Can’t you talk?
D ("Christmas Eve", 1993), p. 40: [A] gilt-framed picture of a curly-headed child in a nightdress playing with a collie. The picture was called “Can't you talk?"
On 19 November 1904 Joyce asked his brother Stanislaus if he had offered the short story "Xmas Eve", which he had started writing immediately after his arrival in Trieste in October,1 to George Russell’s paper The Irish Homestead. By that date Joyce had written "about half" of it. Further correspondence2 shows that Joyce was well aware that the Homestead ran a Christmas number, and this is doubtless where he hoped to publish “Xmas Eve”. Unfortunately only four pages of the (abandoned?) story have survived.
It is interesting to see that Joyce, having used the name “Flynn” in the Dubliners story "The Sisters", now named the main character of “Christmas Eve” “Callanan”. Both surnames belong to the families of his maternal aunts.
This description exactly fits a widely reproduced painting (1875) by the Victorian painter George Augustus Holmes (1852-1911) with the title “Can’t you talk?” In fact the painting was so popular that it was discussed in Flora L. Carpenter's Stories Pictures Tell of 1918.
At the end of the paragraph following the first short dialogue in the extant pages we find these lines:
The table in the middle of the room had a shaded lamp upon it. The shade set obliquely sprayed the light of the lamp upon one of the walls, revealing a gilt-framed picture of a curly-headed child in a nightdress playing with a collie. The picture was called "Can't you talk?"3
1 Letter to Stanislaus Joyce: 20 October 1904.
2 Letters to Stanislaus Joyce: 28 December 1904 and 19 January 1905.
3 James Joyce, Dubliners (ed. Hans Walter Gabler with Walter Hettche) (New York & London: 1993), p. 40.
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