Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Samuel Beckett takes Dictation

Beckett in the late 1920s, when he met Joyce
Once or twice he dictated a bit of Finnegans Wake to Beckett, though dictation did not work very well for him; in the middle of one such session there was a knock at the door which Beckett couldn't hear. Joyce said, 'Come in', and Beckett wrote it down. Afterwards he read back what he had written and Joyce said, 'What's that 'Come in'?' 'Yes, you said that,' said Beckett. Joyce thought for a moment, then said, 'Let it stand'. He was quite willing to accept coincidence as his collaborator.

That's a famous story from Ellmann's biography, whose source is a 1954 interview with Beckett. It's an odd story in many ways - odd that Beckett didn't hear the knock on the door, and odd that whoever was knocking didn't come in.

It contradicts the usual image of Joyce as a writer fully in control of his work, 'like the God of creation', as Stephen describes the artist in A Portrait. It was Beckett himself who told his biographer, James Knowlsen, 'I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, [being] in control of one’s material.'  Yet here he is describing Joyce surrendering control!

This is also the only account I know of Joyce dictating any of Finnegans Wake. Ole Vinding, who met Joyce in Copenhagen in 1936, records this conversation:

'A Swiss surgeon has brought back a little of my sight in my left eye, just enough so I can see to write when I put an extra magnifying glass on....'
'Can't you dictate?'
'No, impossible.'
'Is it the style of your books which makes it impossible?'
'I can only write alone, more and more alone. It has developed that way, like my style, which has developed and changed so that what I write simply cannot be expressed in any other way than like dream talk. With day-time talk, such as I used in my youth, I would not achieve anything.'  

'James Joyce in Copenhagen', in Portraits of the Artist in Exile, ed Potts,

That doesn't disprove Beckett's story for, as Ellmann says, 'dictation did not work very well for him'.
 
 Another problem with this story is that, though the phrase 'come in' appears three times in Finnegans Wake, none are out-of-context interjections. There's only one 'Come in' as an imperative - 'come in, come on, you lazy loafs!' at 393.27, but that's in the Mamalujo episode, first published in the Transatlantic Review in 1924, three years before Beckett met Joyce.

You can have a look at the various appearances of 'come in', including 'coocome in' and 'come into' in fweet

It's possible that Joyce might have changed the phrase in a later draft - perhaps to 'Come indoor, Scoffynosey, and shed your swank!' at 257.13.  

Nathan Halper makes two other suggestions:

One—the story is apocryphal. I prefer the second. Ellmann says that Beckett was “fascinated and puzzled” by the other’s method. One would guess that Joyce did not miss this. Clive Hart has suggested that Joyce, “having made a good story of it to Beckett, quietly expunged it later.”

'On An Anecdote of Beckett's', A Wake Newslitter, III.3, June 1966

J.S.Atherton repeats the Beckett anecdote in The Books at the Wake:

The book was indeed his life and he believed that he was entrapping some part of the essence of life within its pages. While he could do 'anything with language' he believed that somehow the spirit of language was working through him of its own volition. An anecdote of Richard Ellman shows Joyce's unusual attitude. (He repeats the anecdote).... The very fact that the misunderstanding  had occurred in actuality gave it prestige for Joyce. This incident shows I think rather more than Ellmann suggests. Joyce was not in his own opinion simply writing a book, he was also performing a work of magic.

I think that's true, even if the Beckett story never took place. There is plenty of other evidence that Joyce, who was deeply superstitious, was willing 'to accept coincidence as collaborator'.

Chance furnishes me with what I need. I am like a man who stumbles along; my foot strikes something, I bend over, and it is exactly what I need.

Jacques Mercanton, 'The Hours of James Joyce', in Portraits of the Artist in Exile (ed Potts) 

He was always looking and listening for the necessary fact or word; and he was a great believer in his luck. What he needed would come to him.
                                                
Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses

It has been interesting to see Mr Joyce's very special method of working. His interest in the little events of the day, during a period filled with political upheavals, has been a constant source of wonder. Rivers, and mountains, and children, and apparently insignificant occurrences in the streets, preoccupy him....
 'This book', he sometimes says, 'is being written by the people I have met or known'. Sometimes he hardly seems to be listening to the conversation around him. Yet nothing escapes his prodigious memory, whether the dialogues be in English, French, German or Italian. It may be a slip of the tongue, a phantasmatic verbal deformation, or just a tic of speech, but it usually turns up later in its proper place.

Eugene Jolas, 'Homage to the Mythmaker', transition 27 (1938) 

'Really it is not I who am writing this crazy book,' Joyce told a party of friends. 'It is you, and you, and you, and that man over there, and that girl at the next table.'  

Eugene Jolas, 'My Friend James Joyce' in James Joyce: Two Decades of Criticism (ed Givens), 1948



 



Thursday, 23 January 2014

Wyndham Lewis


In 1927, Percy Wyndham Lewis made a blistering attack on Joyce in Time and Western Man. It comes in the final chapter, 'An Analysis of the Mind of James Joyce':


Joyce is the poet of the shabby-genteel, impoverished intellectualism of Dublin. His world is the small middle-class one, decorated with a little futile ‘culture,’ of the supper and dance-party in The Dead. Wilde, more brilliantly situated, was an extremely metropolitan personage, a man of the great social work, a great lion of the London drawing-room. Joyce is steeped in the sadness and the shabbiness of the pathetic gentility of the upper shopkeeping class, slumbering at the bottom of a neglected province; never far, in its snobbishly circumscribed despair, from the pawn-shop and the ‘pub.’

Lewis also mocked Joyce's manners, his 'air of genteel decorum and bienséance of the irish middle-class, with his ‘if you pleases’ and ‘no thank-yous,’ his ceremonious Mister-this and Mister-that'

Here Lewis is remembering his first meeting with Joyce, when he visited him in Paris in 1920, with T.S.Eliot to deliver a pair of brown shoes (from Pound). It's described in Lewis's 1937 memoir, Blasting and Bombardeering, where he mocks Joyce as a bogtrotting provincial.  Joyce behaved with 'punctilious reserve', which Eliot found arrogant. Lewis said:


'You think he is proud as Lucifer?'

