There's something amiss about Joyce, brilliant wordsmith that he was.
It's as if the defences of a dictator's palace are got up with the elaborate skills of a fabulous blacksmith with gleaming spikes on every railing and a crest upon the locked and guarded gate.
Portrait was gestated and written in the time of Nora's pregnancy and the birth of Lucia. By a family man so to say.
Mr Ellmann says that Portrait represents the "gestation of a soul".
Both biologically and emotionally. A tearing away from the nest.
Rejection of family, country and religion preceding flight. There's a running comparison between biological development and psychological soul-birth as artist with the former associated with restriction and the latter with freedom; nutrient and desires, and always moving forwards searching to lose itself again.
But he stops the clock in the last chapter. He's not rejecting sex as his Jesuit masters did but he is not sure that he didn't ought to because there's direction in that as well leading to, and going beyond, Bella Cohen.
Movement is the theme. Physical and intellectual.
It is all very well subordinating family, country and religion to the artistic temperment but after a certain animalistic approach to sex in the young man, a short period for any intellectual, although longer for Rambo types, mental processes come more and more into dominance. And there you go.
I presume that Mr Ellmann, who named his third child Lucy, avoided this theme because he was a family man.
Joyce is the subject of all his books, A flawed genius. A raging narcissist. And under the thumb. The "pram in the hall" problem as C.S. Lewis called it.
Incidentally C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley and President Kennedy all died on the same day.
Flaubert, Frank Harris, Proust, Spengler, Hitler, Stendhal and Larkin were free of such encumbrances and, allowing for platonic love, so was Shaw.
Shakespeare just ran off. Then back when things got hot.
And as with sex the same is true, although to a lesser extent, with friendship. Friendship and the "lonely heroism" of the artist don't mix. Exile is more than just shifting your location.
His brother Stanislaus said-
Jim is thought to be very frank about himself but his style is such that it might be contended that he confesses in a foreign language--an easier confession than in the vulgar tongue.
But that was then. Today he might have said " I'm a bloomers and knicker elastic man" and got a job down the docks. That would have saved us all a lot of trouble as it would have for Jim.
Maybe Mr Spitzer had read the Circe scene in Ulysses.
Obsit nemon! Floodlift, her ancient of rights regaining, so yester yidd, even remembrance. And greater grown than in the trifle of her days, a mouse, a mere tittle, trots off with the whole panoromacron picture. Her young-free yoke stilling his wandercursus, jilt the spin of a curl and jolt the broadth of a bouy. The Annexandreian captive conquest. Ethna Prettyplume, Hooghly Spaight. Him her first lap, her his fast pal, for ditcher for plower, till deltas twoport.
Finnegans Wake. Quite a ride.