Ernest Boyd (1887-1946)


Life
[Ernest A. Boyd; Ernest Augustus Boyd; pseud. “Gnathaí gan Iarraidh”]; b. 28 June, Dublin; s. of James Robert Boyd and Rosa (née Kempson); ed. by French tutor and in Germany and Switzerland; modelled in youth for figure of Christ in “Stations of the Cross” in Pro-Cathedral (Marlborough St., Dublin); joined Irish Times staff; entered Consular Service and appt. vice-consul, Boston (Baltimore), 1913; friend of H. L. Mencken; contrib. Irish Review and Irish Monthly; posted to Barcelona, 1916;
 
issued Ireland’s Literary Renaissance (1916; rev. edn.; 1923), the first literary-critical account of the Revival, characterising it as a separate national movement and pointing up the importance of Theosophy to it; advocated reading Joyce as Irish writer in the second edition, calling Padraic Colum and Seamus O’Sullivan ‘promising successors to Yeats’; issued Appreciations and Deprecations (1917), studies of Irish literature; posted to Copenhagen, 1918; issued The Contemporary Drama of Ireland (1918);
 
ed. stories of Guy de Maupassant in 18 vols. (1922- ) and wrote a biog. to accompany the same (1928); justly suspected of nationalist sympathies and resigned in 1919; settled in New York, 1920; wrote for New York Post; became a publisher’s reader to Knopf; contrib. to Literary Review; ed. The Independent, 1928; ed. The New Freeman, 1931-32; ed. The American Spectator, 1932-37; elected to IAL, 1933; num. magazine contributions and published translations; there is a portrait by Estella Solomons. KUN OCAL

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Works
Criticism
  • Ireland’s Literary Renaissance (Dublin: Maunsel; NY: Knopf 1916), 415pp.; Do., [rev. edn.] (Dublin: Maunsel 1923), and Do. [facs. rep.] (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1968) [infra];
  • Appreciations and Deprecations [Irish Literary Series] (Dublin: Talbot Press 1917), 197pp.;
  • The Contemporary Drama of Ireland (Boston: Little Brown 1917), 225pp., and Do. (Dublin: Talbot Press; London: Fisher & Unwin 1918), 228pp.;
  • [pseud., “Gnathaí gan Iarraidh”,] The Secret Egoism of Sinn Féin (Dublin & London 1918);
  • The Glittering Fake and The Worked-Out Ward (Dublin: Talbot Press 1918);
  • Portraits, Real and Imaginary (London: Jonathan Cape; NY: George H. Doran 1924);
  • Studies from Ten Literatures (NY: Scribner’s 1925); Literary Blasphemies (NY: Harper’s 1927).
Miscellaneous
  • Intro., Standish O’Grady, Selected Essays and Passages (Dublin: Talbot Press 1918);
  • The Collected Novels and Stories of Guy de Maupassant, newly translated under the editorship of Ernest Boyd (NY: A. A. Knopf 1922, &c.);
  • Guy de Maupassant: A Biographical Study (NY: A. A. Knopf 1926), ill. [pls.], ix, 258pp., and Do. [another edn.] (NY Knopf: Boston: Little, Brown 1928);
  • The Diaboliques, trans. from the French with an introduction by Ernest Boyd and an essay by Sir Edmund Gosse (1926);
  • H. L. Mencken (NY: R. M. McBride 1925), 89pp., port.
Also The Virtues of Vices (1930) [chk].
Articles (sel.)
  • ‘The Expressionism of James Joyce’, in New York Tribune (28 May 1922), p.29, and Do. [enl.] in Ireland’s Literary Renaissance [rev. edn.] 1923, pp.402-12;
  • ‘Joyce and the New Irish Writers’, in Current History, XXXIX (1934), pp.699-704.
[Both the foregoing rep. in Robert Deming, ed., James Joyce: The Critical Heritage, London; Routledge & Kegan Paul 1970, pp.301-05, 622-23; see Joyce, Commentary, infra.]

