The Holy Office, published in 1905, was the second professional work published by James Joyce, the Irish poet, author and satirist. (The first, Et Tu, Healy!, was printed when the author was nine years old, and Joyce had editorials published in the student paper at the University College Dublin.)

The Holy Office has been described as Joyce’s embodiment of the writer’s “general attitude toward the nationalistic literati”, who included W.B. Yeats, Padraic Colum, W.K. Magee, and George Russell, – all whom became subjects of Joyce’s stanzas within the poem.

“And though they spurn me from their door
My soul shall spurn them evermore.”

Joyce first submitted the manuscript to St Stephen’s, the University College Dublin’s magazine.

When the poem was rejected, Joyce made arrangements for the piece to be published through the Dublin Printing Company.

Joyce was able to read the proofs from the printer, but ultimately was unable to make payment against the cost. 

Joyce and Nora Barnacle (who would later become his wife), soon thereafter departed Ireland in search of much needed employment, – the manuscript still not having been printed.

Months later, after travels through Switzerland and Italy, Joyce and Barnacle arrived in Pola, where Joyce assumed a teaching position. It was from Pola that Joyce was finally able to pay to have the poem printed.

John Nash, in his study of James Joyce, wrote that the publication being printed six-months after Joyce left Ireland, “suggests that Joyce was at least as keen for the text to have a readership as for it to avenge directly any slight.

Mr. Nash also noted copies of the poem were “hand-delivered to its targets by the hesitant postman Stanislaus.”

Read the Full Text


The Conscience of James Joyce. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1968. 136. Print.
James Joyce and the act of reception: reading, Ireland, modernism
John Nash – Cambridge University Press – 2006
Editors, writers and members of the Fraternal Order of the Leather Apron Club.