On this day…3 April

On 3 April 1908 AP Watt decided not to deal with Joyce’s Dubliners.

The saga of Joyce’s problems with Dubliners continued in April 1908 when AP Watt, the London-based literary agent, decided that he would not deal with Dubliners. Up to this time, Joyce had been trying to deal directly with publishers but without much success. Perhaps he hoped that he would have more success dealing with a literary agent such as AP Watt, but here too he met with rejection.

AP Watt was the great literary agent in London at the end of the nineteenth century. Founded in 1875, the firm represented writers such as Hilaire Belloc, GK Chesterton, Arthur Quiller-Couch, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle, and later WB Yeats. Had he been accepted, Joyce would have been in good company, but instead, AP Watt became just another name on the list of rejections that Joyce suffered, and the saga of the publication of Dubliners continued.

The saga of Dubliners had taken its latest twist in September 1906, when Grant Richards finally decided that he couldn’t publish it, despite having contracted to do so. He told Joyce that he might reconsider it after Joyce published the novel he was working on, and he urged Joyce to finish the novel as soon as possible.

At first, Joyce considered legal action against Richards, but was persuaded that this would be unlikely to succeed. Instead, Joyce started sending the manuscript of Dubliners to other publishers for their consideration. In December 1906, it went to John Long but he rejected it in January 1907. Joyce sent it to Elkin Mathews, who published Joyce’s Chamber Music, but he rejected it in February 1908. It was also rejected by Alston Rivers and Hutchinson & Co, before April 1908.

After being rejected by AP Watt, Edward Arnold and Everetts also rejected the book, and it was only at that stage that Joyce was willing to consider Elkin Mathews’ advice that he should send the book to Maunsel & Co in Dublin. Joyce submitted it to Maunsel’s in April 1909, and by July he had signed a contract with them, the beginning of another saga!


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.