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Criticism
P. S. O’Hegarty, ‘Ernest Boyd’, in Dublin Magazine, 22 (April-June 1947), pp.50-51; see also Irish Book Lover, Vol. VII [Index], for frequent citations.

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Commentary
Patrick McCarthy, review of Maurice Saillet, ed., Valery Larbaud, Lettres à Adrienne Monnier et a Sylvia Beach 1919-1933 (Paris [1992]), in Times Literary Supplement (25 Sept.1992), [q.p.]; remarks, ‘all the adventures of Ulysses in France are chronicled, from Larbaud’s 1921 lecture at Monnier’s bookshop, which launched Joyce in Paris, via the quarrel with the Irish critic Ernest Boyd and the discovery of Italo Svevo to the saga of the French translation which wrecked the friendship between Larbaud and Monnier.’

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David Norris, ‘Imaginative Response versus Authority: A Theme of the Anglo-Irish Short Story’, in Terence Brown & Patrick Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979), notes that Boyd was ‘Boyd initiated the still continuing attempts to divert critical attention away from the genuine achievement of the R. M. Stories into the consideration of something regarded as more “serious” i.e., The Real Charlotte, a book of such unreadable though doubtless “worthy” dullness [... &c.]’ ([o]ne of (p.49; ref. to Irish Literary Renaissance, Dublin: Alan Figgis 1968, pp.385-86.) See further under Somerville & Ross [infra].

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Nicholas Allen, ‘Free Statement: Censorship and the Irish Statesman’, in Last Before America - Irish and American Writing, ed. Fran Brearton & Eamonn Hughes (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2001), notes that Ernest Boyd was unable to become the American correspondent of the Irish Statesman because of the influence of its American investors - further quoting Russell's letter to Boyd: ‘I thought of you long ago as an American corresondent. I had suggested it to Plunkett and between ourselves he was alarmed lest your radicalism might upset the Americans who contributed the funds to start the Irish Statesman and from whom he hopes to get more.’ (Alan Denson, Letters from AE, NY: Abelard Schuman 1961, p.168; here p.88 and 220, n12.)

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Quotations
Ireland’s Literary Revival (1916; 1923 Edn.): ‘When John Eglinton wrote of The Necessity for the de-Davisisation of Irish literature ... when W. B. Yeats fought for Synge against the exigencies of the new patriotism, they were clearing the ground for the development of a free criticism and a literature whose nationalism was not to be tested by the crude standards of the political market-place.’ (pp.7-8). ‘[Shaw and Wilde] belong to the history of English literature as surely as Goldsmith and Sheridan.’ (p.9); ‘Irish literature is not interested in such comparisons, being primarily concerned in establishing a ratio of national literary values for Irish literature’ (p.10); ‘The publication in 1878 of O’Grady’s History of Ireland, The Heroic Period marked the advent of a new spirit, and this work, with its concluding volume in 1880, must be regarded as the starting point of the Literary Revival’ (p.27). [All the foregoing cited in Chris Corr, ‘English Literary Culture and Irish Literary Revival’, PhD Thesis, UUC 1995; for extensive quotation, see under James Joyce, Commentary, infra.]

