James Joyce by Richard Ellmann; James Joyce's Metamorphoses by John Gordon - review by Ronald Hayman

Ronald Hayman

A Style of Life

James Joyce


Oxford University Press 887pp £25 order from our bookshop

James Joyce's Metamorphoses


Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 207pp £15 order from our bookshop

Ann Hathaway, who was older than Shakespeare, seduced him, and, when they were married, cuckolded him with his two brothers-in-law, Richard and Edmund. His way of getting his own back was by giving their names to memorable villains, but, as the later plays show, the birth of his granddaughter helped to make him feel more resigned. This is the hypothesis advanced by Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses and taken still more seriously by James Joyce, whose interest in cuckoldry sometimes verged on the obsessive. We can infer, as Richard Ellmann suggests, that Ulysses is full of autobiographical material: ‘nothing has been admitted into the book which is not in some way personal and attached.’ Joyce ‘was never a creator ex nihilo; he recomposed what he remembered, and he remembered most of what he had seen or heard other people remember.’

He liked to believe that if Dublin were destroyed, it would have been possible to reconstruct it from his work; it would be almost equally preposterous to claim that if all copies of his book were destroyed, it would be possible to reconstruct them from Richard Ellmann’s biography. But it

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

East of the Wardrobe

Follow Literary Review on Twitter