Albert Altman, Joyce and Griffith
Sir, – Frank McNally writes about Vincent Altman O’Connor’s theory that his grandfather Albert Altman was the prototype for Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses (An Irishman’s Diary, May 18th). It is worth noting in this context that in 1903, the year before that in which Ulysses is set, the Jewish Altman was one of just eight candidates whom Griffith in his paper endorsed in elections to Dublin Corporation. One of the other seven was Griffith’s socialist friend James Connolly, whom the East London Jewish Branch of the Socialist Federation also urged voters to support.
A character in Ulysses claims that Leopold Bloom (ie Altman?) “gave the ideas for Sinn Fein to Griffith to put in his paper all kinds of gerrymandering, packed juries and swindling the taxes off of the government and appointing consuls all over the world to walk about selling Irish industries”. This claim seems to refer specifically to ideas for Griffith as prolific editor (of the Sinn Féin paper and other titles), albeit the quotation is sometimes misleadingly truncated after the word “Griffith” and the word “ideas” mistakenly given as “idea”. So perhaps Ulysses was the origin of rumours that Griffith had a Jewish adviser-ghostwriter?
Joyce, a sometime Sinn Féin sympathiser, had an affectionate if qualified regard for Griffith, and in 1907 wrote an article for a Trieste paper specifically praising Sinn Féin’s proposal for an Irish consular service abroad. He had Griffith’s papers sent to him, and Griffith became the only editor to publish in full (in his paper Sinn Féin) Joyce’s criticism of publishers who had demanded cuts to the manuscript of Dubliners. This was a courageous act by Griffith, whose previous title, the United Irishman, had been closed following a successful libel action by a Catholic priest. – Yours, etc,