Chamber Music is a book of short love-lyrics published by James Joyce in 1907 (long before he had produced any of his major novels). The title Chamber Music had been suggested by his brother Stanislaus several years before publication, but Joyce had doubts, describing it as ‘too complacent.’ (And indeed it is without any leavening of Joycean humour: it sounds more like an Eliot title, along the lines of Four Quartets).
What saved it was a double entendre conferred as a result of an incident in 1904 (still three years before the book appeared). Joyce and his friend Oliver Gogarty visited the house of young widow called Jenny, and Joyce read his poems aloud. After the performance Jenny retired behind a screen and made use of a chamber pot. As the men listened, Gogarty commented: ‘There’s a critic for you!’ Joyce told Stanislaus the story, and he agreed it was ‘a favourable omen’. The incident is echoed in a line from Ulysses: ‘Chamber music. Could make a kind of pun on that.’
Anderson, Chester G.: James Joyce and His World (1978)
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