'I would not say Lucifer!' Eliot was on his guard at once...
'You would not say Lucifer? Well I daresay he may be under the impression that he is being 'as proud as Lucifer', or some bogtrotting humbug of that order. What provincials they are, bless their beastly brogues!'
'Provincials - yes!' Eliot agreed with contemptuous unction. 'Provincials.'
'However he is most polite.'
'He is polite.'
'I have never succeeded in getting out of the door behind him, have you? He is very You First. He is very After you!'
'Oh yes. he is polite, he is polite enough. But he is exceedingly arrogant underneath. That is why he is so polite. I should be better pleased if he were less polite.'

Joyce, who told both Arthur Power and Louis Gillet, 'I'm only a simple middle class man',
was stung by Lewis's assumption of social superiority. He responded to Lewis's attack by putting him in Finnegans Wake, where he is a model for Shaun, the enemy of Shem/Joyce.

Percy Wyndham Lewis
We first find Shaun attacking Shem as bourgeois on page 113:

‘I am a worker, a tombstone mason, anxious to pleace averyburies and jully glad when Christmas comes his once ayear. You are a poorjoist, unctuous to polise nopebobbies and tunnibelly soully when 'tis thime took o'er home, gin. We cannot say aye to aye. We cannot smile noes from noes.’ 113.34


‘You are a poorjoist’ – poor Joyce and bourgeois – unlike the ‘worker’, who’s speaking.

unctuous to polise nopebobbies’ – anxious to please nobody, but also unctuous to the police/bobbies.

Lewis wrote

There is not very much reflection going on at any time inside the head of Mr James Joyce

This is parodied in the Wake, with a play on Lewis's name in 'windy Nous':

There was not very much windy Nous blowing at the given moment through the hat of Mr Melancholy Slow! 56.29

The most extensive portrait of Lewis is as Professor Jones/Shaun, on pages 149 onwards. Writing to Harriet Shaw Weaver, Joyce described this as Shaun 'in his know-all profoundly impressive role for which an ‘ever devoted friend’ (so his letters are signed) unrequestedly consented to pose’ (L.1.258)

Lewis's way of signing his letters to Joyce turns up in Finnegans Wake.

'I'm an everdevoting fiend of his' 408.18 

To Joyce, Lewis was another of his long list of betrayers.

Shaun/ Professor Jones brings up Shem/ Joyce's formal manners:
 
'Of your plates?' 150.03 = 'if you please'.
'Dr's Het Ubeleeft' 150.09 = Dutch 'als het U belieft' - 'if you please'.
 

There are several references to Jews in Professor Jones' attack on Shem ('Gentileman...Judapest' etc) -  Lewis said that Ulysses tells us nothing about Jews. Lewis had the casual antisemitism of his class (like Eliot and Pound, but unlike Joyce) - though he repudiated antisemitism in 1939, with a book ironically called The Jews: Are they Human?  

THE TIME CULT 

Lewis's book is an attack on what he called the ‘time-cult’ of the philosopher Henri Bergson, and the novelists Proust and Joyce. He saw this ‘time cult’ in the representation of flux and the unconscious in Ulysses. Lewis stood for stability, the conscious, and the external, spatial world of objects – he was a painter, after all.

There’s a good summary of Lewis's arguments by Kirsty Dooston. She writes: ‘Through recreating the process of memory and free association, authors like Joyce were relying on things in the past which no longer existed except in the mind (that is in time and not in space). Lewis saw this as an attempt to bring dead matter to life - an attempt to disguise the past as the present.'


Lewis wrote that Ulysses 'lands the reader inside an Aladdin's cave of incredible bric-à-brac, in which a dense mass of dead stuff is collected, from 1901 toothpaste, a bar or two of sweet Rosie O'Grady, to pre-nordic architecture. An immense nature-morte is the result. This ensues from the method of confining the reader in a circumscribed psychological space into which several encyclopaedias have been emptied....It is a suffocating, moeotic expanse of objects, all of them lifeless, the sewage of a Past twenty years old.'

Joyce echoes this at 108.27: 'this Aludin's Cove of our cagacity'.
It strikes me that Lewis has given a good description of Ulysses, apart from the words 'dead', 'suffocating', 'confining', 'circumscribed' and 'lifeless'. The opposite is true - Ulysses, more than any other book, conveys a sense of what it is to be alive. It's because it's an Aladdin's cave of bric-à-brac that I love Ulysses!

Lewis repeatedly uses images of sewage and bowel movements:

(Ulysses) will remain, eternally cathartic, a monument like a record diarrhoea....He collected like a cistern in his youth the last stagnant pumpings of Victorian Anglo-Irish life. This he held steadfastly intact for fifteen years or more—then when he was ripe, as it were, he discharged it, in a dense mass, to his eternal glory. That was Ulysses.
 
