On this day…15 December

On 15 December 1913 Ezra Pound wrote to Joyce for the first time.

Pound wrote to Joyce as the representative of magazines in England and America with an offer to consider anything Joyce might send for publication. Over the next eight years, Pound was to become a tireless worker on Joyce’s behalf, helping to get work published, and publicising Joyce and his works wherever he could.

At the end of 1913 Ezra Pound had been working on the notebooks of Ernest Fenollosa while staying at Stone Cottage in Sussex with WB Yeats. It was on Yeats’ recommendation that Pound decided to write to Joyce with an offer to help get his work published. For Joyce, this offer from Pound came just a fortnight after he had heard from Grant Richards’ firm that they wanted to take a look at Dubliners again, seven years after they had refused to publish it.

From what Yeats had told him, Pound felt that he and Joyce might have ‘a hate or two in common,’ and, though that might not be the most auspicious start, he felt he should get in touch. He thought that it would be much easier to deal with these things in a conversation but since that was impossible he was writing instead.

Pound announced to Joyce his connection with the Egoist magazine, which had recently changed its name from the New Freewoman. It was through this connection with the Egoist that Joyce came to know Harriet Weaver who was to become his lifelong patron. Pound was also connected with a magazine called the Cerebralist at the time, but as it only lasted for one issue Joyce never published anything in it. Pound told Joyce that these magazines stood for free speech and that they wanted literature. The Egoist, he said, could not pay for pieces they published, but it was useful as ‘a place for markedly modern stuff,’ and publishing in the Egoist also had the ‘advertising value’ of keeping one’s name in public view.

He also told Joyce that he was connected with two American magazines that would pay top rates for stories and poems they published. The Smart Set, he said, wanted ‘top notch’ stories, and Poetry wanted ‘top notch’ poetry though he couldn’t say exactly what they meant by ‘top notch’ and though they both published a lot of the best people they also published ‘one hell of a lot of muck.’

Not knowing Joyce or his work, Pound said he couldn’t promise anything but offered to read whatever Joyce sent, and asked that Joyce mark whatever he sent to indicate what he wanted done with it and how much he hoped to get paid for it.

As if to stress his commitment, Pound wrote again ten days later to say that Yeats had shown him Joyce’s poem ‘I hear an Army’ and Pound wanted permission to include it in the Imagist anthology he was putting together. He also offered to pay a guinea for it, as well as giving Joyce a share in the profits of the book.

Over the next eight years Pound helped to get works by Joyce published in both the Smart Set and Poetry. It was thanks to Pound that Ulysses was serialised in the Little Review, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the Egoist. Pound and Joyce only met for the first time in Sirmione in June 1920.


Sources & Further Reading:

Cockram, Patricia: James Joyce and Ezra Pound – A More than Literary Friendship, National Library of Ireland Joyce Studies, no. 1, Dublin: National Library of Ireland, 2004.

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.

Pound, Ezra: Pound/Joyce – The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce with Pound’s Essays on Joyce, edited by Forrest Read, London: Faber & Faber, 1967.