On this day…3 December

On 3 December 1922 Joyce invited Arthur Power to visit him.

Power first met Joyce in April 1921 and kept notes of his conversations with Joyce over a number of meetings, recording Joyce’s views on literature in particular but also on popular topics of the day.

Born in Guernsey in 1891 Arthur Power grew up on his family’s estate in Waterford. He was educated at Hampstead in England and the family moved to France when he was fourteen. He fought at Ypres during the First World War and, after the war, his interest in art took him to Paris where he painted, wrote art reviews for the New York Herald, and became friendly with a group of artists that included Modigliani. He returned to the family estate in the 1930s and moved to Dublin in 1939 where he opened an art gallery. He wrote art reviews for the Irish Times and the Irish Tatler and Sketch. He died in 1985.

Power met Joyce for the first time in April 1921. Joyce and Sylvia Beach had just reached agreement about the publication of Ulysses and went to the Bal Bullier to celebrate. Power had gone there to meet friends and was brought to Joyce’s table and given an introduction. Joyce asked Power if he was interested in writing and when Power said he wanted to write like the French satirists, Joyce told him that he was Irish and should write in his own tradition. ‘You must write what is in your blood and not what is in your brain,’ Joyce told him. Power said he wanted to be international like all the great writers, but Joyce told him that all the great writers started by being national and that it was the intensity of their nationalism that made them international. ‘For myself,’ he said, ‘I always write about Dublin because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world.’

Power met Joyce frequently while he was working on Ulysses, and though Power didn’t always understand what Joyce was doing, Joyce was glad of his company. Power accompanied Joyce on visits to his eye doctor, Dr Borach, and afterwards to one of Joyce’s favourite haunts, the Café Francis. Joyce also tried to help Power get published, and sent some of Power’s stories to his own agent asking him to find a publisher for them.

Power kept notes from his conversations with Joyce and later published a book and a couple of memoirs. He tried to reconstruct some of the conversations they had from his notes though he admitted that he had forgotten much of what was said. Their conversations ranged over many authors from Synge to Ibsen, Hardy, Pushkin, Turgenev, Chekhov, Gide, Proust, Stendhal, and Hemingway. Late in 1922 they discussed aspects of Egyptian religion after the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in November, and the notorious Bywaters and Thompson trial that started on 6 December.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

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

O’Connor, Ulick: The Joyce We Knew – Memoirs of Joyce, edited with an Introduction by Ulick O’Connor, Dingle: Brandon, 2004.

Power, Arthur: Conversations with James Joyce, edited by Clive Hart, London: Millington, 1974.