Lewis's 'Analysis of the Mind of James Joyce' is parodied on page 292, where, following a mention of Spice and Westend Woman we peep into Shem's brain, and find it full of 'convulvuli of times lost or strayed':

an you could peep inside the cerebralised saucepan of this eer illwinded goodfornobody, you would see in his house of thoughtsam (was you, that is, decontaminated enough to look discarnate) what a jetsam litterage of convolvuli of times lost or strayed, of lands derelict and of tongues laggin too, longa yamsayore, not only that but, search lighting, beached, bashed and beaushelled å la Mer pharahead into faturity...
Lewis drew several portraits of Joyce








There's a similar description by Shaun of the contents of Shem's house, which is also his brain, in the Shem the Penman chapter:

The warped flooring of the lair and soundconducting walls thereof, to say nothing of the uprights and imposts, were persianly literatured with burst loveletters, telltale stories, stickyback snaps, doubtful eggshells, bouchers, flints, borers, puffers, amygdaloid almonds, rindless raisins, alphybettyformed verbage, vivlical viasses, om-piter dictas, visus umbique, ahems and ahahs, imeffible tries at speech unasyllabled, you owe mes, eyoldhyms, fluefoul smut, fallen lucifers, vestas which had served, showered ornaments, borrowed brogues, reversibles jackets, blackeye lenses, family jars, falsehair shirts, Godforsaken scapulars, neverworn breeches, cutthroat ties, counterfeit franks, best intentions, curried notes, upset latten tintacks, unused mill and stumpling stones, twisted quills, painful digests, magnifying wineglasses, solid objects cast at goblins, once current puns, quashed quotatoes, messes of mottage, unquestionable issue papers, seedy ejaculations, limerick damns, crocodile tears, spilt ink, blasphematory spits, stale shest-nuts, schoolgirl’s, young ladies, milkmaids’, washerwomen’s, shopkeepers’ wives, merry widows’, ex nuns’, vice abbess’s, pro virgins’, super whores’, silent sisters’, Charleys’ aunts’, grand-mothers’, mothers’-inlaws, fostermothers’, godmothers’ garters 183.08 on


Lewis had his own magazine, Blast, where he blasted everything he hated (left).

We find Blast in the Shem the Penman chapter, where Shaun describes Shem as 'a boosted blasted bleating blatant bloaten blasphorus blesphorous idiot who kennot tail a bomb from a painapple'. 167.13

In the Wake it is space which is dead, not time. Shaun stands for space, represented by a dead stone, while Shem stands for time, represented by a living tree. Shaun 'points the deathbone and the quick are still' (193.28), but Shem 'lifts the lifewand and the dumb speak' 195.05


Joyce also answered Lewis's criticism in his fable the Ondt and the Gracehoper, where Joyce/Shem/the feckless grasshopper/Time addresses Lewis/Shaun/the respectable ant/Space. Time gets the last word: 

Your feats end enormous, your volumes immense,
(May the Graces I hoped for sing your Ondtship song sense!),
Your genus its worldwide, your spacest sublime!
But, Holy Saltmartin, why can't you beat time?
419.5-8


On page 151, Professor Jones/Shaun/ Lewis, who's been boasting about his 'spacious immensity', triumphs over his academic opponents, the time philosophers:


I need not anthrapologise for any obintentional (I must here correct all that school of neoitalian or paleoparisien schola of tinkers and spanglers who say I'm wrong parcequeue out of revolscian from romanitis I want to be) downtrodding on my foes. 151.08-12


Primary meaning: I need not apologize for any unintentional (I must here correct that school of thinkers/tinkers who say I’m wrong) treading down on my academic foes.

school of neoitalian of paleoparisian schola of tinkers and spanglers – the new Italian and old Parisian schools of thinkers – perhaps the great medieval scholastic universities – Paris, Bologna and Padua.
‘Tinkers’ is an Irish snobbish term of abuse, from the Irish travelling people (cf ‘What did those tinkers in the city hall at their caucus meeting decide about the Irish language?’  Cyclops).


Spanglers‘Spengler’ is German for tinsmith but also suggests Oswald Spengler, author of The Decline of the West, described by Lewis as the 'perfect model of a time-book'.


‘out of revolscian from romanitis’ – ‘out of revulsion from romanticism’ – In Time and Western Man, Lewis set himself up as a classicist (linked with space/fixity) opposed to romanticism (linked with time/flux and in love with the past) – he accused Joyce of being a romantic, defining romanticism as 'something opposed to the actual or the real.'


Ironically, Joyce would have agreed with this definition; he saw himself as a realist, not a romantic:


In realism you are down to facts on which the world is based: that sudden reality which smashes romanticism into a pulp. What makes most people’s lives unhappy is some disappointed romanticism, some unrealizable or misconceived ideal. In fact you may say that idealism is the ruin of man, and if we lived down to fact, as primitive man had to do, we would be better off. That is what we were made for. Nature is quite unromantic. It is we who put romance into her, which is false attitude, an egotism, absurd like all egotisms. In Ulysses I tried to keep close to fact. To Arthur Power

‘downtrodding on my foes’ also suggests treading on my toes.

THE UNCLE CHARLES PRINCIPLE 
Wyndham Lewis was a bad critic of Joyce's prose. For example, in A Portrait, Joyce writes:

'Every morning...Uncle Charles repaired to his outhouse...'
 


Lewis wrote, 'People repair to places of fiction of the humblest order.'
 

Note again the snootishness of Lewis's criticism - 'fiction of the humblest order'.

He didn't realise that Joyce chose 'repaired' deliberately because it was the word that Uncle Charles himself would have used. Hugh Kenner, in his wonderful book, Joyce's Voices, uses this as the basis for what he calls the 'Uncle Charles principle: the narrative idiom need not be the narrator's.' Kenner says that Joyce's words 'are in such delicate equilibrium, like the components of a sensitive piece of apparatus, that they detect the gravitational field of the nearest person.' His example is the opening of The Dead: 'Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet' - ''literally'' reflects not what the narrator would say (who is he?) but what Lily would say:''I am literally run off my feet''.' 

Joyce said to Frank Budgen, ‘Allowing that the whole of what Lewis says about my book is true, is it more than ten per cent of the truth?’(James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses)

There's some very odd spaces in this post - I can't seem to get rid of them! Is this interference from Wyndham Lewis, the space man?!

