- Journalist Joyce: A Portrait
The newspaper office and the world of the press and journalism were important to Joyce. Besides Leopold Bloom, other of Joyce’s characters such as Robert Hand, Stephen Dedalus, and Gabriel Conroy all have connections to newspapers. Several scenes in Joyce’s fiction can be traced directly to his experiences working in or visiting newspaper offices. Joyce was attracted to the world of newspapers and the profession of being a journalist because they connected him to the emerging and increasingly influential world of mass communication.
According to “A Chronology of Joyce’s Writings” by James F. Spoerri, Joyce’s writing appeared in at least thirty-six publications over a thirty-year period (LettersII lxiii–lxxii). His earliest surviving journalism article was his review of Henrik Ibsen’s When the Dead Awaken (CW 47–67). The critique, titled “Ibsen’s New Drama,” appeared first in the Fortnightly Review on 1 April 1900. Depending on how one defines “journalism,” Joyce’s last work in this genre is probably “From a Banned Writer to a Banned Singer,” which was published in the New Statesman and Nation on 27 February 1932 (CW 258–68). This article, written in the style of Finnegans Wake, is a promotional piece about the singing career of John Sullivan, whom Joyce felt was not getting a fair shake from the critics. Between these two articles, Joyce wrote on a wide variety of topics, including many critical reviews on literary and political topics. He also penned “The Motor Derby: Interview with the French Champion,” an interview with a racing-car driver for the Irish Times that was published 7 April 1903 (CW 106–08). According to Stanislaus Joyce, Joyce completed his interview, but, on receiving a telegram informing him that his mother was dying, he never attended the race (CW 106). Joyce did use this interview as the basis for the short story “After the Race” (CW 106).
Joyce’s major journalism writing can be divided into two main periods. The first consisted of his reviews for the Daily Express when he lived in Paris in 1902 and 1903, a position obtained at the time through the influence of Lady Gregory after he sought her help. Then, from 1907 to 1912, he wrote articles in Trieste for Il Piccolo della Sera.1 Joyce’s work for the Daily Express consisted mainly of critical reviews for its literary page. Ellsworth Mason and Richard Ellmann refer to [End Page 459] some of Joyce’s writings as being “first-rate” (CW 7), but it is worth noting that the Daily Express, a conservative, pro-British newspaper, had a very different political orientation than that of Il Piccolo della Sera. Though he was an Irishman, Joyce apparently did not experience conflicting feelings about working for a pro-British, pro-Empire newspaper. According to Stanislaus, “my brother gave no thought to the politics of the newspaper, because knowing himself he knew that he would not alter a comma in what he wanted to say either to suit the editor’s views or to flatter his patroness.”2 But perhaps Joyce had other reasons to write for a pro-British newspaper. In his introduction to James Joyce: Occasional, Critical, and Political Writing, Kevin Barry states that Joyce welcomed the opportunity to get paid to review: “Cash for writing (if not writing for cash) always appealed to the younger Joyce” (Writing xiv).
Whatever Joyce’s motives were for writing for the Daily Express, he certainly was not concerned about Lady Gregory’s opinion. In perhaps his most controversial assignment for the Daily Express, Joyce reviewed her new book Poets and Dreamers on 26 March 1903 (CW 102–05). His text is as critical of folklore and the wisdom of the country peasant as it is of the writer’s interpretation of their strengths. As Stanislaus states in My Brother’s Keeper, Joyce never altered his review to flatter Lady Gregory (220). Embarrassed by the author’s sharp criticism of his patroness, the editor of the Daily Express, E. V. Longworth, published the review using only Joyce’s initials (CW 102 n1). This incident echoes the scene in “The Dead...