On this day…20 July

On 20 July 1919 Joyce offered the manuscript of A Portrait of the Artist to Harriet Weaver.

Weaver had just revealed herself as his patron and sponsor, and Joyce wrote to her on 20 July offering to send her the manuscript of his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which she had published in the Egoist magazine.

Joyce had guessed wrongly that Lady Cunard was the person behind the money he had been receiving. At the same time, Harriet Weaver wrote to him, mainly to say that she felt the ‘Sirens’ episode of Ulysses was not up to his usual standard, but also to say that she was his benefactress. When he received her letter, Joyce was embarrassed at having named Lady Cunard, and in his letter of 20 July, he apologised for his stupidity.

He also admitted to Weaver that he was now perplexed. On the one hand, she had aided him and continues to aid him; while on the other hand, she disapproves of what he writes. Joyce defended ‘Sirens’ by telling her that it had taken five months to write. He said that finishing each episode was like leaving behind a burnt field, and since he finished ‘Sirens’ he hadn’t been able to listen to any kind of music.

He ended the letter by saying that he would like to offer her the manuscript of A Portrait… since she was the one who introduced it to the public through her Egoist magazine. He adds, however, that the manuscript was left behind in Trieste in 1915, but that as soon as he can retrieve it, he would like to send it to her. The letter ends with a final note of thanks.

Joyce returned to Trieste in mid-October 1919, and a fortnight later he wrote to Weaver to say that he had found the manuscript of A Portrait… in the drawer of his desk, exactly where he had left it four years before. However, he didn’t trust the post-war postal system, so he divided the manuscript into four parts, posting each one separately, and promising that if any part did not arrive, he would write it out anew for her.

In July 1951, Harriet Weaver, accompanied by Patricia Hutchins, met the first Irish Ambassador to the Court of St James, Frederick Boland. She brought with her the manuscript of A Portrait… and a set of Lucia Joyce’s lettrines that she had decided to donate to the National Library of Ireland. Boland, like Joyce, had been to school at Clongowes Wood, and had met Joyce frequently when he worked at the Irish Embassy in Paris. Weaver was so pleased with Boland’s enthusiasm for Joyce that she decided to donate a portrait of Joyce by Wyndham Lewis to the National Gallery of Ireland.

The manuscript is a fair copy of A Portrait…, probably the one used to produce the typescript of the book for publication in the Egoist. It consists of 608 loose sheets. The title page is inscribed by Joyce to Harriet Weaver, as a token of his esteem and gratitude. It is also inscribed by Harriet Weaver around the time it was given to the National Library in July 1951.

The manuscript was bound in two volumes by the National Library, with chapters I and II in the first volume, and chapters III, IV and V in the second. One sheet (the end of the Christmas dinner scene) became separated from the rest of the manuscript sometime between 1920 and 1951, and was later discovered among papers given to the British Library by Harriet Weaver.


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Gabler, Hans Walter: ‘Preface,’ James Joyce Archive, vol. 9, general editor Michael Groden, prefaced and arranged by Hans Walter Gabler, London: Garland Publishing, 1977.

Joyce, James: Selected Letters of James Joyce, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1975.

Lidderdale, Jane & Mary Nicholson: Dear Miss Weaver – Harriet Shaw Weaver 1876-1961, London: Faber & Faber, 1970.