Arthur Power


Life
1891-1985; b. Guernsey, of Irish family with French origins [Per crucem ad Coronam]; brought up at Bellevue, a country house adjac. to River Suir, in Co. Waterford, formerly Georgian but rendered French by a maternal grandmother, raised in France; ed. at Catholic School in Hampstead; and influenced there by the arrival of a French school-teacher; first travelled to France with his mother, Christmas 1905; his work appeared at the inaugural Irish International Exhibition, 1907; winner of the Taylor Prize in 1908; joins the Army in World War I; meets Jo Davidson, sculptor, at Dan Rider’s bookshop in London; gassed in trenches; invalided (‘innumerable medical boards’) at end of war; travelled to Italy (Pisa, Florence, Rome);
 
settled in Paris, to become a writer; lodges at Hôtel Moderne on Place de la Sorbonne; re-frequents Café du Dôme and La Rotonde; befriended by [Ossip] Zadkine in café, who rents his studio on rue de Sèvres to him; encounters Davidson again and through him writes “Round the Studios” column for Paris Edn. of New York Herald; meets Modigliani through Sola; first meets James Joyce at Ball Bullier, where the Joyce party is celebrating publication of Ulysses; appreciated by Nora as not being a drinking friend; inherited family home, 1930; returned to Ireland, and farmed in Waterford; sold Bellevue to Land Commission and settling in Dublin, 1939; set up an art gallery in Balfe St., Dublin;
 
 
acted as Art Critic for The Irish Times; also as art critic for The Irish Tatler and Sketch; contrib. criticism to NY Herald; exhibited his work at the Living Art and Oireachtas exhibitions; issued From the Old Waterford House (1940), an autobiography with a preface by Paul Henry; issued Conversations with James Joyce (1974), written from contemporary notes; lived in a Georgian villa on Park Ave., Sandymount; d. in British Military Hosp., Foxrock. DIB

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Works
  • ‘James Joyce - The Irishman’, in The Irish Times, Dec. 30 1944 [extract].
  • From the Old Waterford House, foreword by Paul Henry (Waterford: Carthage 1940), 180pp.; Do. [Mellifont Library] (London: Mellifont Press [1949]), 96pp.; and Do. as Recollections of a Soldier and Artist [rep. edn.], foreword by Roderick Power [his son] (Co Waterford: Ballylough Books 2003), 165pp.;
  • Conversations with James Joyce, foreword by Clive Hart (London: millington ltd.; Dublin: [Cahill & Co., printer] 1974), 111pp. [see extracts]; Do. [another edn.] (Chicago UP 1982), and Do. [corrected rep. of 1st edn.], with a [new] foreword by David Norris (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1999), 128pp. [retains forward by Clive Hart] - and see French translation, infra.

See also Memoir of Joyce [‘Arthur Power’] in Ulick O’Connor, ed., The Joyce We Knew (Cork: Mercier Press 1967), pp.95-123 [infra]. See also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 30.

In translation
  • Anne Villelaur, trans., Entretiens avec James Joyce [par] Arthur Power, Suivis de Souvenirs de James Joyce par Philippe Soupault [Entretiens Ser.] (Paris: Pierre Belfond [1979]), 222pp., v. [23 cm].

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Quotations
James Joyce - The Irishman’, in The Irish Times (30 Dec. 1944): Joyce told Arthur Power, ‘You are an Irishman and you must write in your own tradition. Borrowed styles are no good. You must write what is in your blood and not what is in your brain. [...] For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.’

(Quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, OUP [1959], 1965 Edn., p.520; also in Deirdre Bair, Samuel Beckett, 1978, p.130 and Bair, ‘No-Man’s-Land, Hellespont or Vacuum, Samuel Beckett’s Irishness’, in Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 1982, p.105; also in Mary Junker, Beckett: The Irish Dimension, Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1995 [q.p.], citing Bair.) [Note an additional citation for this quotation as coming in From an Old Waterford House London [1940], p.63-64, suggesting that the Irish Times article is an extract from the earlier published autobiographical work. The last-named citation is not given in Ellmann.]

