Richard Ellmann

Quotations

Life
1918-1987 (fam. “Dick”); literary critic; b. 15 March, Highland Park, Michigan; 2nd. son of James Isaac Ellmann, lawyer, a Jewish Romanian immigrant and Jeanette [née Barsook], an immigrant from Kiev; ed. Yale and TCD; embarked on doctoral research on W. B. Yeats, and broke off in order to serve in the US Navy during the World War II; returned to Dublin in late-1945 and continued trusting friendship with Mrs. Yeats; grad. PhD, Yale, 1947; appt. to lect. in English, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., 1951-68; taught Yale 1968-70; m. Mary (1921-89), 1949, with children Stephen & Lucy, and Maud;
 
issued Yeats: The Man and the Masks (1948, rev. 1979) and The Identity of Yeats (1954); issued James Joyce (1959), ded. to Mrs. Yeats - who showed him an unpublished preface by her husband with an account of Yeats’s meeting with Joyce, which inspired him to write it; commenced the biography in 1947 and began steady work on it in 1952 [rev. edn. 1982]; winner of James Tait Black and Duff Cooper Memorial Prizes; also winner of the National Book Award in 1960; issued a revised edn. of same (1982); appt. Goldsmith Professor of English Literature, Oxford, 1970-1984 and Fellow of New College, 1970-87; ed. with Charles Feidelson, Jr., The Modern Tradition (q.s.); ed. New Oxford Book of American Verse (1976); appt. to Robert W. Woodruff Chair of English at Emory University, 1980 [to death]; issued Eminent Domain (1956); ed. My Brother’s Keeper by Stanislaus Joyce (1957) and with Ellsworth Mason, The Critical Writings of James Joyce (1967); issued Ulysses on the Liffey (1972); ed., The Selected Letters of James Joyce (1975), including the so-called “black letters”; a revised edition of James Joyce (1986) involves only light revision - and certainly no major adjustment in the estimate of its subject in the light of those letters,
 
issued Four Dubliners (1986), on Wilde, Yeats, Joyce & Beckett - orig. given as a series of lectures at Library of Congress; averred that Wilde converted to Catholicism at the close of his Preface to Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde (1987); his Oscar Wilde (1988) appeared posthumously and won the Pulitzer Prize; also ed. works by Arthur Symons and Henri Michaux; gave RTÉ talks with Seamus Heaney who dedicated to him “The Sound of Rain” in Seeing Things (1991); in 1964 Ellmann ‘vetoed’ some of the corrections applied to A Portrait by Chester G. Anderson in preparation for the definitive edition of A Portrait (Cape 2968); he was latterly involved in controversy surrounding his afterword of commendation to Hans Walter Gabler’s so-called genetic text of Ulysses, and subsequently offered a retraction; his is commemorated in the Richard Ellmann Memorial Lecture; suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease [amyotropic lateral sclerosis] causing progressive muscle weakness, d. 13 May; Maud Ellmann (b.1954) is a note critic. OCEL OCIL FDA

