On this day…4 March

On 4 March 1914 Joyce signed a contract for the publication of Dubliners.

The contract he signed was the second contract for Dubliners that he’d signed with London publisher Grant Richards, and the terms were not particularly favourable. The contract stipulated that no royalties would be paid on the first 500 copies of the book sold, and that Joyce himself would buy 120 copies. The book was published on 15 June 1914.

Joyce’s first contact with Grant Richards came in July 1904 when Arthur Symons suggested him as a possible publisher for Joyce’s book of poems, Chamber Music. Though Richards decided against publishing Chamber Music, Joyce sent him the manuscript of Dubliners in December 1905. Richards seems to have been impressed and by 17 January 1906 had accepted the book and set out the terms of his contract.

The manuscript Joyce sent Richards in 1905 contained only twelve stories. Joyce sent ‘Two Gallants’ to Richards in February 1906, and another two stories, ‘A Little Cloud’ and ‘The Dead,’ were written later. But it was ‘Two Gallants’ that Richards’ printers refused to print, and Richards in turn began to demand that Joyce make changes and deletions. Finally, in September 1906, Richards refused to publish Dubliners.

Joyce found another publisher and the book even got printed before the publisher and the printer balked and the printed pages were destroyed. Joyce decided to ask Richards to consider Dubliners again in November 1913, and even offered to pay some of the publication expenses. Richards again agreed to publish the book.

As it turned out, Dubliners was not particularly lucrative for either Joyce or Richards. It was published in an edition of 1250 copies at three shillings and sixpence a copy on 15 June 1914, but early reviews of the book were not very favourable and sales were slow. By the end of 1914, Richards had sold only 379 copies, and in June 1917, three years after the book was published, Joyce claimed that his total royalties for Dubliners so far amounted to two shillings and sixpence!


Sources & Further Reading:

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

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. II edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.

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