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It’s Love

In response to:

The Big Word in 'Ulysses' from the October 25, 1984 issue

To the Editors:

The key passage in the corrected edition of Ulysses, referred to by Professor Ellmann in his review [NYR, October 25, 1984], comes from Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, Book 1, Chapter 91. The proposition under consideration is, “That there is love in God,” (“Quod in Deo sit amor“). Thomas declares, “For the truth of love, it is required that one will the good of someone as his own: (“Ad veritatem amoris requiritur quod bonum alicuius prout est eius vult“). He continues, in a passage which Joyce has shortened for his purposes:

By this, that we understand or rejoice, we must have in some way an object. But love wills something for someone. For we are said to love that for which we will some good, as said above. Hence, those things which we want, we are, properly and absolutely, said to desire, but not love—rather to love ourselves for whom we want these things. And for this reason—accidentally and not properly—these things are said to be loved.

Per hoc enim quod intelligimus vel gaudemus, ad aliquod obiectum aliqualiter nos habere oportet: amor vero aliquid alicui vult; hoc enim amare dicimur cui aliquod bonum volumus, secundum modum praedictum. Unde et quae concupiscimus, simpliciter quidem et proprie desiderare dicimur, non autem amare, sed potius nos ipsos, quibus ea concupiscimus: et hoc ipsa per accidens et improprie dicuntur amari. [Leonine text: Rome: Marietti, 1961. The Parma text, 1852–1873, which Joyce might have known, ends with “dicimur amare” (“we are said to love”).]

Joyce’s quotation contrasts true love and the derivative love by which we are really loving ourselves. It will be recalled that Joyce thought true love extraordinary: “Love (understood as the desire of good for another) is in fact so unnatural a phenomenon that it can scarcely repeat itself.” (Notes on Exiles, P. Colum, ed., p. 113).

John T. Noonan, Jr.

University of California, Berkeley

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