On this day…18 May

On 18 May 1918 Joyce outlined his ideas about Ulysses to Harriet Weaver.

Though Joyce had started writing Ulysses in 1914, by May 1918 he had only just completed a final draft of the ‘Hades’ episode, and the ‘Proteus’ episode had only just appeared in print in the Little Review. On 18 May, he wrote to Harriet Weaver setting out where he was with Ulysses and his plans for its publication.

The serialisation of Ulysses had been announced in the Little Review in January 1918, and ‘Telemachus’ appeared there in March. It was followed by ‘Nestor’ in April, and ‘Proteus’ in May. These episodes were also supposed to appear in Harriet Weaver’s Egoist magazine, but Weaver was having difficulty with her printers who were refusing to print Joyce’s text. Joyce suggested she could get her magazine printed in Paris by George Crès but Weaver rejected the idea.

In his letter of 18 May 1918 Joyce told Weaver that he regretted that she could not accept Crès’ offer. He said he feared that she has lost money on his book. To try to compensate for that, he offered to consider the money she had already paid for the serial rights in Ulysses as advances on royalties for the book, and offered her the book rights.

Now that three episodes had been published in America, Joyce was considering offering Ben Huebsch the possibility of publishing the ‘Telemachia’ in a cheap paperback edition under the title Ulysses I. Joyce thought this might be a way of keeping people who were interested in his writing from forgetting that he existed.

He went on to tell Weaver that the second part of the book, the ‘Odyssey,’ would have eleven episodes (in the final version there are twelve episodes), and that the final part, the ‘Nostos,’ would have three episodes. Of these seventeen episodes, Joyce had finished six, but was unable to say how much of the book was really written. He claimed that some of the other episodes were already in their second draft, but that this meant little since he had spent about 200 hours revising the second draft of ‘Proteus’ before he was satisfied with it.

Nonetheless, Joyce told Weaver that he hoped the book would be completed by the summer of 1919. In fact, it would take him two and a half years longer than that to finish the book, and much of what he had already written and published in the Little Review would be subject to a great deal of revision before it appeared in its final form in 1922.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I, London: Faber & Faber, 1957.

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