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Works
Chief bio-critical works
  • Yeats: The Man and the Masks (1948, rev. 1979);
  • The Identity of Yeats (1954);
  • James Joyce (London: OUP 1959, 1965, 1966, 1976), xvi, 842pp., ill. [17pp. of pls.]; Do. [rev. edn.] (London: OUP 1982), 887pp.;
  • Golden Codgers: Biographical Speculations (OUP 1973), xi, 193pp.
  • The Consciousness of James Joyce (OUP 1977, rep. 1981), 150pp. [incl. “Joyce's Library in 1920”, p.[97]-134 ];
  • Oscar Wilde (London: Hamish Hamilton 1988);
  • Eminent Domain: Yeats among Wilde, Joyce, Pound, Eliot and Auden (London & NY: OUP 1967, 1970), 159pp.;
  • Ulysses on the Liffey (1972);
  • Four Dubliners (London: Hamish Hamilton 1986) [Shaw, Wilde, Yeats, Joyce];
See Italian translation of James Joyce, trans. by Vitorio Santangelo (Lit. Ediizioni Srl 2014) at Google Books - online.
For details, see under the authors treated.
Miscellaneous
  • ed., My Brother’s Keeper, by Stanislaus Joyce (1957);
  • ed. & foreword, Edwardians and Late Victorians [English Institute Essays, 1959] (Columbia UP 1960, 1964, 1967), x, 245pp.
  • ed., with Charles Feidelson, Jr., The Modern Tradition: Backgrounds of Modern Literature (NY: OUP 1965), xix, 953pp.;
  • ‘Yeats and Joyce’, in Dublin Yeats Centenary Papers (Dublin: Dolmen Press 1965), pp.447-79;
  • with Ellsworth Mason, The Critical Writings of James Joyce (NY: Viking Press 1959; London: Faber), 288pp.; Do. (London: Faber 1959), 288pp.; and Do., with a new foreword by Guy Davenport (Cornell UP 1989, 1996), 288pp.
  • ed., The Selected Letters of James Joyce (1975) [see under Joyce].
  • ed. New Oxford Book of American Verse (1976);
  • James Joyce's Hundredth Birthday - Side and Front Views [lecture at the Library of Congress, 10 March 1982 (Washington: The Library [of Congress] 1982), vi, 27pp., ill. ports.
  • intro. & annot., Giacomo Joyce [by] James Joyce (London: Faber & Faber 1984), xxvi, 16, xxxi-xxxviipp., ill. [4 leaves of pls.; facsims., port].
  • Henry James Among the Aesthetes [Sarah Tryphena Phillips lecture in American literature & history, 1983] (London: British Academy 1984) [from Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. 69, 1983].
  • ‘The Uses of Decadence: Wilde, Yeats and Joyce’, in Literary Interrelations: Ireland, England and the World, ed. Wolfgang Zach & Heinz Kosok, Vol. II: Comparison and Impact (Tubingen: Guntar Narr Verlag, 1987), pp.27-40,
  • ‘A Crux in the New Edition of Ulysses’, in Assessing the 1984 “Ulysses” [Princess Grace Irish Library] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988) [c.p.33].
  • ...
 
The Oscar Wilde playing cards (Monte Carlo: Collection R. Fanto 1986) ...
with R. Fanto, [concertina-folded with 2 packs of cards in a box; 24x24 cm. 'The world of Oscar Wilde, fictional and real, can be depicted in the four suits of a deck of playing cards. For the purpose, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades take on the vesture of Instigations, Images, Complications, and Happenings' - p.[2]. 97 copies signed and numbered in Roman numerals from 1 to 97. 57 copies signed and numbered from 1 to 57 in black-wine-lilac-green-grey; 480 copies numbered from 58 to 537 in black-wine-lilac-green-grey [colophon].
 

See also Susan Dick, et al., Essays for Richard Ellmann: Omnium Gatherum (Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP 1989), xix, 499pp., ill. [8pp. of pls.].

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Articles & Reviews in The New York Review of Books
 
Oscar Meets Walt’ (Dec. 3, 1987)  
‘Nayman of Noland’ (April 24, 1986)  
‘Yeats’s Second Puberty’ (May 9, 1985)  
‘Heaney Agonistes’, review of Station Island by Seamus Heaney  
‘The Big Word in ‘Ulysses’ (Oct. 25, 1984)  
Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition’ by James Joyce, prepared by Hans Walter Gabler, by Wolfhard Steppe, by Claus Melchior) [review]  
‘Oscar at Oxford’ (March 29, 1984  
‘The Ghost of Westerly Terrace’, review of Parts of a World, Wallace Stevens Remembered: An Oral Biography by Peter Brazeau (Nov. 24, 1983)
 
‘Absolution (Oct. 13, 1983) [letter in response to his review of The Name of the Rose]  
‘Murder in the Monastery?’, review of The Name of the Roseby Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver (July 21, 1983)
 
‘Joyce at 100’ (Nov. 18, 1982)  
‘Neither Here Nor There, review of Sixty Stories’ by Donald Barthelme (JANUARY 21, 1982)  
‘O’Connor’s Crab-apple Jelly’ (Oct. 8, 1981)  
‘Getting to Know You’, review of W.H. Auden: The Life of a Poet by Charles Osborne (Oct. 23, 1980)
 
