A. J. Leventhal (1896-1979)


Life

[Abraham Jacob Leventhal;] pseud. Laurence K. Emery; fam. ‘Con’]; b. Dublin; ed. Wesley College, and TCD; interviewed Joyce in Paris on the day of the publication of Ulysses; worked for a year in Palestine while a student, helping to found Palestine Weekly; joined the London office of Jewish National Fund and worked with the Zionist Review]; visited Joyce in Paris, 1921; wrote a review of Ulysses for the Dublin Magazine (ed. Seumas O’Sullivan [nom de plume of James Sullivan Starkey]) which was rejected by the printer Dollard during proofing; brought it out in truncated form in his own magazine, Klaxon (1923), published in one issue only, with Arland Ussher’s trans. of Merriman’s Midnight Court, and a short piece by F. R. Higgins; editorial incl. expressed desire for ‘a whiff of Dadaist Europe to kick Ireland in to wakefulness‘; also contrib. a review of Liam O’Flaherty’s The Black Soul to Francis Stuart’s To-morrow (Aug.-Sept. 1924);

 
embarked on life-long relationship with Ethna MacCarthy [g-dg. of D. F. MacCarthy], who received letters of love from Beckett at Ussy-sur-Marne; succeeded Beckett in a French lectureship at TCD in 1932 [DIB 1931]; contrib. “Dramatic Commentary” to Dublin Magazine (Oct-Dec. 1943), and for 15 years thereafter, ending in April-June 1958 with the death of Starkey; supported the traditional agenda of the RHA on the exclusion of Louis le Brocquy and Mainie Jellett, 1943; retired from Trinity, 1963, and was the object of a parting dinner at Jammet’s; settled in Paris that year, and acted as Beckett’s assistant, though later parting when Leventhal commenced sexual relationship with Ethna MacCarthy; championed Irish writers and contrib. ‘Dramatic Commentary’ to The Dublin Magazine (1943-58);
 
played in the Dublin Drama League and appeared in a play of Denis Johnston; reviewed Beckett's Godot for Dublin Magazine, 1953; married Ethna (d.1961), on the death of his wife in 1958; after her death he married Marion Leigh, who was reputedly part-model for Molly Bloom; a small festschrift publication issued to inaugurate a memorial scholarship to Paris and edited by Eoin O’Brien (Dublin 1984) contains a eulogy by Niall Montgomery, with portraits and a bibliography; Leventhal appeared unwittingly as Bloom in John Ryan’s Bloomsday film of 1954, with Brian O’Nolan (Flann O’Brien), Patrick Kavanagh, and Anthony Cronin. DIB

[ top ]

Works
(Selected)
  • [As Laurence K. Emery], ‘The Ulysses of Mr. James Joyce’, in Klaxon (Winter 1938), cp.20 [see extract - or full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Major Authors / Joyce”, via index or direct];
  • [as L. K. Emery,] “A Primitive”, in To-morrow, 1 (Aug.-Sept. 1924) [review of Liam O’Flaherty’s The Black Soul], p.7 [see under O’Flaherty, Commentary, q.v.;
  • num. theatrical reviews as ‘Dramatic Commentary’ [column], in The Dublin Magazine (1943-58).

See also James Knowlson, Samuel Beckett: An Exhibition Held at Reading University, May to July 1971 with a foreword by A. J. Leventhal (London: Turret Books 1971), 123pp.

[ top ]

TCD Library holds:
The Klaxon ([Dublin: [1924]), 26, [2]pp., ill. [pl.], 26cm. - styled quarterly [ref. OLS JOH 138 No.13 [in Early Printed [i.e. rare] Books collection. Note: the said plate faces the the editorial (p.1.), and shows a ‘Negro Sculpture in Wood’ [female], ‘kindly lent by Grace Henry’.
Another copy held by Bruce Stewart (Ricorso ed.) - see extracts under Quotations, infra; digital copy of full contents to follow.]

Archives: Papers of A. J. Leventhal are held at Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre (Univ. of Texas, Austin) [1 box.]

[ top ]

Criticism
  • Eoin O’Brien, ed., A. J. Leventhal 1896-1979: Dublin scholar, wit and man of letters, ed. O’Brien [Con Leventhal Scholarship Commitee] (Glendate Press, Glenageary 1984), incls. ‘A. J. Leventhal: A Eulogy’ by Niall Montgomery,
 

Note: For ‘A. J. Leventhal: A Eulogy’ by Niall Montgomery, see attached. ‘The Writings of A. J. Leventhal’ compiled by O’Brien, &c. [available at Eoin O'Brien's website (.pdf); accessed 07.09.2010]

 

See Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (OUP 1959, 1965 Edn.), p.527, for account of Leventhal’s visit to Joyce in Paris, 1921 [& infra]; Anthony Cronin, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist (1996), p.126f., and passim.