 
 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Paris Memoirs: Thumping Hemingway


Ernest and his boxing!....Ernest back in the States would say to Josephine Herbst, 'But my writing is nothing. My boxing is everything.' When Miss Herbst told this to me, I was full of wonder. That a great artist like Ernest could have such a view of himself seemed incredible. Yet in the strange dark depths of his being he had to pretend to believe it. For the sake of the peace of their souls most men live by pretending to believe in something they secretly know isn't true.
                                                                          Morley Callaghan, That Summer in Paris


One of the pleasures of reading memoirs of 1920s Paris is finding different, and contradictory, accounts of the same event. A good example of this is the 1929 boxing encounter between Ernest Hemingway and Morley Callaghan, refereed by F.Scott Fitzgerald. This is the centrepiece of Callaghan's memoir, which Truman Capote described as 'a modest bad dull book which contains a superb short story about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Callaghan.'

Callaghan and Hemingway had become friends while they were both working as journalists on the Toronto Star. Hemingway admired Callaghan's writing, though he was not happy when the latter published a story about a prizefighter.

In a letter to a mutual friend, he made one critical comment....He told this friend that when Morley wrote stories about the things he knew, there was no one any better, but he should stick to the things he knew about. What was bothering Ernest? I wondered. Did he think that in writing about a fighter I had made an unworthy excursion into his own imaginary world? Was it because I had forgotten to tell him I had done a lot of boxing and went to all the fights?     

That Summer in Paris


When the two writers met again, in Paris in 1929, the first thing that Hemingway asked Callaghan about was boxing.

He turned to me as he sat down, and apparently at random, just to make conversation, asked if I had ever done any boxing. Yes, I had done quite a bit of boxing, I said truthfully. 'Just a minute', he said quietly and he left the room....Then Ernest reappeared with a set of boxing gloves. 'Come on, let's see,' he said holding out a pair of gloves to me.

The next day, they went to the American Club for a proper scrap.

Ernest was big and heavy, over six feet, and I was only five foot eight. Whatever skill I had in boxing had to do with avoiding getting hit. Admittedly I had a most unorthodox style, carrying my gloves far too low, counting on being fast with my hands....I soon found that I could hit him easily. Seeing that I was carrying my left far too low, he would half jab with his left, then try the right, but his timing was way off. I would draw him closer by feinting a step backward, inviting him to move in with his long left, then step in and beat him to the punch with my own left. His right, coming at me correctly was far too slow. I was catching him on the mouth or jaw. As the round progressed I became at ease and sure of myself. I could see that, while he may have thought about boxing, dreamed about boxing, consorted with old fighters and hung around gyms, I had actually done more actual boxing with men who could box a little and weren't just taking exercise or fooling around.  

On a later occasion, Callaghan made Hemingway's mouth bleed.

He loudly sucked in all the blood. He waited, watching me, and took another punch on the mouth. Then as I went to slip in again, he stiffened. Suddenly he spat at me; he spat a mouthful of blood: he spat in my face. My gym shirt too was spattered with blood.
  I was so shocked I dropped my gloves....It is a terrible insult for a man to spit at another man. We stared at each other. 'That's what bullfighters do when they're wounded. It's way of showing contempt,' he said solemnly.
 
In Paris, Callaghan also got to know F Scott Fitzgerald, whose behaviour was even more bizarre than Hemingway's. At their first meeting, Fitzgerald talked about a number of writers he admired, none of whom impressed Callaghan.


He smiled sweetly, his head on one side again, as he considered some grave problem....Then half to himself, 'Who does impress you, Morley?'
  My face began to burn....before I could speak, stand up, make the necessary polite little remarks, Scott himself stood up slowly. 'Would this impress you, Morley?' he asked sweetly.
  Suddenly he got down on his knees, put his head on the floor and tried to stand on his head. One leg came up, and he tried to get the other one up and maintain his balance....Then he lost his balance and sprawled flat on his face.

Fitzgerald was impressed by tales of Hemingway's boxing.

Scott began to repeat to me the story...about Hemingway jumping into the ring and knocking out the middleweight champion of France. He told it as if he were letting me in on something and he sounded a little awed. I could hardly conceal my exasperation. 'Do you really think Ernest is that good?' I asked.
...With a judicial air he pondered, 'Ernest is probably not good enough to be the heavyweight champion, ' he said gravely. 'But I would say that he is about as good as Young Stribling.'
  Young Stribling was a famous first-class light heavyweight who was so good he was forced to fight heavyweights. 'Look Scott,' I said to him. 'Ernest is an amateur. I'm an amateur. All this talk is ridiculous. But we do have fun.'
  Not convinced at all, he shook his head. But then at last he said it; what he had been wanting to say for weeks. 'Could I come along with you sometime?' 

So, a week later, Callaghan and Hemingway were squaring off at the American Club, while  Scott Fitzgerald held a watch, timing two minute rounds. The presence of Fitzgerald made Hemingway fight more recklessly than usual.

Ernest got careless; he came in too fast, his left down, and he got smacked on the mouth. His lip began to bleed....Out of the corner of his eye he may have seen the shocked expression on Scott's face...He came lunging in, swinging more recklessly....Ernest, wiping the blood from his mouth with his glove, and probably made careless with exasperation and embarrassment from having Scott there, came leaping in at me. Stepping in, I beat him to the punch. The timing may have been just right. I caught him on the jaw; spinning around he went down, sprawled out on his back.
 ....Shaking his head a little to clear it, he rested a moment on his back. As he rose slowly, I expected him to curse, then laugh.
  'Oh my God!' Scott said suddenly. When I looked at him, alarmed, he was shaking his head helplessly. 'I let the round go four minutes,' he said.
  'Christ!' Ernest yelled. He got up....'All right Scott,' Ernest said savagely. 'If you want to see me getting the shit knocked out of me, just say so. Only don't say you made a mistake' and he stomped off to the shower room to wipe the blood from his mouth.

That's Callaghan's own version of the fight. Here's the story reported by John Glassco.

