The Holy Office
Book ID: 30883
The Holy Office. Columbus, Ohio: Joseph Vogel, 1980. One of only 36 Numbered Copies. Hand-Lettered, reproduced by off-set and then hand-coloured. A very attractive 26 page pamphlet in paper wrappers. In original lettered envelope. Fine copy. This poem dates from 1904, shortly before Joyce was to leave Ireland, and originally took the form of a broadside printed by Joyce and circulated throughout his Dublin circle. Designed to defend and clarify his artistic position, it took a well-aimed swipe at the narrow minded people of Dublin, their refusal to face reality, and their predilection for art in the ‘Celtic Twilight’ vein. Joyce, putting himself squarely in the tradition of Aristotle and St. Aquinas, reckons his writing as a purgative for all Dublin’s hypocrisy: ‘That they may dream their dreamy dreams/I carry off their filthy streams… Thus I relieve their timid arses/Perform my office of Katharsis.’ His unflinchingly honest art is a mirror which reflects the things they would rather not acknowledge. And furthermore, the poem declares that he’s perfectly willing to pay the price of his holy office, that he must bear the brunt of their anger and their hypocritical scorn, for that is the task for all artists true to their principles, even if it leaves them ‘self-doomed, unafraid, unfellowed, friendless and alone. The Holy Office is a delightfully wicked satire, and when one remembers that Joyce had the vast majority of his career ahead of him, it seems a deliciously arrogant spurt of venom, a swift strike from the lucifer match of a morning star.