Joyce begins his essay “The Day of the Rabblement,” written when he was 19: “No man, said the Nolan [Giordano Bruno of Nola], can be a lover of the true or the good unless he abhors the multitude…. [I]t is strange to see the artist making terms with the rabblement.”
Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 for asserting that the sun was a star like any other. Just the sort of man Joyce was likely to admire, as he never met anybody’s terms but his own–whether at 19 when Father Henry Browne rejected his essay from a literary magazine at University College Dublin (he self-published it with his buddy Francis Skeffington), or in his mid-50s, at the height of his fame, when he was paid little for the manuscript of Finnegans Wake, which took him 20 years to write. He cared less about pay and more about commas, omissions of which were among many errata Joyce discovered in Viking’s edition of the Wake. He caused them to publish a pamphlet listing every last correction down to the comma and kerning of the letters.
This collection of expository prose, mostly written when Joyce was himself the young man he portrayed in his first novel, is not for the casual reader of Joyce. But there’s much here of interest for those with a serious interest in Joyce’s art, his aesthetics, and his biography.