On this day…25 July

On 25 July 1926 Joyce sent the ‘Shaun’ episodes of Work in Progress to the Dial.

The Dial was a prestigious American review to which Joyce had offered the ‘Shaun’ episodes of Work in Progress early in July 1926. At first the Dial accepted the pieces, then cabled to say they wanted deletions, and finally rejected the pieces entirely.

Joyce had been working on the ‘Shaun’ episodes (later Book III of Finnegans Wake) since March 1924, but by 1926 none of it had appeared in print. Though other parts of Work in Progress had been published in America in Samuel Roth’s Two Worlds magazine, Joyce was looking for a prestigious American publication where parts of his new work could be serialised regularly.

TS Eliot was the London correspondent for the Dial and a friend of the editor Scofield Thayer. The first American publication of Eliot’s The Waste Land was in the Dial in November 1922, and ‘Ulysses, Order and Myth,’ an important article on Ulysses by Eliot, had been published by the Dial in November 1923.

Joyce offered ‘Shaun’ to the Dial early in July 1926 and received a telegram to say the Dial would pay a halfpenny per word, but would have to see the text of the piece first. Joyce sent the text on 25 July, and in a letter to Harriet Weaver the same day he said he felt like a debutante at her first coming-out.

The Dial didn’t respond until September. As Joyce explained in a letter to Harriet Weaver, the piece was initially accepted and the Dial offered him $600 dollars for it. Then a week later he received another telegram from the Dial to say it could not print ‘Shaun’ as it was. Not wanting to make any cuts to it, Joyce told Weaver that he had withdrawn it instead. He was aggrieved about it, partly because publication in the Dial would have been quite prestigious, but also partly because he now feared that no other review would accept the pieces for publication.

In another letter a few days later, Joyce wrote that the Dial had wanted one third of the text cut, something he couldn’t accept. Versions of the ‘Shaun’ episodes were published for the first time in transition starting from March 1928.


Sources & Further Reading:

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.