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Memoir of Joyce [“Arthur Power”], in The Joyce We Knew, ed. Ulick O’Connor (Cork: Mercier Press 1967): ‘It was the Medieval and the Medievalists which attracted him most. I remember one day walking with him down the Boulevard St Michel. On our left rose the spire of the Sainte Chapelle with that flat angel poised on its summit which always seems just to have alighted; while further down was the ancient Monastery of the Cluny, and those huge and sinister hulks of masonry the remain[s] of the original wall of Paris. “It is the true spirit of Europe”, he said, “think of the magnificient civilisation we would have had if we had remained in that tradition” - He looked on the Renaissance and its return to classicism as a return to intellectual boyhood. “Compare”, he continued, “a medieval building with a classical one, Notre Dame with La Madelaine, for instance; Notre Dame with plane countering plane, roof against roof, its flying buttresses, and erupting gargoyles.” He maintained that the present age was gradually returning to medievalism, remarking finally, with some bitterness, that if he had lived in the 14th or 15th century he would have been much more appreciated. / Also the Ireland he had known, in his opinion, was still medieval, and Dublin a medieval city in which the sacred and the obscene jostled shoulders. [...]’ (p.105.) [Cont.]

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Memoir of Joyce (in The Joyce We Knew, ed. Ulick O’Connor, 1967): Power speaks of Joyce recommending the study of the Book of Kells, quoting: “You can compare much of my work to the intricate design of its illuminations, and I have bored over its workmanship for hours at a time in Dublin, in Trieste, in Rome, in Geneva - wherever I have been, and I have always got inspiration from it.’ (p.106.) See also his narrative about the painter Tuohy and Joyce (“Don't worry about my soul, but get my tie straight”; p.112.) Note, rep. in O’Connor, ed., The Joyce We Knew (Dingle: Brandon Press 2004), pp.85-111), with inside front & back cover col. prints of a cubist port. of Joyce by Power.

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Conversations with James Joyce (London: Millington 1974): ‘[...] one of his marked characteristics was his avoidance of giving a direct opinion about anyone or about anything, and I attributed some of his reticence to his early life in the provincial atmosphere of Dublin, where everything said was echoed back and forth with considerable distortion among [49] one’s associates, until in the end it could assume the fantastic proportions of a Celtic myth, so that one was inclined to disbelieve all one heard. He so rarely expressed his opinion that his fundamental beliefs were very hard to gauge. In fact his mind appeared to be occupied to the exclusion of everthing else with two main problems - that of human behaviour and that of human environment - and then only as related to Dublin. The surrounding French life with all its brilliance and attraction seemed to pass him over, and fed his talent only so far as he appreciated its intellectual freedom and its “convenience”, as he termed it. All he would say about Paris, when any one assked his opinion about it, was that “it is a very convenient city”, though what he meant by this phrase I was never able to discover.’ (pp.49-50.) Further, ‘I realised that there was much of the Fenian about him - his dark suiting, his wide hat, his light carriage, and his intense expression - a literary conspirator, who was determined to destroy the oppressive and respectable cultural structures under which we had been reared, and which were then crumbling.’ (p.69.)[For extensive quotations from Joyce’s conversation, see infra.]

Note: Joyce told Power, ‘Realism smashes romanticism to pulp.’ (Quoted by Luke Gibbons at James Joyce Conference, Dublin 2012.)

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Notes
W. B. Yeats: Arthur Power was the recipient of a letter of thanks - in response to a letter on his part - in which Yeats writes of the influence of his father [JBY] upon him [WBY]. (See Richard Ellmann, Yeats, the Man and the Masks, London: Faber 1948, p.14.)

Namesake? The Drapiers Letters and Her Ladyship - the poet - the dog, two one-act plays by Arthur B. Power (Dublin & Cork 1927) [copy in Nat. Lib. of Scotland].

More Joyce: In an interview with Richard Ellmann in 1953, Power told him that Joyce had said the way to test a work of art is to copy out a page of it, and gave Wells as an instance of the disastrous revelations such an exercise would provide. (See Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.622, n.)

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