On 7 October 1921 Joyce was under pressure to finish Ulysses.
Writing to Harriet Weaver on 7 October 1921, Joyce said that though he is snowed under with work he senses the impatience, expectation and irritation of those around him. He fills her in on the work he’s been doing and claims he will finish Ulysses by the end of October in the expectation that it will be published in November.
Joyce claimed to have started work on Ulysses in March 1914 but then put aside work on it while he finished his play Exiles. The draft of the first episode was not completed until June 1915, and the first three episodes were only completed at Locarno in October 1917. Once the serialisation of Ulysses began in the Little Review in 1918, Joyce started to turn out finished episodes quite quickly, though many of these were further revised and extended before the book was published in 1922.
In his letter to Weaver on 7 October Joyce described himself as ‘snowed up in proofs and nearly crazed with work.’ He told her he would be finished Ulysses in about three weeks and that the book ought to appear in November. He also told her that ‘Penelope’ had been sent to the printers, but that he was still finishing work on ‘Ithaca’ which he claimed was really the end of the book because ‘Penelope,’ he said, has no beginning, middle or end. In the meantime, he had also recast the ‘Aeolus’ episode (adding in the headlines that now break up the text), and both ‘Hades’ and ‘Lotus Eaters’ had been enlarged.
Still hoping that his eyesight would last until he was finished, Joyce wrote that it was madness to work his eyes in the way he’s doing but that he feels a good deal of impatience around him, made up of expectation and irritation. He acknowledged that he was ‘very very slow’ and said he had just enough energy to finish ‘Ithaca.’ He ended by saying that he was looking forward to the end of his seven years’ sentence!
Joyce did manage to finish ‘Ithaca’ by the end of October, thus completing the book, but there was still a great deal of work to do on revising and adding to proofs as they came from the printers. Despite feeling the need to finish soon, even in October and November Joyce was still writing to his aunt Josephine in Dublin for more information that he wanted to include in the book. By the end of November 1921, the printer Maurice Darantiere had started typesetting the ‘Ithaca’ episode, but the last corrected proofs were only returned to him on 30 January 1922, just three days before the book was published.
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, London: Faber & Faber, 1957.
Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.