‘At the Yeatses’ (May 17, 1979)  
‘Beckett Biographia (Aug. 17, 1978)  
‘The Life of Sim Botchit’ (June 15, 1978 ), review of ‘Samuel Beckett: A Biography’ by Deirdre Bair)  
‘Mining Ulysses’ (June 15, 1978)  
‘Vautrin’s Cigar (Oct. 27, 1977)  
‘Muddled (Sept. 29, 1977)  
‘A Late Victorian Love Affair’ (Aug. 4, 1977)  
‘The Politics of Joyce’ (June 9, 1977)  
‘From Yeats to Yeats’, A History of Modern Poetry: From the 1890s to the High Modernist Mode by David Perkins (Feb. 3, 1977)  
‘Terror in the Catskills’ (May 13, 1976)  
‘Love in the Catskills’ (Feb. 5, 1976)  
‘W.H. Auden (1907–1973) Under Tom Tower’, review of Thank You, Fog: Last Poems’ by W.H. Auden(Dec. 12, 1974)  
‘Micol’s Betrayal (Feb. 7, 1974)  
‘Warped Innocence’, review of Behind the Door, The Garden of the Finzi-Contini, Five Stories of Ferrara, and The Heron by Giorgio Bassani (Nov. 15, 1973)  
‘Why Molly Bloom Menstruates’ (March 23, 1972)  
‘The First Waste Land - I’, review of The Waste Land Annotations of Ezra Pound by T.S. Eliot: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts, [...] edited by Valerie Eliot (Nov. 18, 1971)  
‘That’s Life’ (June 17, 1971)  
‘The Curious Case of Amalia Popper’ (Nov. 20, 1969)  
‘Zest for Death’, The Selected Works of Cesare Pavese’ translated with an Introduction by R.W. Flint (Nov. 21, 1968)  
‘Joyce Scholarship (June 20, 1968)  
‘Dissent and the Academy’, review of The Morality of Scholarship edited by Max Black (Feb. 15, 1968)  
‘Bloomovie, Ulysses produced by Walter Reade, directed by Joseph Strick (June 15, 1967)
 
‘Joyce: A Postal Inquiry’ (Sept. 8, 1966)  
‘Back Number’, review of The Savoy, Nineties Experiment, edited by Stanley Weintraub (April 28, 1966)  
‘Dangerous Acquaintances’, review of Arthur Symons: A Critical Biographyby Roger Lhombreaud (July 15, 1965)
 
‘In Lord Alfred’s Camp’, review of Bosie by Rupert Croft-Cooke (April 30, 1964)
 
[Source: The New York Review of Books - online; accessed 02.04.2014.]

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Commentary
Ellsworth Mason [letter to Ellmann]: ‘The trouble with your performances is that they have a kind of self-contained beauty of their own, and even in deepest error you have an intelligence of expression that is rare in Joycean criticism. I hereby predict that your errors about Joyce will be the last to depart from this earth. (See Joseph Kelly, ‘Stanislaus Joyce, Ellsworth Mason, and Richard Ellmann’: The Making of James Joyce’, in James Joyce Studies Annual, 3, 1992, p.112; quoted in Eric Bulson, Cambridge Companion to James Joyce, Cambridge UP 2006, p.115.)

