On this day…16 August

On 16 August 1916 Ezra Pound told Joyce he was about to be given a government grant.

Pound, who had encouraged others to support Joyce’s application for a Civil List grant, wrote to tell Joyce that it was not yet settled for certain, but Joyce heard soon after from the Prime Minister’s office that he had been awarded a Civil List grant of £100.

In 1915 Pound had been instrumental in securing a grant of £75 from the Royal Literary Fund for Joyce, and this was followed by a grant of £26 from the Society of Authors in June 1916. Pound knew that Yeats had been awarded a Civil List pension in 1913 and he asked him if something similar could be arranged for Joyce. Yeats told him it would be easier to get a Civil List grant, which could be awarded at the Prime Minister’s discretion.

Pound worked behind the scenes to persuade Edward Marsh, Assistant Private Secretary to Prime Minister Asquith, to nominate Joyce for the grant. Marsh had been Churchill’s private secretary until 1915, and continued his career as a senior civil servant under various administrations until his retirement in 1937. He was also interested in poetry and edited five volumes of Georgian poetry between 1912 and 1922.

Marsh and Pound first met in 1912, but they did not see eye to eye on poetry. Though Pound wasn’t exactly sure what Marsh’s position in the administration was, he realised that Marsh had influence and could be of help. Pound persuaded Lady Cunard to lend her copies of Joyce’s books to Marsh and, impressed by Joyce’s writing, Marsh wrote to Yeats and George Moore for their opinions of Joyce’s work.

Moore told Marsh that he had only read Dubliners and, though he thought some of the stories “trivial and disagreeable,” he thought ‘The Dead’ was near perfect as a story, and he regretted that he wasn’t the author of it. Dubliners was no guarantee that Joyce wold go on to write a masterpiece, he wrote, but he thought Joyce was deserving of help. Yeats corroborated Moore’s views, describing Joyce’s work as having “a curious brooding intensity,” and saying that he thought Joyce was “a possible man of genius.”

Pound had heard that even the Prime Minister was favourably disposed towards awarding the grant, and shortly after Pound wrote to Joyce on 16 August, Joyce received official notification of the grant from the Prime Minister’s office.

Later in August 1917, Marsh extended further assistance to Joyce by paying for his eye operation out of his own pocket. In September 1917, Harriet Weaver contacted Edward Marsh about the possibility of Joyce receiving a permanent pension from the government, but nothing seems to have come of it.


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 Elllmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.

Lyons, JB: James Joyce and Medicine, Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1973.

Pound, Ezra: Pound/Joyce – The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce, with Pound’s Essays on Joyce, edited and with commentary by Forrest Read, London: Faber & Faber, 1968.

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