Disjecta (Beckett)

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Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment is a collection of previously uncollected writings by Samuel Beckett, spanning his entire career. The title is derived from the Latin phrase "disjecta membra," meaning scattered remains or fragments, usually applied to written work. The essays appear in their original language of composition (English, French, or German), as stipulated by Beckett, since the volume is intended for scholars who should be able to read several languages. Beckett himself did not value these pieces much, seeing them as "mere products of friendly obligation or economic need".[1]

The collection includes Beckett's famous essay on an early version of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake which originally appeared in Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress.


  • Foreword by Ruby Cohn

Part I: Essays at Esthetics

Part II: Words about Writers

Part III: Words about Painters

Part IV: Human Wishes

A One-Act fragment from an early historical play.

Human Wishes
Written by Samuel Beckett
Characters Mrs. Williams
Mrs. Desmoulins
Miss Carmichael
The cat Hodge
Robert Levett
Subject "Johnson in love"
Setting A room in Bolt Court, April 14th 1781

The play dramatized some episodes from the life of Samuel Johnson and takes its title from his long poem The Vanity of Human Wishes. The episodes taken dramatize Johnson's relationship with Hester Thrale, and as such, draw from her Anecdotes and Diaries rather than the traditionally more popular Life of Samuel Johnson of James Boswell. The play was abandoned after the completion of the First Act.

The only known extant fragment was given by Beckett to Ruby Cohn. Beckett left it in her Paris Hotel room shortly before the completion of her book of Beckett criticism, Just Play, the first to outline Beckett's dramatic juvenilia. The fragment was first printed as an appendix to that volume.[2] The fragment was slightly annotated for the Disjecta collection, noting that Beckett produced a "fair copy" of the notebook material. The fragment, however, is only one of the "three full notebooks" that Beckett used while writing the play.[3]

Beckett would reuse some of the dramatic effects, however. Critic Harold Bloom writes in his essay on Beckett in The Western Canon that the fragment, particular the characters' reactions to Leavett's entrance offer the first glimpses of Beckett's much later masterpieces Endgame and Waiting for Godot.[4]


  1. Cohn, Ruby. Foreword to Disjecta. pg. 7
  2. Cohn, Samuel Beckett ; ed. with a foreword by Ruby (1984). Disjecta : miscellaneous writings and a dramatic fragment. New York: Grove. pp. 16, 178. ISBN 0802151299.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Cohn, Samuel Beckett ; ed. with a foreword by Ruby (1984). Disjecta : miscellaneous writings and a dramatic fragment. New York: Grove. p. 178. ISBN 0802151299.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Bloom, Harold (1995). The Western canon : the books and school of the ages (1st Riverhead ed.). New York: Riverhead Books. p. 500. ISBN 978-1-57322-514-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>