The Daily Express, or "the Express," was a morning newspaper of very conservative political orientation published in Dublin from 1851 to 1921. It plays a miniscule role in Ulysses, but that one passing moment of interest raises interesting questions about Joyce's earlier writings. In Aeolus Bloom thinks he has heard that J. J. O'Molloy "does some literary work for the Express with Gabriel Conroy," which sends the reader back to a charged moment in The Dead. Conroy's involvement with the Express, in turn, demands to be situated within the context of Joyce's own writing for that newspaper.
Read MoreThroughout its history, which terminated shortly before the creation of the Irish Free State, the Daily Express was associated with Conservative party politics, the Unionist cause in Ireland, and a Protestant readership. No less a subversive than Karl Marx, in an article about Ireland published in the 11 January 1859 New York Daily Tribune, railed against the paper as "the Government organ" whipping up hysteria about anti-British violence. In 1881 the paper assisted efforts by the Orange Lodges to provide relief supplies to a large landowner threatened by the Irish Land League. An editor, "Dr. George Valentine Tyrrell (d. 1899), . . . was said never to have forgiven Gladstone for Disestablishment," notes Patrick Maume in "The Dublin Evening Mail and Pro-Landlord Conservatism in the Age of Gladstone and Parnell," Irish Historical Studies 37 (2011): 550-66. Maume describes the politics of both the Express and the Mail as "ferocious partisanship," as compared to the more moderate unionism of the Irish Times (552).
§ This unionist ideology explains the accusation that Miss Ivors playfully lodges against Gabriel Conroy in The Dead: "Who is G. C.? . . . I have found out that you write for the Daily Express. Now, aren't you ashamed of yourself? . . . To say you'd write for a rag like that. I didn't think you were a West Briton." Gabriel does not know how to respond: "It was true that he wrote a literary column every Wednesday in The Daily Express, for which he was paid fifteen shillings. But that did not make him a West Briton surely. The books he received for review were almost more welcome than the paltry checque. . . . He did not know how to meet her charge. . . . He continued blinking his eyes and trying to smile and murmured lamely that he saw nothing political in writing reviews of books." Miss Ivors lets him off the hook by saying that she was only teasing, and that she liked his review of Browning's poems. But once more she leans into his ear and whispers, "West Briton!"
Joyce drew this part of Gabriel's character from his own experience. Over the course of about one year at the age of 20-21, while trying to make a living as a recent graduate of University College, Dublin, he published nearly two dozen book reviews in the Express. In James Joyce A-Z, Nicholas Fargnoli and Michael Gillespie note that the paper normally kept its book reviews completely anonymous, but that the editor Ernest V. Longworth was so upset by Joyce's harsh review of Lady Gregory's Poets and Dreamers in the 26 March 1903 issue that he had the essay printed over Joyce's initials so as to dodge responsibility. If this is so, it hardens the link between Joyce and Gabriel Conroy, whose initials "G. C." have betrayed his identity to Molly Ivors. Joyce's editor outed him for a social outrage; Gabriel feels outed for a political one.
Joyce was a nationalist, but he vehemently refused to allow political correctness to tyrannize over literary representation or his own personal freedom. It seems certain that he projected some of himself into the hapless Gabriel, tormented by a political partisan when he wants to be left alone to conduct his literary labors in peace. But Molly Ivors, who is no mere ideologue, reflects his awareness that publishing enters one in a world of political actors and political choices.
The Critical Writings of James Joyce (Viking, 1959) reproduces the 21 short review essays that Joyce published in the Daily Express from December 1902 to November 1903:
"An Irish Poet" (December 11)
"George Meredith" (December 11)
"Today and Tomorrow in Ireland" (January 29)
"A Suave Philosophy" (February 6)
"An Effort at Precision in Thinking" (February 6)
"Colonial Verses" (February 6)
"The Soul of Ireland" (March 26),
"Aristotle on Education" (September 3)
[A Ne'er-Do-Well], untitled (September 3)
"New Fiction" (September 17)
"The Mettle of the Pasture" (September 17)
"A Peep into History" (September 17)
"A French Religious Novel" (October 1)
"Unequal Verse" (October 1)
"Mr. Arnold Graves' New Work" (October 1)
"A Neglected Poet" (October 15)
"Mr. Mason's Novels" (October 15)
"The Bruno Philosophy" (October 30)
"Humanism" (November 12)
"Shakespeare Explained" (November 12)
[Borlase and Son], untitled (November 19)