Page images

that the temperature of the room was about 78° at the time, too hot for comfort. However, the young couple were soon on their way to Bayswater where they settled down and lived a most uneventful life from then on. Bodney must have been quite happy in his new existence, for he gave up writing poetry and took to collecting pewter. We have no record of his ever writing anything after his marriage, except a sonnet for the yearbook of the Bayswater School for Girls. This sonnet (On

Looking into William Ewart Gladstone) beginning:

O Lesbos! When thy fêted songs shall ring.

is too well known to quote here in full, but we cannot help calling attention to the reference to Bayswater. For it was in Bayswater that Bodney really belonged and it was there that he died in 1876. His funeral was a Masonic one and lasted three hours and twenty minutes (Author's Collection).

[blocks in formation]


By Robert Forrest Wilson

YLVIA BEACH'S bookshop is in the Rue de l'Odéon in Paris, on the right hand side, about halfway between the Boulevard St.-Germain and the Théâtre de l'Odéon. It is a bookish neighborhood. French bookstores are numerous in that part of the old Latin Quarter, two or three of the leading French book publishers have their head offices in that vicinity, and the bookstalls under the arcades of the old theatre are as celebrated as those on the quays of the Seine themselves.

Her business self Sylvia Beach chooses to call "Shakespeare and Company", and a portrait of the bald bard appears on the shop sign hanging in front of No. 12, Rue de l'Odéon. It says something for her own personality that she has never succeeded in giving her trade name much currency. People in Paris know the place as "Sylvia Beach's Bookshop". The young intellectuals, who have the family spirit and call each other by their first names anyhow, shorten it still further to "Sylvia's Bookshop".

It happens that this bookshop disputes with a Parisian café the honor of being the chief focus of American culture in France, if not in Europe. The café is the Café du Dôme at the corner of the Boulevard Montparnasse and the Boulevard Raspail. The Dôme is primarily an artists' rendezvous — it is the American centre of the new Latin Quarter- but a good many writing people gather there too. They, however, are not intellectuals. They write for as much money as they can

get and not for the select few who matter. The young intellectuals themselves seldom appear at the Dôme. They revolve around the bookshop in the Rue de l'Odéon. It is their headquarters and the place where one must go, if one is a stranger, to get in touch with them.


Miss Beach herself is a comely young woman with poise, a quiet and attractive manner, a businesslike bobbed head, and a frequent cigarette. And of course she is intellectual. Long ago she despaired or so she strikes one of getting the message across to the less understanding, and thus arrived at a forbearing but unhoping and somewhat weary tolerance of the Philistine. It is an inviting establishment she On chilly days there is an open fire before which one can sit in a comfortable chair and toast his shins while examining books for purchase or borrowing. The shop has a book renting department as well as new-book shelves. Pinned up over and around the fireplace are numerous photographs of intellectuals young and old autographed to Sylvia, and on the round table are piled for sale current copies of such New York and London reviews as the truly literate regard as significant.

But affording a sanctuary for young intellectuals, renting books, and selling books and magazines are not the only business activities of Shakespeare and Company. They are publishers, and mighty well known publishers. Their fame is considerable in France, and even wider in England and the United

States. However, although it has made such a stir in the world, Sylvia's publishing nest has thus far hatched only a single egg- but that egg happened to be an eagle's egg, a veritable roc's egg, for it was James Joyce's novel "Ulysses".