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Patrick Henchy, The National Library of Ireland, 1941-1976 - A Look Back: A Paper Read to the National Library of Ireland Society (NLI 1986): ‘Among the many readers and scholars whom it was my privilege to know and assist over the years, there is one scholar whom I will select for special mention - Richard Ellmann - but, as in the case of Sybil Le Brocquy, it is not possible to convey here an adequate picture of this outstanding scholar. He came to Ireland after the war to study the writings of Yeats, Joyce and Wilde and became a leading authority on these authors. He is best remembered for his biographies of Yeats and Joyce (Yeats: the Man and the Masks, 1949 and James Joyce, 1959). The National Library became his spiritual home, and I became his chief helper. I can recall how pleased he was when I dug out from a collection of old posters the programme for the bazaar “Araby” held in Dublin, 14-19 May, 1894. “Araby” is, of course, the title of one of Joyce’s stories in Dubliners, and here we had some proof of its factual background. I have told elsewhere of our successful trip to interview Nora Joyce’s sister, Kathleen.’ (q.p.) Henchy notes earlier: ‘I always had good relations with the Trustees and acknowledge their help and co-operation on all occasions. They were an illustrious group, and for some years included three class mates of James Joyce: Prof. Felix Hackett who was Chairman for many years, Mr. Con Curran and Mr. Justice James Murnaghan. Another contemporary of Joyce who frequented the Library was Dr. Séamus Ó Ceallaigh. Both he and Murnaghan showed a certain dislike of Joyce and made it clear that they did not wish to co-operate when on behalf of Richard Ellmann I wished to interview them.’ (p.7.)

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Ann Saddlemyer, Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W. B. Yeats (OUP 2002): ‘When Ellmann returned to Ireland in June 1946 their discussions continued; George was frank in her response to his interpretations and surprisingly forthcoming about her own life. She thought he was too sceptical about A Vision, but, although she obviously reread the automatic script in order to answer some of his questions, refused to let him study the notebooks himself, with her customary dismissive phrase, “That is too personal.&146; (Ellmann in conversation with Saddlemyer, 1985; p.622.) Saddlemyer goes on to say that Mrs Yeats permitted Ellmann to photocopy MSS in his room at the Arts Club, providing him with a valise to carry them, and that he arranged for the delivery of a ton of coal to Palmerston Rd. in Nov. 1947 - when George had bronchitis, affording the Yeatses them the first warm winter in six years. Saddlemyer quotes Mrs Yeats ‘typically generous’ letter of praise when Ellmann’s study of Yeats came out (ibid., p.625.)

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John Nash, ‘Reading Ellmann Reading Joyce’, in Nash, ed., Joyce's Audiences (Amsterdam: Rodopi 2002): ‘Among the “facts” that appeared in the revised edition [of James Joyce, 1959, rev. 1982) and which he could have corrected had he consulted his own materials more carefully were that both Joyce and Nora were hospitalised in the summer of 1907. Joyce was never hospitalised and the Mangan lecture was never given. Ellmann’s version of Lucia’s birth is also wrong but was followed by all subsequent biographers. Ellmann [53] reports it as follows: “Some days after Joyce was hospitalized Nora’s labor began, and she too went to hospital. The baby was born on July 26 in the pauper ward, “almost on the street”, as she admitted later.’ (JJII, 262.) [Here quotes more dramatic version of same by Brenda Maddox]. Both of these versions rely on Ellmann’s 1954 interview with Francini Bruni (who, by then, was no longer a reliable witness), and strangely ignore Stanislaus’s Triestine “Book of Days” which provides an eye-witness acocunt of what happened, describing how Joyce went with Nora to the hospital on 25 July as soon as the midwife said it was time. While Stannie entertained Giorgio, Joyce helped Nora get settled. Then the two men went for dinner and then home to bed [...] next morning Joyce returned and was surprised to be told that Nora had already given birth to a baby girl at four in the morning. They decided to call her Lucia, but both he and Nora were slightly disappointed, as they had been hoping for another boy.’ (pp.53-54.) Further: "[W]e should keep in mind Ellsworth Mason's faulting Ellmann for identifying "the plausible with the actual" and his warning him that his mistakes would be "the last to depart from this earth." [Letter of 25 Oct. 1954 in Ellmann Collection]. (p.[56].)

[ Ftn. cites Stanislaus Joyce, Triestine “Book of Days”, 25 July 1907 [being] No. 1414 in Robert E. Scholes, The Cornell Joyce Collection: A Catalogue (Cornell UP 1961). Also cites Hugh Kenner, ‘The Impertinence of Being Definitive’, in Times Literary Supplement (17 Dec. 1982), p.1383 [on Ellmann’s revised James Joyce ].