Morley was babbling quietly....Bob had taken him to see Joyce; and his new novel was almost finished. But he was especially pleased to have boxed with Hemingway, and to have either knocked the great man out or given him a nosebleed – it wasn't clear which. He was thrilled by this triumph, though he played it down modestly; in his quiet way he was able to invest the experience with a certain mystical quality. It was clear it was a major event.
  'Well,' said Graeme after he had gone, 'I'm glad he pasted Hemingway.'
  We agreed it was peculiarly fitting that the master had been bested in the ring by a man smaller and stouter than himself.
                                                John Glassco, Memoirs of Montparnasse

Robert McAlmon also heard all about it.

The famous Callaghan-Hemingway bout that took place in 1929 was reported to me several ways: by Hemingway, by Callaghan, and by Scott Fitzgerald. Callaghan's report was that Scott was to referee, and they were to have three or four two minute rounds. Hemingway was the taller and heavier man. Callaghan, actually, was short and inclined to a look of flabbiness and rotundity. Scott was sure that Hemingway only needed to play with Callaghan, and let him down easily, without showing him up in a mortifying way.  The first round did not turn out that way, however, and so Scott forgot to tell time....Hemingway's story was that he had been drinking the night before and was boxing on three pick-me-up whiskies, and that his wind gave out. The decision results were, however, that neither Hemingway not Callaghan could decide what the bout proved. Was one a better boxer but not so good a writer as the other, or was one a better writer and boxer, or had Scott framed one or other of them?
                                                              Robert McAlmon, Being Geniuses Together

Hemingway told a very different story to Samuel Putnam, the American translator of Cervantes, who wrote yet another memoir.

He was quite excited over a boxing match which he had staged with Morley Callaghan, who was passing through Paris...Callaghan, it seemed, had defeated him in a set of tennis and he had to have his revenge. They accordingly had put on the gloves in the basement of Hemingway's house, and Ernest, by his own account, had 'knocked hell out of' his opponent. He appealed to Mrs Hemingway to corroborate this, and it seemed to me that she treated him somewhat as one might a bright and loveable child. But it was plain that for him this was another of life's important exploits.

Samuel Putnam, Paris Was Our Mistress, 1947

That Summer in Paris has a postscript to the story. A few months after the boxing encounter, Callaghan, back in New York, picked up a copy of the New York Herald Tribune, and turned to Isabel Paterson's gossip page.

My eye caught Hemingway's name, then my own. This story was about my meeting Hemingway in Paris. According to this story Hemingway, sitting at the Dome when I came along, told me the story I had written about a prize-fighter was no good; it was obvious I knew nothing about boxing. And there and then he challenged me to a match. I had knocked him out in one round.

Callaghan wrote a letter to the paper saying the story was not true, but then received a cable, collect, from Fitzgerald:

HAVE SEEN STORY IN HERALD TRIBUNE. ERNEST AND I AWAIT YOUR CORRECTION

Callaghan wrote a furious letter back

I told him it had been unnecessary for him to rush in to defend Ernest. For him to hurry out and send that cable to me collect without waiting to see what I would do was the act of a son of a bitch and I could only assume that he was drunk as usual when he wrote it.
  Finally I heard from Ernest. The letter was a beauty....He took the entire responsibility for sending of the cable to me....If I wanted to switch to him the abusive terms I had directed at Scott, he was coming to the States shortly and would be at my service wherever it could be kept private.
  So Ernest wanted to meet me and knock my block off!

All this is a long way from James Joyce, whose own attitude to boxing was described by his brother, Stanislaus:

My brother detested rugby, boxing and wrestling, which he considered a training not in self-control, as the English pretend, but in violence and brutality.  
                                                                                           My Brother's Keeper, 1958 



The artist, Harland Miller, hits the nail on the head

 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Paris Memoirs: Morley Callaghan

Bob McAlmon, John Glassco and Graeme Taylor
Here's another extract from John Glassco's brilliant Memoirs of Montparnasse. It's 1929, and Glassco, Robert McAlmon and Graeme Taylor are talking about the up-and-coming Canadian writer, Morley Callaghan, who's just arrived in Paris:

'Today we're meeting the white hope of North American literature,' said Bob one morning. 'His name is Callaghan, and he's just come to town with a pisspot full of money from a book called Strange Fugitive. Have you read it?'
  'No', said Graeme. 'But I know his stories in the New Yorker. Very fine and sophisticated. Just like Hemingway's, only plaintive and more moral.'
 'Well, Fitzgerald says he's good, so he's probably lousy. Anyway he has a lot of dough, so we might get a dinner out of him. He's Canadian too. What do you think he's like?'
  'Well,' said Graeme. I see him as tall, thin, blond, cynical, in a pin-striped suit. It's the way he writes anyway.'

Here's the dust jacket of Callaghan's first novel, Strange Fugitive (1928).


This image of Callaghan as 'tall, thin, blond, cynical, in a pin-striped suit' is a typical John Glassco joke. Morley Callaghan turns out to be a small, plump, dark, shabbily dressed, naive tourist:


Morley Callaghan was short, dark and roly-poly, and wore a striped shirt without a collar; with his moon face and little moustache he looked very like Hemingway; he even had the same shrewd little politician's eyes, the same lopsided grin and ingratiating voice. His wife was also short and thickset. Both of them were so friendly and unpretentious that I liked them at once. It was like meeting people from a small town. We apologized for not finding them sooner, saying we had looked in at the Coupole.
  'I didn't like that Coupole, it's too much of a clip-joint,' said Callaghan, 'The drinks here are just as good, and a lot cheaper. Eh, Loretto?'
  'Yes, about fifteen per cent less, Morley. And you have just the same view here. My, this is a lovely city, but the French are right after you for all they can get. You find that, Mr Taylor?'
 'Yes,' said Graeme. 'You get used to it.'
 'Like hell we will,' said Morley.

Callaghan now changes the subject, and asks McAlmon the very question which I would have asked if I'd been in his place.

