On this day…21 August

On 21 August 1933 Joyce wrote to Frank Budgen about his book on Ulysses.

Joyce was in Geneva at the time and wrote to Budgen to say that, because of ill health and worries about his daughter Lucia, he was unable to read the proofs of Budgen’s book that he had received. However, within days he was reading them and took a great deal of interest in Budgen’s book.

Budgen had begun work on the book – James Joyce and the Making of ‘Ulysses’ – in 1932 and wrote to Joyce from London about his plan. It was to be an account of their time together in Zurich and of the process of writing Ulysses that Budgen had observed. At first Joyce was sceptical. Writing to Budgen in March 1932 Joyce pointed out that his would be the seventh book about Ulysses, a text that was still unavailable in England. He was also worried that Budgen’s book would only repeat material in Stuart Gilbert’s book about Ulysses and Herbert Gorman’s biographical works.

However, as Budgen proceeded Joyce became more enthusiastic. By 28 August 1933 Joyce had started reading the proofs, and on 10 September he told Budgen he liked the book very much and wanted to meet him in Paris about it.

Budgen arrived in Paris at the end of September and stayed as a guest of the Joyces. For a few days he and Joyce and Stuart Gilbert went through the proofs in more detail. While they were working on the proofs, the large proof sheets kept slipping from their knees and Joyce remarked that the proof sheets were like the three persons of the Trinity: if you get a firm hold on one, you lose your grip on the others.

Joyce was surprised at Budgen’s skill as a writer, and jokingly suggested it must be a result of his association with Joyce. Budgen was surprised that Joyce had already memorised and could quote passages from the book. Even after Budgen left Paris, Joyce dictated to Paul Léon some more suggestions for the book.

James Joyce and the Making of ‘Ulysses’ was published in London by Grayson & Grayson in 1934. Later in the year, after the first legal American edition of Ulysses had sold 30,000 copies in the first 10 weeks, Joyce wrote to Budgen urging him to get his publisher to issue a cheap reprint of his book. He figured there’d be a bigger demand for it in America now that Ulysses was available there.


Sources & Further Reading:

Budgen, Frank: James Joyce and the Making of ‘Ulysses’ and Other Writings, with an Introduction by Clive Hart, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.

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, vol. III, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1957, 1966.

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