On this day…17 April

On 17 April 1906 printers refused to print ‘Two Gallants.’

Joyce had sent the story ‘Two Gallants’ to Grant Richards on 22 February 1906, and Richards had sent it on to his printer. But after setting part of the story, someone at the print-works wrote “We cannot print this – April 17th 1906” on the side of page 13. This was the first indication of the problems that were to hold up publication of Dubliners until 1914.

At that time, if a work was found to be obscene or libellous, both the publisher and the printer would be liable for prosecution. Printers checked material they were asked to print to make sure that it contained nothing that might be considered objectionable, and with ‘Two Gallants’ they decided they could not print what Joyce had written.

In this case the offending passage was Corley’s story about meeting “a fine tart” under Waterhouse’s clock and taking her for a walk by the canal. At the end of his story Corley says he was afraid “she’d get in the family way,” but adds that “she’s up to the dodge.”

Grant Richards wrote to Joyce on 23 April, saying that he had not read the story himself before sending it to the printers and asking Joyce to suppress it or to modify it so that it could be passed by the printers. Richards or the printers had also blue-pencilled parts of ‘Counterparts’ and asked for the word “bloody” to be replaced in the story ‘Grace.’ Joyce replied on 26 April to say that as he had written his book with care the printer’s opinion of it didn’t interest him and he couldn’t make the changes Richards was asking for.

By 5 May, Joyce still hadn’t found out which passages in ‘Two Gallants’ were problematic and he asked Richards if it was the gold coin or the code by which the two gallants live that was offensive. He wrote in detail about the impossibility of making the requested changes and, in a famous passage, he outlined what his intention was in writing Dubliners. He told Richards that all the objections the printer had made had been clear to him when he was writing the book, and that if he had paid attention to them he wouldn’t have written the book.

By the end of May, Joyce had made some small changes, and in July he made further deletions which, he wrote to Richards, he resented having to make. But it was to no avail: in September, Richards wrote to say he could not publish Dubliners, and the search for another publisher began. In the end, Richards did publish Dubliners in June 1914 without any of the changes that he and his printers had earlier insisted on.


Sources & Further Reading:

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I, edited by Stuart Gilbert, London: Faber & Faber, 1957; vol. II, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.