On this day…7 July

On 7 July 1915 Joyce wrote to HL Mencken.

Mencken had published two stories from Dubliners in the Smart Set magazine, the first time that Joyce’s work had been published in America. Joyce wrote to thank Mencken for this and to tell him about his other works.

Joyce’s July letter was in response to a letter Mencken had sent him in April, and also to thank him for copies of the May 1915 issue of the Smart Set in which Joyce’s stories ‘The Boarding House’ and ‘A Little Cloud’ had appeared. Delivery of the magazines had been slow because of wartime postal delays, and Joyce himself had only arrived in Zurich a week before, having left Trieste after the Italian declaration of war on Austria. Mencken had also sent some other issues of the Smart Set, and Joyce told him he was reading Mencken’s articles with interest, saying that it was nearly a year since he had read book articles in English.

In his letter Joyce thanked Mencken for introducing his work to the American public. He said he was sorry that the Smart Set had not taken up the serial rights for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man but realised that the magazine only published complete stories, not serials. However, he had noticed a one-act play in one of the magazines, and wondered if perhaps Mencken might be interested in his play Exiles.

Joyce told Mencken that he was working on another novel which he described as being a continuation of Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. But he claimed that he was a slow writer, and added that the nine-year struggle he has had to get Dubliners published has also delayed his writing.

In his April letter, Mencken had mentioned, among other things, an American edition of Dubliners, about which Joyce was unaware. Joyce asks him for more details, but in fact Dubliners hadn’t been published in America at that time. Joyce also sent Mencken press notices about his works in the hope that he might find them interesting, and says he is anxious to see American press notices about his work in the future.


Sources & Further Reading:

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I, edited by Stuart Gilbert, London: Faber & Faber, 1957