On this day…21 June

On 21 June 1921 Joyce was working on the first proofs of Ulysses.

In a letter to French critic Valery Larbaud on 21 June 1921, Joyce wrote that he was working on the first proofs of Ulysses and trying to finish the ‘Ithaca’ episode.

At the end of March 1921 Sylvia Beach had taken on the task of publishing Ulysses and had arranged for Dijon printer Maurice Darantiere to do the printing. Joyce got the first proofs of Ulysses from Darantiere on 10 June and began work on correcting them at once.

At the beginning of June Joyce and his family had moved into an apartment at 71 rue du Cardinal Lemoine owned by Valery Larbaud who offered it to them rent free. Joyce and Larbaud had met for the first time at the end of 1920, and in February 1921 Larbaud told Sylvia Beach that he was very impressed with Joyce’s Ulysses.

Larbaud’s enthusiasm for Ulysses was a significant boost for Joyce as Larbaud was highly respected as an author and critic. Larbaud later agreed to give a lecture on Ulysses which took place in Adrienne Monnier’s bookshop in December 1921. In contrast to the prevailing view of Ulysses as an obscenity, Larbaud placed it in the context of great European literature.

At the time that the printer started work on setting the text of Ulysses, Joyce had finished the ‘Eumaeus’ episode and was working on ‘Ithaca’ and ‘Penelope.’ Joyce finished the ‘Penelope’ episode first so that Larbaud would be able to see the end of the book before his lecture. This meant that the ‘Ithaca’ episode was the last one completed, though all were revised during the printing process. When Joyce completed ‘Ithaca’ on 30 October 1921, it was Larbaud he wrote to first of all to announce the good news.


Sources & Further Reading:

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