James Joyce playing the guitar in Trieste, 1915 James Joyce: Music in the Novels and Poems

James Joyce Quote
This discouraging fragment encourages scholars alone.
James Joyce Unquote

[ William York Tindall ]


Stephen Hero
see also
Portrait of the Artist

Music in Stephen Hero

A Portrait of the Artist

At least as autobiographical as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but without that book's subtle artifice, the existing fragment of Joyce's first full-length novel provides some insight into the creative methodologies of genius. As the first draft of what was later to become A Portrait, this book has resemblances to — and differences from — its literary descendent that are both equally striking. For example, the Ur-Stephen of this book, though still brilliant, is at once too severe and insufferably arrogant, and so lacks the ability to arouse much sympathy in the reader.

Similarly, Joyce's use of music and musical allusions in Stephen Hero, like his employment of other narrative devices, seems obvious, didactic, and almost hopelessly crude. Of special interest to visitors of this site, however, is the scene in the book in which Father Moran recommends to Stephen the virtues of the Protestant hymn "The Holy City":

Father Moran was no lover of the old droning chants, he told Stephen. Of course, he said, it is very grand music severe style of music [sic]. But he held the opinion that the Church must not be made too gloomy and he said with a charming smile that the spirit of the Church was not gloomy. He said that one could not expect the people to take kindly to severe music and that the people needed more human religious music than the Gregorian and ended by advising Stephen to learn "The Holy City" by Adams.

  — There is a song now, beautiful, full of lovely melody and yet — religious. It has the religious sentiment, a touching «melody, power — soul, in fact.»
[p. 66]

Here, Father Moran's mention of the song is an attempt to soften somewhat Stephen's cold, intellectual severity. "The Holy City," of course, with its line about "the new Jerusalem," is an anthem that Joyce was later to use to huge comic effect in the Circe episode of Ulysses, where it is presented as a paean to a utopian Dublin, or "new Bloomusalem," as Bloom imagines it flourishing under his benign leadership.


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