Book Review: Musings on ‘A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man’ – James Joyce

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Of course, much has been written about this novel since it was first published in 1916. To call ‘A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man’ (Penguin – this publication) a landmark, would be grossly understating its impact.

So I’m not attempting to go into great depth, all that has already been done. I merely want to convey my own recollections of first reading it, way back in school.

For me, it was this book and D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Sons and Lovers’ that first truly opened my eyes to what we sometimes call serious literature. Both of them are, in their own way, semi-autobiographies and broke the mould of novel writing.

Story Teller

Naturally though, Lawrence and Joyce wrote in very different ways. I think Joyce wrote more intuitively, in a way which conjured up for me a wholly different milieu of imagery. He is a natural narrator, a story teller like many of his countrymen.

For example, when he describes Stephen Dedalus’ childhood, I get drawn into that world through the use of evocative child-like language; I become that child. I can remember endless classroom discussions about this part of the book.

Living Imagery

And the world of Dublin in the late 19th century, was a very different world from that of the industrial Nottingham area, where Lawrence sets his book.

Although Joyce was to reject almost everything about his upbringing, his beliefs, his writing is nevertheless suffused with that imagery, bringing it alive, like new music as some describe.

So what are we to make of the criticism of those who first rejected his manuscript? The book is, when compared to more classic literature, without doubt somewhat formless and unconventional.

Like God

Yet, those of an artistic nature tend to be like this, especially over the last hundred years or so. I think Joyce, whose approach was understood and encouraged by none other than Ezra Pound, was simply bold enough to open up the taps of his creativity. The artist himself almost becomes like God, a creator in his own right, a bit like the Daedalus of legend, who built wings for himself and his son so that they could fly.

Joyce’s upbringing within the strict bounds of Catholicism, his training for the priesthood, was in retrospect the perfect grounding for such free artistry, once it was released from its captivity.

Ironically, Joyce’s world never seems to lose the colour of his Catholic upbringing, even though he ultimately rejected it. With Lawrence, the harsh, English Protestant world, seems altogether more grim, enlightened by the writer’s love of nature.

Native Genius

Joyce’s innate creativity, held back for so long, could only emerge later like a succession of Michelangelo masterpieces, hewn by the craft and intelligence of a native genius.

Unlike his other classics, Finnegan’s Wake and Ulysses, I have successfully completed reading his first great novel.

Even so, one day I intend to finish the former two, although I suspect I will read ‘Portrait’ again before I do that.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

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West Lindsey Church Festival 2019 – Minting St. Andrew in Pictures, Part 2

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A collection of old Bibles.

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Bardney Church, Lincolnshire – A Celebration in Pictures, Part 2

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Inside the church there are echoes of Bardney’s former glory as the place of an important monastery. This whole region of Lincolnshire was at one time littered with abbeys, priories and nunneries.

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Celebration of Lincolnshire Churches 2019 – Bardney, Part 1

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We recently visited the West Lindsey Churches Festival. One of the most interesting was Bardney’s Church of Saint Lawrence.

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The church is impressive with a large nave, indicative of this settlement’s once important though now long dissolved abbey.

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As in all the churches in West Lindsey, there were stalls with items for sale, as well as food and drink.

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The Wild Man of Stainfield? – Fascinating Lincolnshire Churches, Stainfield, Part 3

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A display in the church about the ‘Wild Man of Stainfield’.

The origin of the legend of the Wild Man of Stainfield is unclear. No one seems to know who he was, though some thought he generally went about naked, his body covered in hair.

Even the date of his existence is not certain, though most put it sometime during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Nevertheless, there does appear to be some clarity regarding his actions. He was a woodlander, who reputedly took cattle and sheep, presumably for food, maybe clothing. Some even think that he killed humans too.

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If the stories are true, how safe would cattle have been during the times of this wild man? Today the nearby cattle don’t appear to be worried.

One story states that it was a descendant of Sir Francis Drake who finally killed the Wild Man of Stainfield. There began the association of the Drake family with the area.

Stories of his demise are disputed too. Another tale describes those who later became known as the ‘Hardy Gang’, who got together to rid the area of this wildling. Some say this is how nearby Hardygang Wood got its name.

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All in all, Stainfield is a fascinating village with a remarkable history – and a legend to boot.

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Remarkable English Church, Stainfield, Lincolnshire, Part 2

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Saint Andrew’s church in Stainfield is remarkable. It’s thought that Christopher Wren designed the building following a visit.

The church has been open since 1711 and is still a regular place of worship, though the burial ground these days is at nearby Apley.

This area of Lincolnshire is notable for its rich ecclesiastical history, particularly in regard to monasteries, the abbeys and priories that were finally dissolved by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1540.

Inheritance

There was a priory here dedicated to Saint Mary until that time, though not much detail of its history survives. The priory remains have not been excavated, though part of it is said to form part of the wall of the present church.

At the time of its dissolution, the priory was given over to the Tyrwhitt family, in whose hands it remained until about seventy years ago.

A most remarkable inheritance from that long period are The Tyrwhitt Tapestries, actually cross stitch embroidery work. Today they hang along the north wall of the church.

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The tapestries were originally made for the opening of the church in 1711 and consist of five religious pieces, including the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.

The Ten Commandments piece was re-stitched some time in the late 19th century, and much rather difficult preservation work has been carried out on them since.

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Fascinating English Churches – Stainfield, Lincolnshire, Part 1

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Saint Andrew’s Church Stainfield in West Lindsey Lincolnshire, was reputedly designed by Sir Christopher Wren – yes, he of Saint Paul’s Cathedral fame.

Built in 1711, the church boasts many interesting features, and is made of red brick with stone quoins, apart from the stone eastern wall; this may be a remnant of the former medieval priory.

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Notable feature above the entrance.

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The visit was part of our short tour of the West Lindsey Church Festival, which takes place over two weekends every May. More on this fascinating church to follow.

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