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Answering Valery Larbaud (I) - à propos de James Joyce et de Ulysses , réponse à l’article de M. Valery Larbaud, in la Nouvelle Revue Française (1èr mars 1925), sous forme de lettre à Monsieur le Directeur de la N.R.F ., New York, le 20 janvier 1925): M. Larbaud s’imagine que j’attaque James Joyce parce que je le comprends en Irlandais, en Irlandals intimement mêlé aux circonstances qui ont produit la renaissance littèraire en Irlande, aussi bien que ces chefs-d’oeuvre, Dubliners , The Portrait of the Artist [sic] et Ulysses . Dans mon étude sur Joyce j’ai essayé de placer cet auteur dans son pays et son milieu, dont M. Larbaud ne sait absolument rien. S’il avait passé deux ans au lieu de deux semaines en Irlande, il n’en saurait rien non plus, parce que les conditions d’alors n’existerent plus aujourd’hui. J’ai beaucoup de peine à ne pas m’esclaffer quand j’entends les esthètes discourir à perte de vue sur les données ésotériques d’Ulysses . La plupart du temps les symboles profonds et mystégrieux dont ils tirent leurs conclusions saugrenues sont des faits très simples, familiers tous ceux qui habitaient Dublin il y a vingt ans. M. Larbaud prête l’autorité de son nom et de ses hautes qualités critiques, que je respecte depuis longtemps, à ce jeu puéril. Comme je l’ai dit, je ne suia pas d’accord avec lui sur son interprétation d’Ulysses, mais ce qui est bien pire encore ce sont les trouvailles de ses émules d’ici. [...] James Joyce est un génie profandé6ment irlandais et national. II est le contemporain de cette génération d’écrivains nationaux irlandais que M. Larbaud ne se dérange pas pour voir ou pour faire connaitre. Rien de plus naïf que cette idée que James Joyce est l’homme de lettres qui représente l’Irlande qui a signé le traité avec l’Angleterre. Cette Irlande-là est plus étroite, plus éloignée de tout art hardi et vrai qu’à aucun moment depuis la renaissance de 1880.’ (Quoted as No. 34 in Catalogue de l’exposition Joyce-Larbaud, 1986, at Gerand-le-Puy, France 03150; copy supplied to Princess Grace Irish Library by Marc Bertola, Vichy, France, May 2003; for Larbaud’s earlier remarks, see Notes, infra.)

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Answering Valery Larbaud (II) - lettre dactylographie à Valery Larbaud (27 février 1925) : [ ] Ayant écrit sur l’expressionnisme de James Joyce, je me demande si vous faites allusion à cela. Il y a un rapport si évident entre le roman expressionniste et les monologues de Joyce, qu’il serait aussi absurde de l’ignorer que d’ignorer tout ce qu’il y a de réalisme purement local dans Ulysses . Je ne sais si vous citez le nam de Strindberg pour indiquez qu’à Paris on a pu juger des procédés de l’expressionisme par les oeuvres du dramaturge suédois. Mais il n’en est pas ainsi, comme vous verrez si vous comparez certaines parties de Joyce avec une piece comme Die Menschen de Hasendever . Il y a un rapport a établir entre le monologue intérieur, l’expressionnisme et le surréalisme. Mais jusqu’à présent on a traduit en français et en anglais seulement des ouvrages d’expressionnistes d’occasion, pour ainsi dire. Ici cela n’a empêché personne de vaticiner sur ce sujet en connaissance de cause! Pour moi l’expressionnisme de James Joyce est évident, mals cela n’enlève rien au procédé du monologue intérieur, ni à la priorité de Dujardin dans cette affaire.’ (Quoted as No. 35 in Catalogue de l’exposition Joyce-Larbaud, 1986, at Gerand-le-Puy, France 03150; copy supplied to Princess Grace Irish Library by Marc Bertola, Vichy, France, May 2003.)

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Impartial criticism is a more than usually delicate task where a small country like Ireland is concerned. When the intellectual centre is confined within a restricte area, peersonal relations are unavoidable, and the critic finds discretion imperative, if he is to continue to dwell peacably in the midst of his friends. [...] the effect [...] of this absence of critical judgement, publically expressed, has been that honest criticism prefers to be silent where it cannot praise.’ (Ireland’s Literary Renaissance, q.p.; quoted in Edna Longley, Foreword to Aaron Kelly & Alan Gillis, eds., Critical Ireland: New Essays in Literature and Culture, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001, p.v.)

On the Dublin Theosophical Society (fnd. 1885): "[...] as vital a factor in the evolution of Anglo-Irish literature as the publication of Standish O’Grady’s History of Ireland, the two events being complimentary to any complete understanding of the literature of the revival. The Theosophical Movement provided a literary, artistic and intellectual centre from which radiated influences whose effect was felt even by those that did not belong to it. (Ireland’s Literary Renaissance, NY: Knopf, 1922, pp.214-15; quoted in Len Platt, “References to Madame Blavatsky and her ideas in the Wake – An Annotated List” (2008) - available online; accessed 10.04.2015.

