On this day…29 November

By 29 November 1907 Joyce had finished revising first chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Joyce had been working on an autobiographical novel well before leaving Dublin, but in autumn 1907 he began to rework what he had already written into what was to become A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The first chapter of the revised work was finished by the end of November, but even then Joyce wasn’t entirely happy with it.

Joyce had received something of a boost with the publication of his book of poems, Chamber Music, in May 1907, shortly after his return from Rome to Trieste. By the end of July, when his daughter Lucia was born, Joyce was working on the story ‘The Dead,’ which he’d conceived while in Rome, and his brother Stanislaus, who read it while Joyce was still working on it, was very impressed with it. Even so, Joyce had still not managed to find a publisher for Dubliners since Grant Richards refused to publish it in September 1906.

Joyce had also been suffering ill health since his return from Rome, with tonsillitis in April, and an attack of rheumatic fever in May that left him bedridden for three weeks during which time he couldn’t use his right arm. He was also dissatisfied with his work at the Berlitz School and applied for work elsewhere, including the South African Colonisation Society, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Rome. By the autumn of 1907 he had given up teaching at the Berlitz School and was relying on private students for his income.

Once ‘The Dead’ was finished, Joyce decided to return to work on his autobiographical novel, Stephen Hero. When he described the novel to Grant Richards in March 1906, it was already 914 pages long, or about 150,000 words, and Joyce reckoned that represented about half of the finished novel. At that time he felt he could do no further work on the book which had then advanced as far as chapter XXV of the sixty-three chapters he was planning.

Returning to Stephen Hero in autumn 1907, Joyce told his brother about the changes he wanted to make. His intention was to omit the early chapters of Stephen Hero and have his new book begin instead with Stephen himself. Joyce was also planning other changes: Stephen’s name was to be changed from Daedalus to Daly and, more importantly, the new version would only be five chapters long, albeit five long chapters.

Stanislaus was not entirely confident about the changes Joyce planned, but Joyce laughed at his brother’s objections saying: ‘…is the novel to be your puke or mine?’


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I edited by Stuart Gilbert, vol. II edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1957, 1966.

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