How Joyce bit the Yeats hand that fed him
James Joyce was a regular critic of the poet, despite profiting from their relationship
Published 30/08/2015 | 02:30
W B Yeats's mentoring of the young James Joyce shows our national poet at his most generous.
One day, Joyce stopped Yeats in the street and introduced himself. Yeats had previously been warned about Joyce by George Russell, who wrote: "The first spectre of a new generation has appeared. His name is Joyce. I have suffered from him and I would like you to suffer."
Yeats invited Joyce to a smoking room off O'Connell Street, where he endured one of the greatest put-downs in literary history. Yeats records that Joyce "began to explain all his objections to everything I had ever done; politics, folklore, historical settings of events and so on. Above all, why had I written about ideas? These things were all the signs of the cooling of the iron, of the fading out of inspiration. . . his own little book of poetry owed nothing to anything but his own mind which was much nearer to God than folklore".