Slim vol.: Remarks on Poems & Ballads of Young Ireland: ‘This slim little volume, in white buckram covers, will always be regarded with special affection by lovers of Irish literature, for it was the first offering of the Literary Revival.’ (Cited Robert Hogan, Dictionary of Irish Literature, Gill & Macmillan 1979, p.709.)

Standish J. O’Grady: ‘There is no doubt that the author of the Bardic History [i.e., James Standish O’Grady] owed his belief in the destiny of the Irish aristocracy to the contagious grandeur of the narratives of that ancient order which he had evoked with the intuitive sympathy of genius’ (Ireland’s Literary Revival 1916, n.p.; cited in Cairns & Richards, Writing Ireland, 1988), p.52.)

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Irish literature: ‘The term Irish (or Anglo-Irish) can most properly be reserved for the literature which, although not written in Gaelic, is none the less informed by the spirit of the race.’ (Ireland’s Literary Renaissance; cited in Alan Warner, A Guide to Anglo-Irish Literature, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1981, p.5.)

Life Sentence: ‘Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism offered the youthful mind an infinitely plausible theory of the soul, which convinced most of them [i.e., members of the Yeatsian literary revival] for life.’ (Cited in Frank Tuohy, Yeats, 1976, p.32).

Shaw and Wilde: ‘[T]he work of Irishmen whose spirit is as remote from their country as the scene in which their plays are laid.’ ([Ernest A. Boyd, Contemporary Drama of Ireland, 1918, p.4; cited in Loreto Todd, The Language of Irish Literature, 1989, p.66.)

Sundry remarks: For Boyd’s remarks on O’Grady in Irish Literary Revival and on James Joyce, see under these authors, infra.

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References
Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), cites Ireland’s Literary Renaissance (Dublin: Maunsel 1916; [also NY: Knopf 1916]), 415pp.; Brown’s bibliographical notice on him includes the following remark, ‘a careful critical survey of recent Anglo-Irish literature from the early writings of Standish O’Grady to 1916’. (Fiction in Ireland, 2nd ed., 1919).

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Notes
Valery Larbaud’s comments to which Boyd responded [as supra] were as follows: A propos de James Joyce-et de Ulysses - réponse à Monsieur Ernest Boyd, in la Nouvelle Revue Française (1èr janvier 1925): ‘Monsieur Ernest Boyd, auteur d’un ouvrage important sur la Renaissance littéraire de l’Irlande [Ireland’s Literary Renaissance] et qui se déclare admirateur de Ulysses , ne cesse pas, depuls deux ans et chaque fois qu’il parle de James Joyce a ses lecteurs, de m’attaquer avec acharnement. / Il a de l’esprit et du mordant, et semble bien résolu à mettre les rieurs de son côté; mais il reste courtois et, digne du nom d’homme de lettres, il maintient la querelle sur le terrain; bref, il mérite une réponse, et même je regrette de n’avoir pas eu le loisir de la lui donner plus tôt. [] M. Ernest Boyd m’a accusé d’une “ignorance colossale de la Littérature anglo-irlandaise”. Et c’est à cette accusation que je veux répond en démontrant que mon ignorance n’est pas aussi colossale qu’on le croit.’ (Quoted in Catalogue de l’exposition Joyce-Larbaud, 1986, at Gerand-le-Puy, France 03150; copy supplied to Princess Grace Irish Library by Marc Bertola, Vichy, France, May 2003.) [For Boyd’s response and further exchanges, see supra.]

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W. B. Yeats wrote to Boyd remonstrating against ‘Dublin talkers who value anything which they call a principle more than any possible achievement. All achievements are won by compromise and these men wherever they find themselves expel from their own minds - by their minds’ rigidity - the flowing & living world.’ (20 Jan. 1915; quoted in Foster, W. B. Yeats - A Life, Vol. 2: The Arch-Poet, 2003, p.61.)

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