On this day…8 September

On 8 September 1907 Joyce told his brother he was going to rewrite Stephen Hero.

Joyce had started work on Stephen Hero by early 1904 and he continued work on it in Trieste. But by the summer of 1905 he had put it aside, and it wasn’t until September 1907 that he returned to work on it, turning it into the book we now know as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

When Joyce stopped work on Stephen Hero it was 914 pages long or about 150,000 words, and he reckoned he was still only half way through it. But nine months later, in March 1906, he told Grant Richards that he could do no more work on his novel in his present circumstances, and it seems he did nothing further with it until the autumn of 1907.

Though Grant Richards had finally decided not to publish Dubliners in September 1906, Joyce still hadn’t found a publisher for it a year later. However, as Joyce worked through the summer of 1907 on what became the final story of Dubliners, ‘The Dead,’ he seems to have regained his enthusiasm for writing. He showed his brother Stanislaus ‘The Dead’ as he wrote it and Stanislaus was very impressed by it. By 7 September, Stanislaus thought Joyce’s new story worthy of the Russian authors he had read.

Stanislaus let Joyce know what he thought of ‘The Dead’ in part because he hoped his enthusiasm for the story might encourage Joyce back to work on his novel, and on 8 September Joyce told him that was indeed going to rewrite Stephen Hero. ‘The Dead’ was finished around 20 September and Joyce sent Dubliners, now consisting of 15 stories, to publisher Elkin Mathews on 24 September, hoping that Mathews would agree to publish it soon.

Joyce also quit his job at the Berlitz School, though he kept on his private students, and with more time on his hands he was able to get to work on Stephen Hero. By 29 November he had completed the first revised chapter, but after that his doubts returned. In mid-December Joyce was unhappy about the revision of Stephen Hero, and Mathews’ rejection of Dubliners in February 1908 dealt him another blow: why should he bother to write when no one would publish him?

Even so, he kept on with the revision of Stephen Hero. At the beginning of March 1908 he gave the revised second chapter to Stanislaus to read, and had finished the third chapter by April. But once again, the work came to a halt. He may have been working on it again by early 1909 when he gave the revised chapters to Ettore Schmitz to read, but little more happened until he started sending revised chapters to Ezra Pound early in 1914.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. III edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.

McCourt, John: The Years of Bloom – James Joyce in Trieste, 1904-1920, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2001.

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