So many men whose names carry authority in the world of letters have proclaimed "Ulysses" to be a work of genius, so many college professors and professional critics have contributed articles and even whole books to the growing Joyce bibliography, that it would be presumption in a mere scribbler to set up a contrary opinion, even if he were sure he held one. Its greatest admirers, however, will not deny that "Ulysses" is the most obscene book in the English language, or the most obscene one with pretensions to being literature. It is more obscene than Mr. Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"; and that book was suppressed in England not by official censorship but by printers who threatened to strike rather than set its phrases into type. "Ulysses" is so obscene that an average reader, even one trying to discover the beauties which critics have pointed out — and he can discover some of them, if he looks for them has a hard time hurdling the indecencies which Mr. Joyce continually throws into the path. Yet, though shocking, "Ulysses" is not lewd. There is no sly, suggestive look in Mr. Joyce's eye as he writes. He has invented a new method in fiction his worshipers say a revolutionary method - and that method is to paint characters almost entirely in the thoughts that flash through their heads. As a man thinketh so is he; and there is no gainsaying the essential effectiveness of the method. Mr. Joyce, however, writes mainly about obscure people who live on the spiritual

[ocr errors]

level of the sewers thinking sewer thoughts couched in sewer language. The author sets down all these thoughts with the same fidelity with which he records thoughts about meadow flowers and Shakespeare and the political state of Ireland. There is no fact in the spiritual, sensual, and vegetative life of a man or a woman that Mr. Joyce avoids when human thoughts lead in that direction. It is realism carried to the end a question of taste - but nevertheless there is something inexorable about it, as if the author were the moving finger of fate writing the human record in the eternal book.

To American readers who follow the trends in literature there is nothing new in these statements; for, since the suppression of "The Little Review" in America in 1920 when it was publishing serial instalments of "Ulysses", much has been written about this book and its author. The point of the novel's obscenity is again made here merely because of its bearing upon the merchandising of the editions of "Ulysses". It is Sylvia Beach's attitude that in publishing "Ulysses" she has performed a service to humanity, in that she thus rescued the masterpiece from an oblivion to which the timidity of other publishers would have consigned it. She publishes "Ulysses" at the retail price in Paris of sixty francs.

Sixty francs is a large price for a book in Paris. To a Frenchman it is almost prohibitive. For six or seven francs the Frenchman can buy a book that will be a distinguished job of printing. It will be on thick, durable paper with beautiful margins, adorned with artistic woodcuts and chapter initials in color. To be sure, it will have a paper cover, for French books are almost invariably bound in paper. This is an admirable custom. It makes of bookbinding an honored and extensive

retail trade. It enables the book buyer to discard his purchasing mistakes without financial regret, to preserve worthy books in bindings of his own choice, and at no great expense to give to his library the richness lent by tooled leather.


And sixty francs is no low price for an Englishman or an American. is fifteen shillings in England and over three dollars in America. In either country it will buy a book well bound and painstakingly printed. Shakespeare and Company's "Ulysses" is neither. Like French books, it is bound in paper. It is printed on thin paper of less than medium quality. Its text pages in appearance are as unattractive as those of a government report. It is full of typographical errors; although one can never be certain in "Ulysses" whether a printing affront is a mistake or one of Mr. Joyce's eccentricities what his followers call his originalities. All in all, the book is a muddy, slovenly job; and in a land of low printing costs it retails for sixty francs.

Sylvia Beach justifies the price at which "Ulysses" is sold by its great length, which is three times that of an ordinary novel. But if there is wide circulation for a book, its mere length ought to cut no great figure in its price. Its paper and binding costs are much more important elements. "Ulysses" has now run through four editions. Miss Beach does not divulge the number of copies printed for each edition.

Although she maintains that most of the buyers of "Ulysses" are serious Joyce students, the fact remains that with the advent of the tourist season the book appears in the windows of a number of bookstores, both English and French, in the downtown section of Paris. And there is little doubt that many buy it for its enormities. If

any filth hunter, however, thinks that in "Ulysses" he is getting a piece of light reading, the joke is on him. Most of "Ulysses" is hard going. In any paragraph the thoughts expressed, and expressed without punctuation guides for the reader, may be variously Mr. Joyce's or those of one of his characters or those of some person of whom the character is at the moment thinking; it takes close and practised attention to disentangle them and make the narrative intelligible.

