AN IRISH LANDSCAPE
Surprisingly, given how virtually every word that James Joyce left behind has been subjected to microscopic scholarly scrutiny, relatively little attention has been paid to his own estimation of “Two Gallants,” the sixth story of Dubliners. In a letter he wrote to publisher Grant Richards in May of 1906, Joyce emphatically defended the story’s inclusion in what would one day become a landmark collection:
To omit the story from the book would really be disastrous. It is one of the most important stories in the book. I would rather sacrifice five of the other stories (which I could name) than this one. It is the story (after ‘Ivy Day in the Committee Room’) which pleases me most. (Selected Letters 87-88)
Joyce’s satisfaction with “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” is understandable: employing, essentially, the dramatic mode—an almost minimalist reliance on dialogue, as opposed to third-person narration—to expose the myriad failings of the cross-section of Dublin political...