Time of Life
Our heroes were James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence. There was a considerable division between the James Joyce faction and the D.H. Lawrence faction because the James Joyce faction thought that sex was ‘wonderful but private’ and the D.H. Lawrence faction thought sex was ‘pretty good but public’. I belonged to the James Joyce faction and have only slowly through the rest of my life moved to the other. I remember that Empson and I organised a debate one evening about James Joyce’s Ulysees and I hadn’t been able to get a copy but finally I borrowed Empson’s copy on a Wednesday morning and I spent all day Wednesday and all Wednesday night and all day Thursday reading Ulysees and I had just finished reading the great soliloquy when I rushed into the debate late on Thursday evening. The soliloquy stays in my mind as a result, with a particular poignancy to this day.
James Joyce I liked very much, I met him in Paris [...] when he was being shepherded by a man only a little older than we, Samuel Beckett, who was his secretary at the time, who gave some promise of out-distancing his master as an eccentric because James Joyce generally didn’t get up until the afternoon but Samuel Beckett didn’t get up until after tea. The magazine that Empson and I edited had a number of editors [...] Humphrey Jennings was somewhat older than we were and he was married - that was a very strange thing to be in Cambridge in those days - and he was perhaps the most formative influence of the people I had met in Cambridge.
Copyright © 2000 by Stephen Moss. All rights reserved.