My copy of Stephen Hero (published by New Directions Publishing in 1963) has an interesting introduction by Theodore Spencer who edited the Harvard College Library version so I took notes…
Stephen Hero is the early unpublished manuscripts of Joyce that were replaced by The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The manuscript (in Joyce’s handwriting) was first made available to the public by Sylvia Beach, the first person willing to publish Ulysses. They were bought by the Harvard College Library in 1938 and were printed for the first time in 1944. Stephen Hero was likely written between 1904 and 1906.
Some accounts claim that Joyce had tried to publish it Stephen Hero, but was repeatedly rejected. Others claim he was simply frustrated with the results. Either way, most accounts concur that he threw the manuscript into the fire in frustration. His wife, Nora Joyce, pulled it out of the fire at the risk of burning her hands. What remained was pp. 519-902.
Whether or not Joyce had actually tried to publish the manuscript or simply burned it because he was frustrated with it, we do know he called it a “schoolboy’s production” and said he wrote it when he was 19 or 20.
According to Herbert Gorman, it was meant to be:
…an autobiographical book, a personal history, as it were, of the growth of a mind, his own mind, and his intensive absorption in himself and what he had been and how he had grown out of the Jesuitical garden of his youth. He endeavored to see himself objectively, to assume a godlike poise of watchfulness over the small boy and youth he called Stephen and who was really himself.
The surviving 383 pages cover Stephen Daedalus’ two years at the University. There are many characters and incidents that are not in Portrait, and others are developed much more fully than they are in Portrait. The growth of Stephen’s mind is also described in a much more direct way.
Theodor Spencer says Joyce replaced Stephen Hero with Portrait because he was “aiming at economy”. He wanted the center of the action to be within his consciousness. Also, the method of writing used in Stephen Hero is similar to that in Dubliners (objectively presenting one character or event after another) and Joyce did not want to duplicate method in his works. In Portrait, “the diffuseness of real life is controlled and ordered by being presented from a single point of view.” It merely hints at conversation which makes Stephen’s thoughts and actions more suggestive than they are in Stephen Hero. (For instance, Stephen has a full dialogue with his mother about his decision not to perform his Easter duty in Stephen Hero. The conversation is barely hinted at in Portrait.)
Spencer says there are five main themes closely related to the central theme of Stephen himself in both works:
- Stephen’s family
- Stephen’s friends, male and female
- The life of Dublin
…sloughs off the first four in order that the fifth may stand clear. When this happens, and art is defined, the artist may then return to the first four for his subject matter. In fact he has to return to them if his function as an artist is to be fulfilled.
Stephen as hero is an adolescent. Stephen as artist is an adult. Perhaps the Stephen in Stephen Hero is not yet the artist he was to become? In Portrait, Stephen is a “cold fish” and is above approval or disapproval. He is “already prepared for ‘silence, exile, and cunning’”. In Stephen Hero, we are far more aware of his personal struggles with family, friends, women, his Professors, and Catholicism. He is much more vulnerable and self-conscious.
According to the artist in Portrait, the true artist is impersonal:
The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.
Proper art (art that is true to esthetic emotion) is static. Improper art, on the other hand, is “kinetic” in that it moves us to do something. Portrait is static, Stephen Hero is kinetic. We feel sympathy for Stephen and hope for his success. Portrait is more mature, artistically. It illustrates Stephen’s artistic theory and does not expound upon it as does Stephen Hero.
Spencer points out a passage in Stephen Hero that is altogether absent in Portrait that explains Joyce’s theory of epiphanies. It begins on p. 210 with “He was passing through Eccles Street”. Spencer explains that Dubliners “is a series of epiphanies describing apparently trivial but actually crucial revealing moments in the lives of different characters.” Likewise:
The Portrait may be seen as a kind of epiphany – a showing forth – of Joyce himself as a young man; Ulysses, by taking one day in the life of the average man, describes that man, according to Joyce’s intention, more fully than any human being had ever been described before; it is the epiphany of Leopoldo Bloom, just as, years earlier, the trivial conversation overheard on a misty evening in Eccles Street (where, incidentally, Mr. Bloom lived) was the epiphany of those two people’s lives, shown forth in a moment. And Finnegans Wake may be seen as a vast enlargement, of course unconceived by Joyce as a young man, of the same view. Here it is not any one individual that is “epiphanized”; it is all of human history, symbolized in certain types the representatives of which combine with one another as the words describing them combine various meanings, so that H.C. Earwicker and his family, his acquaintances, the city of Dublin where he lives, his morality and religion, become symbols of an epiphanic view of human life as a whole, and the final end of the artist is achieved.
This theory implies a lyrical view of life:
It emphasizes the radiance, the effulgence, of the thing itself revealed in a special moment, and unmoving moment in time. The moment, as in the macro cosmic lyric of Finnegans Wake, may involve all other moment, but it still remains essentially time-less.