Letters on the printing of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses

Description

Harriet Shaw Weaver first published James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in The Egoist, where it ran in serial instalments from 1914 to 1915. Portrait, Joyce’s first major work, follows the intellectual, moral and spiritual development of Stephen Dedalus, and his struggle against the restrictions his culture imposes. In 1916 Weaver, a publisher, editor and Joyce’s patron, sought out a printer to produce the novel in book form that would be published by her own Egoist Press.

As these letters reveal, however, the task proved difficult. Weaver and Joyce received a series of rejections before a deal was finally secured with the American publisher B W Huebsch, whose letters are included here. Portrait’s critics found it ‘indecent’, objecting to its use of language (such as ‘ballocks’), its portrayal of sex, and descriptions of bodily functions such as farting. But printers were caught in a difficult situation: by British law, if a book was found objectionable it was the printer – rather than the publisher – who was held responsible.

The Complete Press, writing on 9 February 1916, explains that there are several paragraphs that they cannot risk printing (f. 5r). Two months later on 6 April 1916 William Brendon & Son wrote, ‘we would not knowingly undertake any work of a doubtful character even though it may be a classic’ (f. 18r). Several printers call for Joyce and Weaver to self-censor the text by deleting or reworking certain paragraphs. Weaver, who is often mistakenly addressed as ‘Sir’ in these letters, notes that many more printers simply returned the manuscript without comment (f. 263r).

Also included here is a later letter dated 17 May 1918 from Virginia Woolf, in which she declines to print Ulysses. In April Weaver had approached the Hogarth Press, which Virginia and Leonard Woolf ran from their home, with the first four chapters of Joyce’s second novel.

Who finally printed A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?

On 2 June 1916, the New York publisher B W Huebsch wrote to Weaver with the news that he would agree to print Portrait, ‘absolutely in accordance with the author’s wishes, without deletion’. Huebsch proposed that, as well as publishing the US edition of Portrait, he would supply Weaver print with a joint publication imprint for British circulation.

Harriet Shaw Weaver Papers

This collection of material belongs to the Harriet Shaw Weaver Papers, which Weaver bequeathed to the British Library in her will (executed in 1970). Containing a vast number of letters, cuttings and photographs, the Papers shed light on the lives and work of both Joyce and Weaver.

Full title:
Harriet Shaw Weaver Papers. Vol. IX. General correspondence, including letters by, or relating to, members of the Joyce family; 1922-1960
Created:
estimated 1916–24; whole volume 1922–60
Format:
Manuscript / Typescript / Letter / Ephemera
Language:
English
Creator:
Ezra Pound, William Brendon & Son, Plymouth, Brick Row Print and Book shop, Connecticut, US, Byrne Hackett, B W Huebsch, Harriet Shaw Weaver, W Heinemann, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Beach
Usage terms

Harriet Shaw Weaver (manuscript notes on f. 17r and f. 23r, and letter f. 31r): © Estate of Harriet Shaw Weaver. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

Ezra Pound (f. 17r, ff. 37r-38r): By Ezra Pound, from New Directions Pub. acting as agent, copyright © 2015 by Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

William Brendon & Son, Plymouth (f. 18r, f. 20r): © Estate of William Turner Brendon. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

Brick Row Print and Book shop, Connecticut, US (f. 19r, f. 22r, f. 23r): © The Brick Row Book Shop. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

Byrne Hackett (f. 19r, f. 22r, f. 23r): © Estate of Byrne Hackett. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

B W Huebsch (f. 28r, f. 29r): 'June 2, 1916, Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver', copyright © 2016 by Penguin Random House LLC, from LETTERS by B. W. Huebsch. Used by permission of Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

'June 16, 1916, Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver', copyright © 2016 by Penguin Random House LLC, from LETTERS by B. W. Huebsch. Used by permission of Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

W Heinemann (f. 35r): © Penguin Random House. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

Virginia Woolf, on behalf of the Hogarth Press (f. 59r): © Reproduced by permission of The Random House Group Ltd. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

Sylvia Beach (ff. 77r-77v): © Estate of Sylvia Beach. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Add MS 57353

Full catalogue details

Related articles

An introduction to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Article by:
Katherine Mullin
Themes:
Literature 1900–1950, Exploring identity, Capturing and creating the modern

James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man follows the development of a young Catholic Irishman from early boyhood to young adulthood. Here Dr Katherine Mullin examines Joyce’s portrayal of artistic expression, sexual transgression, and the repressive forces of culture and church.

The Hogarth Press

Article by:
Duncan Heyes
Theme:
Capturing and creating the modern

Virginia and Leonard Woolf set up the Hogarth Press in 1917 and published works by key modernist writers as well important works in translation. Duncan Heyes assesses the contribution that the Hogarth Press made to modernism and to British literary culture.

City, paralysis, epiphany: an introduction to Dubliners

Article by:
Seamus Perry
Themes:
Capturing and creating the modern, Literature 1900–1950

Seamus Perry describes the stark realism of James Joyce's Dubliners, and its attention to the details of everyday life in Ireland's capital city.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Created by: James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a novel by the Irish modernist writer James Joyce. It follows the ...

Ulysses

Created by: James Joyce

Ulysses, a novel by the Irish writer James Joyce, is a key text of literary modernism. Divided into 18 chapters, it ...

Dubliners

Created by: James Joyce

Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by the modernist Irish writer James Joyce, concerning everyday events ...