7 - 8 April 2004
JOYCE, James--James STEPHENS (1880-1950). Original typescript signed of his memoir of James Joyce, n.p., n.d., with pencil emendations and additions, inscribed in pencil 'for Mrs Wyndham Goldie', 9 pages, 4to; [and] two original typescript drafts of his review of Finnegan's Wake, n.p., n.d., with emendations and additions in pen and pencil, 13½ pages, 4to.
Stephens's memoir of Joyce is a delight of comic understatement: it begins with a description of the difficulties of their accidental first meeting in Dublin, in which all of Stephens's wittiest sallies are met with an 'Ah', and rubbing of the chin from Joyce, and then followed by a comprehensive condemnation of Stephens's work: 'I did not know the difference between a semi-colon and a colon ... my knowledge of Irish life was non-catholic, and so, non-existent, and that I should give up writing and take to a good job like shoe-shining'. On later encounters in Paris, Stephens discovers that Joyce 'approved of me in the most astonishing fashion' purely because of the coincidence of their names and their dates and times of birth; Stephens goes on to describe and transcribe Joyce's rendition of a folk song.
Stephens's memoir of Joyce ends with a brief appreciation of Finnegan's Wake; and in his review of the work he goes into some detail on the pleasures of Joyce's punning across fifteen or so languages, and the odd nature of the book 'not written in prose, [but] written in speech ... it is fundamentally the speech that used to be Dublin English'. (2)
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Offered to benefit a new scholarship initiative from Bennington College, this work distils the unique form of abstraction for which the artist would become famous
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