Gas From a Burner. James Joyce.

Gas From a Burner

Flushing [Holland, printed in Trieste]: September 1912. First edition. Broadside. 23 x 9 inches. White wove paper, printed signature (‘James Joyce’) at foot. Three horizontal folds, small marginal tears in 3rd fold, some minor handling wear, overall near fine or better, a beautiful copy of an excessively rare and fragile item. Housed in a full gilt calf clamshell case.

A bitter 98 line poem, composed in response to learning that the publisher George Roberts of Maunsel & Co had reneged on his contract to publish Dubliners, viewing it as “anti-Irish,” and the printed sheets had been destroyed by the printer John Falconer. The collection had already been rejected for publication on several occasions, publishers being put off by fears of libel and obscenity. After the incident, Joyce left Dublin in September 1912 for Trieste, never to set foot in Ireland again. En route, he began to compose this cutting satirical poem at Flushing railway station in the Netherlands. In Trieste, Joyce had the poem printed as a broadside, and sent copies to his brother Charles in Dublin to circulate among friends and enemies. Joyce attacks Irish culture at large- “This lovely land that always sent / Her writers and artists to banishment.” He implies that his “writing of Dublin, dirty and dear” depicts the city as it truly is: “the foreigner learns the gift of the gab / From the drunken draggletail Dublin drab.” The poem is a “wholly personal invective.” Yet, though irreverent, mocking, and bitterly satirical it has a larger importance as, in effect, Joyce’s farewell statement to Ireland, for he was never to return to Dublin: “the mistreatment he had received from Roberts in 1912… brought him to fear irrationally that his next appearance would bring on physical abuse to match the mental abuse to which he had been subjected… Now Ireland was visitable only in imagination. Joyce did not return, but he sent his characters back...” (Ellmann, pp. 335-338). Gas From a Burner’s importance in the Joyce canon cannot be overstated; it is a world of comment, content, history, and emotion, a catharsis that enabled Joyce to go on writing again after such bitter disappointment.

Slocum and Cahoon cite Joyce’s handwritten note on the Esher-Randle-Keynes-Spoerri copy (now in the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas): “this pasquinade was written in the railway station waiting room at Flushing, Holland on the way to Trieste from Dublin after the malicious burning of the 1st edition of Dubliners (1000 copies less one in my possession) by the printer Messrs John Falconer. Upper Sackville Street Dublin in July 1912.” The broadside has appeared infrequently at auction and less so in the trade. OCLC locates sixteen copies.

Slocum & Cahoon A7. Ellmann and Mason, James Joyce, The Critical Writings, pp. 242-245. Item #2084

Price: $55,000.00

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