The man who raised this monument of obscenity and flashing phrase, of calculated and even childish eccentricity and of limpid English, is not the sort of man one might expect such an author to be. He is quiet in appearance, unusually shy and retiring in disposition, and forty finds him the domesticated head of a family consisting of a wife and two grown sons, one of whom has a bass voice which resounds Sunday mornings in the choir of St. Luke's chapel in the Latin Quarter. Many a journalist seeks to interview James Joyce, but few succeed. His friends say, however, that when he is surrounded by his intimates he talks fluently and delightfully and not at all in the unreal manner of the style of "Ulysses".

James Joyce may or may not be living in the Latin Quarter in Paris one never knows. When it comes to a place of abode Mr. Joyce shows the same restlessness that afflicted the Greek hero in whom he saw the analogy and prototype to the leading character in his novel. Joyce spent five years in the composition of the three hundred thousand words of "Ulysses". In those five years he moved thirty times and lived for brief spells in thirty different places in Trieste, Zurich, and Paris. The Latin Quarter, however, more than any other place can claim

him as its citizen, for he is usually to be found in one or another of its hotels working away at the new novel which is to succeed "Ulysses" and which Sylvia Beach is going to publish.

Whatever the outside opinion about Mr. Joyce may be, to the young intellectuals of the Latin Quarter he is nothing less than both Allah and his Prophet. They see Joyce as the supreme modern master of English and "Ulysses" as the turning point of the modern novel and as a phase of literary education through which anyone must progress who pretends to write significant fiction today. The young intellectuals are not clamorous in these views they simply state them. A person does not argue hotly about the size of the Pacific Ocean. It stands there for itself; and if your intellect cannot discern its greatness, so much the worse for your intellect.

Joyce and "Ulysses" being the shibboleth, it becomes easy to identify the young intellectual group of Paris with approximate definiteness. There are some minor figures, but they report at the bookshop only now and then and are not truly significant of the circle. The rest, the outstanding personages of this interlocking directorate of the Continental advance movement in English letters, are by name McAlmon, Ford, Bird, Hemingway, Antheil, and Pound. And, of course, Sylvia Beach and James Joyce himself.

Joyce is an Irishman, but the rest of the group are Americans, with the exception of Ford Madox Ford. Ford Madox Ford, whose name used to be Ford Madox Hueffer, is an Englishman - a large, ponderous Englishman who publishes in Paris a magazine called "the transatlantic review". It is called that without capital letters, too, Mr. Ford having adopted this millinery shop originality on the maga

zine's cover. The device is typical of a good share of the originality of the young intellectuals. Be different, even if you have to drop your capital letters. Joyce drops a lot of his.

It is, however, more or less of a struggle for Mr. Ford to be a young intellectual, the discoverer and contemporary and occasional collaborator of Joseph Conrad being scarcely a youth any more. The resulting strain, which one seems to detect in much that Mr. Ford writes, may bear upon the dulness of the uncapitalized review, which Mr. Ford ballasts almost to the deep-load line with his own literary production, inserted either anonymously or under his current or his sometime name. Besides the columns of his own magazine, Mr. Ford has access to those of various journals that matter both in America and England; and as he frequently writes about the doings of the young intellectuals of Paris, he is the chief celebrant of the group.

William C. Bird is a fairly recent convert. The young intellectuals captured him and took him to their bosoms, and he is now one of them. Not so long ago, during part of the war in fact, Bird who is Bill Bird to his fellows - was a newspaper reporter in Washington, a member of one of the New York bureaus there. Newspapers still provide him with his principal means of support, for he is the Paris correspondent of a well known American syndicate. In addition Bird is a connoisseur of French wines, and he has recently published a book of his own written not at all in the young intellectual style. It is a concise, accurate, and practical manual of wines - how to know them, how to buy them, and how to drink them. For the young intellectuals it was Ezra Pound who sprinkled the salt on

« PreviousContinue »