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Friday, December 30, 2016

A Letter from the Artist as a Young Man

Yesterday marked the centenary of the U.S. publication of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. Originally issued serially in a magazine titled The Egoist, the novel was published on December 29, 1916 by a New York publishing house, B.W. Huebsch.

 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man follows a character called Stephen Daedalus from childhood to young adulthood as he grapples with family conflict, a growing distance from Catholicism, and his desire to experience and create beauty. Frequent Rosenbach visitors and Bloomsday-goers may recognize Stephen from Joyce's later novel Ulysses, in which he crosses paths with wandering Leopold Bloom; in Portrait, Stephen ultimately decides to leave Ireland to find a wider scope for his creative expression; in Ulysses, the Stephen has just returned from his self-imposed exile and is in mourning.

Stephen is often said to be an alter ego of James Joyce, who similarly struggled with religion and family duty, sought out the society of writers and intellectuals, and abandoned a traditional career in favor of writing. The resemblance is more than coincidental: Joyce identified with Stephen Daedalus long before Portrait was published, even as early as 1903 when he first drafted a version of Stephen's story. (This version was rejected for publication in 1904 and bears little resemblance to the novel published in 1916.)


Joyce, James. Autograph letter signed “Stephen Daedalus”: Dublin, to James S. Starkey, 1904 Aug. 27. EMs 1176/19.

The above letter was sent in 1904 from Joyce to James Starkey, an Dublin poet who was well-acquainted with the literary elite of Ireland. Joyce tells Starkey that he would be much obliged if he would type up some marked sheets; he signed the letter "Stephen Daedalus."

Detail of the above.

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