Suddenly changing the subject, he asked, 'Say, how do you get to meet James Joyce? McAlmon, you know him, I'm told.'
  'You're damn right I do,' said Bob. 'But what do you want to do in Paris, go around like a literary rubberneck meeting great men? I'm a great man too, for God's sake. And here I am. Ask me your questions. I'll even give you my autograph.'
  'You're a good writer, ' said Morley, all his strength of character appearing, 'but you're not Joyce – not yet. What the hell,' he went on, 'this guy Joyce is great. Ulysses is the greatest novel of the century. I wouldn't compare myself to him. Why should you?'
  'Oh,' said Bob, 'now you're getting modest. Well, you can't fool me. You think you're one hell of a writer, why don't you admit it? Why do you give me all this crap about Joyce? You're more important to yourself. If you think so much of Joyce, why don't you write like him instead of your constipated idol Hemingway? Lean, crisp, constipated, dead-pan prose. The fake naive.'
  'Now, McAlmon, let's go into this properly. First thing, I don't write like Joyce for the simple reason that I can't, it's not my line. But I can admire him, can't I?'
 'No, you can't. You can't admire Joyce and write like Hemingway. If you do, you're a whore.'
 Morley reddened. 'You're a funny guy. I don't know if you're talking seriously, but let me tell you I write as well as I can, and though you may not like my stuff...'
 'I've never read your stuff. I don't read The New Yorker.'
 'Well then what in heck are you talking about? Perhaps you haven't read Joyce either.'
 'Right! I haven't read Joyce or Hemingway. I don't have to. I know them – and I know you too, Morley, and I like you. Especially when you get mad. I know you're a good writer. The test of a good writer is when he gets mad.'

After the Callaghans leave, McAlmon (consistently two-faced in Glassco's book) dismisses Morley as 'a dumb cluck'.

'Well there goes your sophisticated New Yorker type,' said Bob when Morley and Loretto had left in search of a cheap restaurant.
  'They're both very nice, ' said Graeme. 'He's got brains and determination and a devoted wife. He'll go far.'
  'Rats, he's just a dumb cluck, an urban hick, a sentimental Catholic. All he's got is a little-boy quality.'

On a later occasion, Callaghan and Glassco are talking about McAlmon.

'I like you and Graeme, ' he said. 'So does Loretto. But say, what's biting your friend McAlmon? I can't make him out.'
 'He's always that way.'
 'I admire his work – in a way. 'Miss Knight' is a nice piece of writing. No one has gotten that type of fairy down on paper before. In fact, McAlmon's pretty good when he's writing about fairies. How do you account for that?'
  I tried to give the appearance of someone forming a considered judgement. 'He just has a natural sympathy for everything eccentric.'

This is another wonderful comic moment, for Taylor, Glassco and McAlmon were all bisexual.


All the above is by way of introduction to Morley Callaghan's own memoir, That Summer In Paris (1963), which I read straight after McAlmon's Being Geniuses Together. It's a gripping and funny read, and confirms Glassco's picture of Morley Callaghan as an innocent abroad.

The cover of my copy has bad portraits of F.Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. These two writers dominate the book, just as they dominated Callaghan's time in Paris. He had little interest in the city itself - all he cared about was writing and meeting his fellow writers.

'Memories of tangled frendships', on the cover, is a good description of the book, which is mostly a series of baffling encounters with the literary lions of Paris. Callaghan is constantly surprised and confused by their behaviour and their mutual hatreds.

Scott didn't like McAlmon. McAlmon no longer liked Hemingway. Hemingway had turned against Scott. I had turned up my nose at Ford. Hemingway liked Joyce. Joyce liked McAlmon....Around the Quarter, indignities, bitter or comical, were shared so frequently they became little more than part of the daily gossip.

Callaghan is thrilled when McAlmon invites him to have dinner with the Joyces, at their favourite restaurant, the Trianon.

It was a restaurant near the Gare Montparnasse, where the food was notably good. Just to the right as you go in we saw McAlmon sitting with the Joyces. The Irishman's picture was as familiar to us as any movie star's. He was a small-boned, dark Irishman with fine features. He had thick glasses and was wearing a dark suit. his courtly manner made it easy for us to sit down, and his wife, large bosomed with a good-natured face, offered us a massive motherly ease. They were both so unpretentious it became impossible for me to resort to Homeric formalities. I couldn't even say, 'Sir, you are the greatest writer of our time,' for Joyce immediately became too chatty, too full of little bits of conversation, altogether unlike the impression we had been given of him.

Joyce in 1929 photographed by Berenice Abbott
After the meal ends, the evening continues back at the Joyces.


It was now ten o'clock. Turning to his wife, Joyce used the words I remember so well. 'Have we still got that bottle of whisky in the house Nora?'
 'Yes we have,' she said.
 'Perhaps Mr and Mrs Callaghan would like to drink it with us.'
 Would we? My wife said we would indeed and I hid my excitement and elation. An evening at home with the Joyces, and Joyce willing to talk and gossip about other writers while we killed a bottle! Stories about Yeats, opinions about Proust!...It all danced wildly in my head as we left the restaurant.

Callaghan is upset to find that Joyce, the arch modernist, does not live in modernist surroundings.

