On 1 October 1925 an early version of Anna Livia Plurabelle appears in Le Navire d’Argent.
This was the first appearance in print of a version of what was to become Joyce’s favourite chapter in Finnegans Wake. It was published at least five times in various versions before Finnegans Wake was published in 1939, and by then it had been translated into French and Basic English.
Originally the piece was to appear in the Calendar of Modern Letters, a London-based review founded in March 1925 by poet Edgwell Rickword. Joyce was offered £48 for the piece which was to be published in the October 1925 issue, preceded by an announcement in the September issue.
The Calendar already seemed to have a commitment to publicising Joyce and his work. In April 1925 Bertram Higgins’ article ‘The Natural Pander – Leopold Bloom and Others’ had appeared there, and another article, ‘James Joyce: The Meaning of Ulysses’ by Edwin Muir, was published in the Calendar in July.
Joyce was anxious to see Muir’s article, or rather to have it read to him, since he was suffering problems with his eyesight at the time. He wanted to know what Muir had to say before he submitted a piece from Work in Progress which he claimed would be an indirect response to criticism of his new work.
Joyce sent the ‘Anna Livia’ piece to the editor of the Calendar in July, but by early August it still hadn’t been set in type. It was not until the start of September that Joyce heard that the English printer of the Calendar had refused to set the piece, and he then sent a telegram to the editor of the Calendar withdrawing the piece.
Joyce claimed that the didn’t wish to antagonise the editor of the Calendar over the printer’s refusal, but the Calendar continued to insist that it wanted to publish his work, and even after he had told them he was withdrawing it they sent him a galley proof of the piece and said they would announce that the publication had only been postponed.
Joyce turned instead to Adrienne Monnier, partner of Sylvia Beach, who was behind a new French magazine, Le Navire d’Argent, and Monnier offered to publish the ‘Anna Livia’ piece there.
Though the version that appeared in the Navire d’Argent on 1 October 1925 is clearly related to the ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ section as we read it today, it was missing the pyramidal indentation later given to the opening, and also many of the river names with which Joyce subsequently loaded the chapter.
Sources & Further Reading:
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I edited by Stuart Gilbert, vol. III edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1957, 1966.
– -: ‘From Work in Progress,’ in Le Navire d’Argent, vol. I, no. 5, October 1925, pp. 59-74.