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Emer Nolan, James Joyce and Nationalism (London: Routledge 1995) - discussing Joyce's supposedly anti-nationalist sentiments in the "Cyclops" chapter of Ulysses: ‘A critic such as Richard Ellmann is, however, quite happy to agree with Bloom, but he must therefore proceed to distinguish between the kind of parody to which the nationalists are subjected and the parody of Bloom himself. After all, Bloom’s interventions are taken up and sported with by the insistent parodic voice of the interpolations as much as those of anyone else; but for Ellmann the “positive” side of “Cyclops” must be divorced from this kind of savage parody. This point is so crucial in Ellmann’s overall understanding of Joyce that he deals with it even in his short preface to Gabler’ s edition of the text: “It is the kind of a parody that protects seriousness by immediately going aware from intensity. Love cannot be discussed without peril, but Bloom has nobly named it.”’ (In Gabler, Ulysses: Corrected Edition, 1984, p.xiii; Nolan, p.96?; see longer extract in RICORSO, Library, “Criticism, > Major Authors” > Joyce - via index or as attached. )

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First Flush”, Books Ireland (Sept. 2008), notice of Edward M. Burns, ed., A Passion for Joyce: The Letters of Hugh Kenner and Adaline Glasheen (UCD Press): ‘[...] Richard Ellmann, author of the definitive Joyce biography, is ill-regarded by both correspondents even to the extent that his interpretations are seen as per se confirming those with which he disagrees. His “careerism” and hegemony in Joyce studies are made very clear and (though Glasheen was mostly polite to him since she needed his support among publishers) the shared distaste for the man effectively cemented the Kenner friendship. An entertaining read.’ (Books Ireland, p.197; for longer extract, see under Hugh Kenner, infra.)

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Quotations
For extensive quotations from Ellmann’s lives of Yeats, Joyce and Wilde, see Commentary under these authors.

Ah, Ireland!: Ellmann writes of Wilde, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett that their work shares with their island a struggle for autonomy and a disdain for outside authorities. (Quoted in Paul Hyland & Neil Sammells, eds., Irish Writing: Exile and Subversion, London: Macmillan 1991, p.xiii.)

Patricide: ‘From the Urals to Donegal the theme recurs, in Turgenev, in Samuel Butler, in Gosse. It is especially prominent in Ireland. George Moore,in his Confessions of a Young Man, blatantly proclaims his sense of liberation and relief when his father died. Synge makes an attempted patricide the theme of his Playboy of the Western World. James Joyce describes in Ulysses how Stephen Dedalus, disowning his own parent, searches for another father [...] Yeats, after handling the subject in an unpublished play written in 1884, returns to it in 1892 in a poem “The Death of Cuchulain”, turns the same story into a play in 1903, makes two translations of Oedipus Rex, the first in 1912, the second in 1927, and writes another play involving parricide, Purgatory, shortly before his death.’ (Yeats: The Man and the Masks [1988 Edn.]; quoted in Colm Tóibín, ‘W. B. Yeats: New Ways to Kill Your Father’, in New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families, London: Viking 2012, pp.33-34.)

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Notes
Familism? In the first sentence of James Joyce (1957), Ellmann tellingly misquotes Joyce’s account of Stephen Dedalus’s flight from the nets of language, nationality and religion as “family [... &c.]”

Definitive Portrait?: Chester G. Anderson contributed ‘About this Text’ as a foreword (pp.ix-x) to R. B. Kershner's edition of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Boston: Bedford Books 1993), being an account of his preparation of the definitive edition of 1964, and Richard Ellmann’s ‘veto’ on some of the corrections he suggested. (Cited in Jeri Johnson, ed. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Oxford: World Classics 2000), p.xliii.

Modern Ireland: Ellmann believed that the modern Irish state stood in a direct line of descent from the Michael Cusacks of this world and went so far as to describe the men and women who fought for Irish independence in 1916-21 as exemplars of those traits least like the humane and liberal qualities epitomised by Bloom. (Ellmann's wartime service in the US Navy did not, of course, count as ‘physical force’ in the pertinent sense) [BS, ‘James Joyce After Theory’ - JJIS Tours 2008.]

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