Bret Harte, Gabriel Conroy

The Complete Works of Bret Harte

vol. 4

(London: Chatto & Windus, 1896)

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Gabriel Conroy

“And then it was long after ten o'clock and yet there was no sign of Gabriel and his wife.”

-“The Dead” (D 176)

Bret Harte’s Gabriel Conroy is the only text in this collection that does not have a physical presence in any of Joyce’s stories. However, its title figures prominently in the final story of the collection “The Dead.” Joyce takes the name of the titular character of Harte’s novel of the American West for his own protagonist. Gabriel Conroy, as the mature Dublin intellectual who struggles with the memory of his wife’s former lover on the feast of the Epiphany, bears little obvious connection to Harte’s tale. The one significant exception being the novel’s opening blizzard echoed by the “snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead” (D 224).

Joyce owned a copy of Bret Harte’s stories, Tales of the West (1913), which does not contain Gabriel Conroy (JJTL 208). The edition of the novel which appears here is the collected and revised edition of Harte’s works issued by Chatto & Windus. Joyce certainly had an affinity for this writer of western tales. Ellmann notes that Joyce recommended the reading of Harte along with Tolstoy, the Concourts, and George Moore to his step-grandson David Fleischman (JJ 247).