herring-bone,
Firm as the mountain-ridges where
I flash my antlers on the air.


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.

– -: Poems & Exiles, edited with an Introduction and Notes by JCC Mays, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1992.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.