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An Emendation to the Joycean Canon: The Last Hurrah for "Politics and Cattle Disease"

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 44, Number 3, Spring 2007
pp. 441-453 | 10.1353/jjq.2008.0010

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

—I have put the matter into a nutshell, Mr Deasy said. It's about the foot and mouth disease. Just look through it. There can be no two opinions on the matter.

U 2.321-23

Most Joyceans will be surprised by the lack of evidence of Joyce's authorship that supported the admission into the Critical Writings of the Irish newspaper article "Politics and Cattle Disease." This essay will demonstrate that Joyce did not write the unsigned 10 September 1912 Freeman's Journal newspaper editorial "Politics and Cattle Disease" and that there never was substantial evidence for supposing he did. The most likely author of this editorial was William Brayden, who was the editor of the Freeman's Journal both in 1904, when he appeared in fiction as a character in Ulysses, and in 1912, when the editorial was published. An examination of the newspaper source material has revealed the correct sub-editorial on 6 September 1912 (though not by Joyce) that Ellmann was looking for when he chose "Politics and Cattle Disease," after getting a clue, while examining the Cornell Joyce collection, from a 6 September 1912 letter written by Charles Joyce.

1. The Discovery

The initial clue leading to the discovery of the misattribution of Joyce as the author of "Politics and Cattle Disease" was quite mundane. Foot-and-mouth disease is, as Joyceans know, a subject of Mr. Deasy's letter in the "Nestor" episode of Ulysses, and there is a biographical connection to Joyce. In 1912, while in Ireland, he had helped Henry N. Blackwood Price, an Irishman who lived in Austria, contact William Field, a member of Parliament and President of the Irish Cattle Traders, concerning a veterinary cure for the disease then prevalent in the British Isles (JJII 325). The Price letter was published in the Freeman's Journal, along with an introductory letter from Field, with Price referring to Joyce as "my friend, Professor Joyce" ( JJII 326). These comprise the first set of Field and Price letters and were the only ones known to Ellmann. But could the voice in "Politics and Cattle Disease" be Joyce's? The style of this editorial on the cattle crisis is devoid of literary flourishes, as the heavy-footed text marches forward on clichés: "The situation is critical, and [the Irish farmers and traders] have sound and solid reasons for demanding the reopening of the ports to healthy Irish stock" (CW 240). The author repeats "sound and solid reasons" in the next sentence, again without irony or parody. Such tedious verbiage does not "sound" like Joyce.

Neither vocabulary nor the sentence structure employed by the author comport with Joyce's nonfiction prose style of 1912. The author uses such phrases as "pitiable endeavours," "dishonest clamour," "mischief-makers," "stupid threats," and, near the end, "silly and mischievous language" (CW 238, 239, 241). This style is stuffed with studied chestnuts of common expression and "editorialese." "He" delivers the facts with a direct and staccato rhythm, giving marching orders in a style unlike Joyce's retention of the more languid classical periodic sentence structure. The author of "Politics and Cattle Disease" generally does not use subordinate clauses, and complexity of expression is eschewed. This simple impression of the style alone initially raised serious doubt as to Joyce's authorship.

2. The Hypothesis

The headnote to the Critical Writing version of "Politics and Cattle Disease" states that in a letter of 6 September 1912 Charles Joyce wrote from Dublin to Stanislaus in Trieste that James was the author of a sub-editorial in the Freeman's Journal published 10 September 1912 (CW 238). The passage appears as a postscript to a long letter giving details of the then futile efforts to publish Dubliners and reads as follows: "Jim wrote a sub-editorial today for the Freeman about the Styrian cure for the foot and mouth disease" (LettersII 318). Instead of explaining how Charles knew on 6 September that his brother's text would be the one published on 10 September, Ellmann and Mason claim that the article shows "how completely and quickly Joyce could work up a subject that interested him" and how it "throws some light on the...



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