Dubliners was completed in 1905, but a series of British and Irish publishers and printers found it offensive and immoral, and it was suppressed. The book finally came out in London in 1914, just as Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man began to appear in the journal Egoist under the auspices of Ezra Pound. The first three stories in Dubliners might be incidents from a draft of Portrait of the Artist, and many of the characters who figure in Ulysses have their first appearance here, but this is not a book of interest only because of its relationship to Joyce's life and mature work. It is one of the greatest story collections in the English language--an unflinching, brilliant, often tragic portrait of early twentieth-century Dublin. The book, which begins and ends with a death, moves from 'stories of my childhood' through tales of public life. Its larger purpose, Joyce said, was as a moral history of Ireland.
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December 31, 1992
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Excerpt from Dubliners by James Joyce
THERE was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: I am not long for this world, and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.
Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:
--No, I wouldn't say he was exactly . . . but there was something queer . . . there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion. . . .
He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms; but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.
--I have my own theory about it, he said. I think it was one of those . . . peculiar cases. . . . But it's hard to say. . . .
He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring and said to me:
--Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear.
--Who? said I.
--Is he dead?
--Mr Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house.
I knew that I was under observation so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.
--The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him.
--God have mercy on his soul, said my aunt piously.