JOYCE, James. The Holy Office. [Pola: ?November 1904-March 1905].
Broadside (289 x 220mm). (A few very light, unobtrusive spots, very slight creasing at edges.) 20th-century cloth portfolio, gilt morocco lettering-piece on upper panel.
FIRST PUBLISHED EDITION. OF GREAT RARITY, ONE OF 'PROBABLY LESS THAN 100 [COPIES]' (Slocum and Cahoon) and preceded only by the juvenile Et tu, Healy! (written in 1891/2, of which, according to Slocum and Cahoon, 'no copy ... is known to exist' (A1)), The Holy Office was Joyce's first separate work to be published. Written in the persona of 'Katharsis-Purgative', the poem is an excoriating attack on the state of contemporary Irish literature. Joyce's scatalogical conceit damns absolutely and mercilessly the country's leading writers: 'Yeats has allowed himself to be led by women ['... him who hies him to appease , His giddy dames' frivolities , While they console him when he whinges , With gold-embroidered Celtic fringes']; Synge writes of drinking but never drinks; Gogarty is a snob, Colum is a chameleon, Roberts an idolater of Russell, Starkey a mouse, Russell a mystical ass' (R. Ellmann Joyce, p.166). Having demonstrated the failings and futility of his fellow-writers' works, Joyce then proposes his own aesthetic in distinction to their's, and his determination to pursue that aesthetic regardless of the opinions of others: 'I stand the self-doomed, unafraid, , Unfellowed, friendless and alone'.
The poem was first sent to Constantine Curran, editor of St. Stephen's (the University College Dublin magazine); following Curran's rejection of the 'unholy thing' (R. Ellmann, op. cit., p.165), Joyce arranged to have it printed in Dublin. However, the perpetually-impecunious author was unable to pay the printer and the Dublin-printed copies appear to have been discarded by November 1904. Undaunted, Joyce then arranged to have the poem printed in Pola (where he lived between November 1904 and March 1905), in a small edition of probably less than 100, 50 of which were sent in June 1905 to Stanislaus Joyce for distribution in Dublin to various recipients, including Russell, Gogarty and other targets of the piece. Slocum and Cahoon Joyce A2.