 

Note: Leventhal's desire for a "whiff of Dadaist Europe" is cited in Nicholas Allen, Modernism, Ireland and Civil War (Cambridge UP 2009), p.90.

[ top ]

Commentary
Brian Kennedy, Irish Art & Modernism (1991), notes that Leventhal sided with the Royal Hibernian Academy [RHA] in its 1943 rejection of Mainie Jellett and Louis le Brocquy (leading to the foundation of the Living Art). ‘Reviewing the exhibition in Dublin Magazine, he reminded us that that it should promise no shocks against the established order ‘since its hierarchy is based on the ruling art dogma’; thus he says the RHA offers “the best the country can produce in the traditional mode” and concludes that the 1943 show was one of the most interesting in the history of the Academy.’ Dublin Magazine (July-Sept. 1943), pp.69-70. Leventhal found Mainie [sic] Jellett’s approach to Cubism a little outmoded (op. cit.)

[ top ]

References
Donagh MacDonagh, ed., Poems from Ireland (Dublin The Irish Times 1944), notes that he has been schoolteacher and Fleet St. journalist, has edited Zionist Review and acted with the Abbey Theatre Company; lectures in French and English at the Univ. of Dublin [TCD]; is dramatic critic to the Dublin Magazine and asst. ed. of Hermethena.

Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography [rev. edn.] (Gill & Macmillan 1988) notes that a perceptive review of Ulysses written for Dublin Magazine in 1923 was rejected by printer and brought out in his one-issue Klaxon; published To-Morrow [err.]; asst. ed., Hermathena, broadcaster on RE and BBC; contrib. to International Herald Tribune and Financial Times from Paris after retirement; friend of Beckett.

[ top ]

Quotations
Klaxon (1923) - Editorial: ‘We are the offspring of a gin and vermouth in a local public-house. We swore that we were young and could assert our youth with all its follies. We railed against the psychopedantic parlours of our elders and their maidenly consorts, hoping the while with an excess of Picabia and banter, a whiff of Dadaist Europe to kick Ireland into artistic wakefulness’. (Klaxon, p.1; quoted in Eoin O’Brien, ‘The Writings of A. J. Leventhal: A Bibliography’, in A. J. Leventhal 1896-1979: Dublin scholar, wit and man of letters, ed. O’Brien [Con Leventhal Scholarship Commitee] (Glendate Press, Glenageary 1984), p.19.

[ top ]

The Ulysses of Mr James Joyce’, in Klaxon (Winter 1923) [sole issue], ‘there is in all his work a cold objectivity. He has an uncanny keenness of perception which he does not let his ego influence. This perception he must have applied to himself, and he can synthesise a character from details observed in his own person.’ (p.14); ‘the variegated fabric of Ulysses’ (p.15); one might argue [...] that Ulysses [like the Bible] is the work of many hands, where it not for the fact that in the seeming medley of chapters and styles there is a form as rigid as that of a sonnet [...] the Homeric hero [...]. See further under James Joyce, Commentary [supra]; see also full text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Major Authors / Joyce”, via index or direct.]

[ top ]

Notes
James Joyce inscribed Marion Levental on his ballad of Molly Bloom, written in 1923: ‘Man dear, did you never hear of buxom Molly Bloom at all / as plumb an Irish beauty, sir, as Annie Levy Blumenthal, / If she sat in the vice-regal box Tim Healy’d have no room at all / But curl up in a corner from a glance of her eye. [... &c.]’ (See Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.561.)

[ top ]

Jammet’s: the dinner held in honour of Con Leventhal when he retired from Trinity in 1963 was organised by Liam O Briain (UCG) and Hermann Good, with Austin Clarke, F. R. Rodgers and his dg. Harden Rodgers [later a TCD lecturer in English], Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, George Hetherington, and Micheál MacLiammóir as a late arrival - presum. after the theatre. (All according to Niall Montgomery, also present, in his eulogy of Leventhal, in Eoin O’Brien, ed., A. J. Leventhal 1896-1979: Dublin scholar, wit and man of letters [Con Leventhal Scholarship Commitee], Glendate Press, Glenageary 1984, pp.9-13; p.11.)

[ top ]