A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

When Joyce arrived in Trieste in 1904 he had already written 12 chapters of his novel Stephen Hero, begun earlier that year.  On September 8, 1907, increasingly dissatisfied with the novel’s form, he told Stanislaus that he would rewrite it in 5 chapters after finishing his short story ‘The Dead’.  By the  end of November he had rewritten the first chapters of Stephen Hero as Chapter 1 of the Portrait, by March of 1908 he had finished the 2nd Chapter and by April he had given the 3rd Chapter to Stanislaus to read.  At this point, the revision of Stephen Hero seems to have stopped, in part because of the difficulties of presenting Stephen’s development after the sermon episode, and in part because of Joyce’s financial difficulties and frustration with writing which led him to consider other options for making money.

In February, 1909 Italo Svevo wrote Joyce a letter containing his criticism of the first 3 Chapters.  In February 1911, Joyce’s  frustration was such that he threw the manuscript of Portrait into the fire. Fortunately his sister Eileen intervened and saved the manuscript.  In August 1912, Joyce wrote to Nora telling her that the publisher Roberts had asked him to finish his novel and that if Dubliners was published he would ‘plunge into my novel and finish it’, indicating that he had not made any significant progress in over 4 years.  The turning-point was Joyce’s discovery by the American poet Ezra Pound, who first wrote him in December 1913 asking if he could publish one of his poems in an anthology he was preparing with Yeats.  In January, 1914 Joyce sent him the first chapters of Portrait, which Pound pronounced ‘damn fine stuff’, and within a few weeks the Portrait began appearing in serial form in the English journal The Egoist.

In March of the same year, Joyce finally signed a contract with Grant Richards for Dubliners (it would be published in June) and these two events seem to have driven him to finish Portrait during 1914.  In fact, the influence of Trieste can be most clearly seen in the last two chapters of Portrait, which reveal some interesting correspondences with Giacomo Joyce, both in terms of content (the presentation of the ‘beloved’, the references to Dowland, etc.) and stylistically (the staccato, ‘journal’ style of the final pages), suggesting that Joyce had drawn on Giacomo in order to finally complete a novel that he had been working on for ten years.