The Joyce apartment, at least the living room in which we sat, upset me. Nothing looked right. In the whole world there wasn't a more original writer than Joyce, the exotic in the English language. In the work he had on hand he was exploring the language of the dream world. In this room where he led his life I must have expected to see some of the marks of his wild imagination. Yet the place was conservatively respectable....The room was all in a conventional middle-class pattern with, if I remember, a brown patterned wallpaper, a mantel, and a painting of Joyce's father hanging above the mantel. Mrs Joyce had promptly brought out the bottle of Scotch. As we began to drink, we joked and laughed and Joyce got talking about the movies. A number of times a week he went to the movies. Movies interested him. As he talked I seemed to see him in a darkened theatre, the great prose master absorbed in camera technique, so like the dream technique, one picture then another flashing in his mind. Did it all add to his knowledge of the logic of the dream world?
   As the conversation began to trail off I got ready. At the right moment I would plunge in and question him about his contemporaries. But damn it all, I was too slow. Something said about the movies had reminded McAlmon of his grandmother. In a warm, genial, expansive mood, and as much at home with the Joyces as he was with us, he talked about his dear old grandmother, with a happy nostalgic smile. The rich pleasure he got out of his boyhood recollections was so pure that neither the Joyces nor my wife nor I could bear to interrupt. At least not at first. But he kept it up. For half an hour he went on and on. Under my breath I cursed him again and again. Instead of listening to Joyce, I was listening to McAlmon chuckling away about his grandmother. Quivering with impatience I looked at Joyce, who had an amused little smile. No one could interrupt McAlmon. Mrs Joyce seemed to have an extraordinary capacity for sitting motionless and looking interested. The day would come, I thought bitterly, when I would be able to tell my children I had sat one night with Joyce listening to McAlmon talking about his grandmother.
  
The evening now takes an odder turn.

Aimee Semple McPherson
When McAlmon paused to take another drink, Joyce caught him off balance. 'Do you think Mr and Mrs Callaghan would like to hear the record?' he asked his wife.
 'What record?' asked McAlmon, blinking suspiciously...Mrs Joyce was regarding my wife and me very gravely. 'Yes,' she said. 'I think it might interest them.'
  'What record?' McAlmon repeated uneasily.
  Mrs Joyce rose, got a record out of a cabinet and put it on the machine. After a moment my wife and I looked at each other in astonishment. Aimee Semple McPherson was preaching a sermon!  At that time, everyone in Europe and America had heard of Mrs McPherson, the attractive, seductive blonde evangelist from California. But why should Joyce be interested in the woman evangelist? and us? and McAlmon? Cut off, and therefore crestfallen, he too waited, mystified. Joyce had nodded to me, inviting my scholarly attention....
 The evangelist had an extraordinary voice, warm, low, throaty and imploring. But what was she asking for? As we listened, my wife and I exchanging glances, we became aware that the Joyces were watching us intently, while Mrs McPherson's voice rose and fell. The voice, in a tone of ecstatic abandonment, took on an ancient familiar rhythm. It became like a woman's urgent love moan as she begged. 'Come, come on to me, And I will give you rest...and I will give you rest...Come, come...' My wife, her eyebrows raised, caught my glance, then we averted our eyes, as if afraid that the Joyces would know what we were thinking. But Joyce, who had been watching us intently, had caught our glance. It was enough. He brightened and chuckled. Then Mrs Joyce, who had also kept her eyes on us, burst out laughing herself. Nothing had to be explained. Grinning mischievously, in enormous satisfaction with his small success, Joyce poured us another drink.
  Before we could comment, his daughter, a pretty dark young woman, came in. And a few minutes later, his son too joined us. It was time for us to leave.
  When we had taken Robert McAlmon, publisher of the city of Paris, home, we wandered over to the Coupole. That night we shared an extraordinary elation at being in Paris....It was a good night.

Isn't that a great story? And you won't find any of this in Ellmann's biography of Joyce - it doesn't fit his big narrative themes.

 

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Earwicker Graves in Sidlesham


The main character in Finnegans Wake goes by many names, usually with the initials HCE (Howth Castle and Environs, Here Comes Everybody, Haveth Childers Everywhere, Haroun Childeric Eggeberth, He'll Cheat E'erawan, human erring and condonable, Handiman the Chomp, Esquoro etc). But his primary name is Earwicker. 




Chapter two begins with a discussion of how he came by this unusual surname.

Now...concerning the genesis of Harold or Humphrey Chimpden’s occupational agnomen...and discarding once for all those theories from older sources which would link him back with such pivotal ancestors as the Glues, the Gravys, the Northeasts, the Ankers and the Earwickers of Sidlesham in the Hundred of Manhood...

Sidlesham is a village in Sussex, south of Chichester, in the Manhood Peninsula, also called the 'Hundred of Manhood' (A 'hundred' is an ancient administrative district). According to wikipedia, the name probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon maene-wudu meaning 'men's wood' or 'common wood.'  Joyce would have discovered Sidlesham, and the name Earwicker, when he was on holiday in neighbouring Bognor Regis, in the summer of 1923.

In 1961, Clive Hart visited Sidlesham and found several tombstones in the churchyard with the name 'Earwicker' on them. After making enquiries, he learned that there were still three elderly Earwickers living locally. He quotes this touching letter from Miss Gertrude Earwicker:

William Earwicker is the first one that we have known of coming to live in Sidlesham, some time in the 17 century, he died here in 1793, as a headstone in the Churchyard shows. His sons were William, John, & George, John being our grandfather, he passed on before we were born, so we did not know him. Our father Charles William used to tell us of their school days etc, he died in 1922. Our grandfather (John) bought a small farm, and built a house in 1858 Redgate Farm, the one that we sold in September, our father, and us were all born there, I had no other home, but as we are getting to our seventies, we could not carry on, and our brother Arthur has no children to carry on either. Our great uncle had a little school for the boys of Sidlesham at his cottage, he had been in the Army, in the 52nd Foot Regiment, educated himself in his travels, I believe taught them quite well in reading, writing, and arithematic, there was not a school here then, afterwards they walked daily to Chichester, (five miles) to finish their education, our father, and his brother Thomas, and John were among the boys. Our grandfather (John) used to sound the note on the pipe for the singing in the Church, (no organ) We were told that he was accidentally shut in the Church one night, he had gone into the belfry to look for an owl that was lodging there. Not knowing how to get out he rang the bells furiously, which soon brought someone to his rescue ... Earwickers now in Sidlesham, are myself Gertrude my sister Nellie Law, (widow) and my brother Arthur Earwicker.

quoted by Clive Hart, 'The Earwickers of Sidlesham' A Wake Digest, 1968 

Hart suggested that Joyce had found the name Earwicker when visiting the churchyard. However, Peter Timmerman later discovered that Joyce had used a written source, A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to Bognor, 1923, which has this sentence:

Sidlesham Church is an Early English structure worthy of notice, and an examination of the surrounding tombstones should not be omitted if any interest is felt in deciphering curious names, striking examples being Earwicker, Glue, Gravy, Boniface, Anker, and Northeast.
                'The First Guide to Finnegans Wake', A Wake Newslitter,  June 1979

By chance, my sister Sarah and her husband Ben have just bought a coastguard's cottage in Selsey, which is only a short distance from Sidlesham. Going to visit for the first time this Saturday, Lisa and I arranged to meet them in the churchyard, to look for Earwickers, Glues, Gravys, Ankers and Northeasts.


We got the bus from Chichester to Sidlesham, a picture postcard village, of thatched white-painted flint and pebble houses.

This is Church Lane, which led us to the Church of St Mary, where the Earwickers are buried.





 Here's the church, which is mostly thirteenth century.




























Lisa and I got to the Church first, and started inspecting the gravestones. After a few minutes, I heard Lisa shout, 'I've found an Earwicker!' 

By chance, it was the grave of Gertrude Earwicker, author of the letter to Clive Hart, who died in 1976, aged 86.












A few feet away, we found Gertrude's younger brother Arthur - perhaps the last of the Sidlesham Earwickers, though flowers are still placed on the grave.

 We discovered that they had had an older brother, William, who died aged just 16 in 1900.

  

There was yet another brother, Charles, 'called from this life' in 1961, aged 68.


 
The War Memorial in the Churchyard has a Glue and a Boniface among the names

 
 
We were now joined by Sarah, Ben and their daughter Anna, and I got them hunting for Earwickers, Glues, Gravys, Northeasts and Ankers. 


Lisa, Sarah, Ben and Anna
The only one of us who had any luck was Lisa, who has a newfound skill in deciphering gravestones. Next she found George Earwicker (1802-89), the brother of Gertrude's grandfather.


This was followed by her discovery of the 1881 grave of Isaac Glue!


Lisa then disappeared round the back of the Church, where she found the very first Earwicker grave, belonging to William, who died in 1793.


We didn't find any Gravys, Ankers or Northeasts, though we did come across a whole row of tombstones of several generations of men, all called 'Barzulai Porder'.

In Finnegans Wake, Joyce tells us that Earwicker is his hero's 'occupational agnomen', a surname which began as a nickname. He gives us a shaggy dog story about HCE receiving the name from a visiting king, who comes across him carrying a flowerpot on a pole, used for trapping earwigs. The longsighted king mistakes this for a lobster pot, and asks him what bait he's using:

On his majesty, who was, or often feigned to be, noticeably longsighted from green youth and had been meaning to inquire what, in effect, had caused yon causeway to be thus potholed, asking substitutionally to be put wise as to whether paternoster and silver doctors were not now more fancied bait for lobstertrapping honest blunt Haromphreyld answered in no uncertain tones very similarly with a fearless forehead: Naw, yer maggers, aw war jist a cotchin on thon bluggy earwuggers. 31.03-11


I wonder if HCE's reply is in a Sussex accent?  

(Peter Timmerman discovered that the lobstertrapping and paternosters both come from the Guide to Bognor:

At the entrance to the Pier, and at other spots on the Parade, are numbers of the Wicker Traps, or ‘Pots,’ in which lobsters, crabs and prawns are taken. These traps are made by the fishermen. The withes are cut just before, or just after, Christmas, and are bought from neighbouring farmers … In shape, they much resemble the old-fashioned bee-hives. At the top is an entrance for the victim.

Fishing with ‘Paternoster’ is recommended from the Pier, as various depths of the bait will suit the habits of different fish.)

The king then makes an incomprehensible joke to his attendants:

Holybones of Saint Hubert how our red brother of Pouringrainia would audibly fume did he know that we have for surtrusty bailiwick a turnpiker who is by turns a pikebailer no seldomer than an earwigger 

So that's how he came to be called Earwicker!

According to Ellman's biography, Joyce talked about earwigs with Mrs Myron Nutting:

He and Mrs Nutting talked then about the earwig, which he associated with his hero, Earwicker; she recalled that a Yorkshire name for earwig is 'twitchbell'. 'Will you give me that?' said Joyce, much pleased. He remarked than an old legend recounted that Cain got the idea of burial from watching an earwig beside his dead brother Abel.

At this point, there's a footnote on earwigs: 

Joyce investigated the earwig carefuly, even to the point of writing the entomological laboratory of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle for papers on forficula. He liked the French word  for earwig, perce-oreille, and quickly assiciated it with Percy O'Reilly, a famous player from West Meath in the All Ireland Polo Club in 1905. Then he wrote 'The Ballad of Persse O'Reilly' (FW 44-6) 


I've gone into this earwig business at length to explain my astonishment at another Wakean synchronicity. After looking around the churchyard, we went inside the Church, and found a beautifully drawn map of the parish. 

Look at the names of two of the local fields!











For Joyce, there was much more to this name than earwig business. He owned a copy of Ernest Weekley's The Romance of Names, 1922, which has a chapter on the development of Anglo-Saxon names. It includes an entry for 'Eoforwacer, now Earwaker'.

J.S.Atherton pointed out that Eoforwacer is 'Ever-Waker, the man who never goes to sleep...The name may also mean, of course, the man who is always present at the Wake, or the man who is always, in the Irish sense of waking, celebrating a funeral.' 

A Wake Newslitter, August 1965

Leaving the church, we noticed a strange carving of a man's head above the door. His eyes are closed as if he's asleep.  I imagined him as the dreamer of Finnegans Wake, or maybe Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker himself!