Tuesday, June 20, 1995
Tales of the Booksellers Row, Part VII - Bloomsday.
In honor of Bloomsday (June 16), I dug into our bookcase and took out the first edition copy of James Joyce's "Ulysses," and the two pirated excerpts that we own.
The novel deals with the events in one day (June 16th, 1904) in Dublin, when Stephen Daedalus (Telemachus) meets Leopold Bloom (Odysseus, or Ulysses) and his wife Molly (Penelope). It is a fantasy, first to employ the stream-of-consciousness technique and word pyrotechnics that turned the book-writing world upside down. There is some explicit sexuality in Bloom's visit to a whorehouse and Molly's dreams that made it subject to censure. Parenthetically, while on characters, my favorite, whose name appears within the first four words of the novel, is Buck Mulligan. He was based on Oliver St. John Gogarty, a surgeon-writer and Joyce's friend. Gogarty's last book, "While Walking Down Mulberry Street," appeared in the 1950s.
The first edition of "Ulysses" was published by Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris, 1922. It is a fragile book and leaves paper dust and tiny particles whenever touched. My well-worn copy is the 4th printing (4th and 5th printings were on thick inferior paper), and has been used extensively. I bought it from Johnny O'Connor. Johnny was an Australian Irishman who dealt in periodicals and rented basement warehouses all along Irving Place and Broadway. He also had an aerie book and journal loft in the attic of the the Broadway Central Hotel in the late 1950s, where they had a huge basement plaza with carriages that used to bring in the visitors from the railroad stations. A trip to the loft in the summer heat would kill you unless the visitor took off his shirt. But the place had a dormer leading out to the sloping roof, and a wonderful view of New York. Johnny sold me his Joyce when he had the shorts and the landlord wouldn't wait.
Next to this memorable book in my bookcase are two copies of the Two Worlds Monthly, published by Samuel Roth in New York, 1926-1927, containing chapters of the original. These came from Strand Bookstore on Broadway and 12th Street, where I found them in the outdoors stalls, some years ago.
The publishing history of "Ulysses" is well-known but worth retelling. The Egoist, a London avantgarde journal, run by Joyce's friend and benefactress Harriet Weaver, was forced by its printers in December 1919 to stop publishing "Ulysses" after the 5th installment of the book (in Britain the printers as well as the publishers could be prosecuted under the obscenity laws). The Little Review, edited by Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap in New York, was forced to close by prosecution brought on by the Society for Suppression of Vice, after publishing 23 installments, printed between March 1918 and December 1920. Then Sylvia Beach in Paris "asked for the honor" to publish "Ulysses" in small printings. It waw a labor of love, because Joyce never ceased rewriting. One chapter was lost when the volunteer typist's husband, a British embassy type, threw the unspeakable filth into the fireplace.
Eventually, there were 11 Paris printings of 28,000 copies, 1922-1930. Copies were smuggled into USA and the UK. The typography and printing was done by Maurice Darantiere in Dijon, who has entered the English-language literary history by working throughout the 1920s for the English and American publishers of avantgarde books in Paris, using typesetters who did not speak the language and could not be shocked by the words. It was not until 1933/4 that Judge John M. Woolsey of the U.S. Court lifted the ban, calling the the effect of the book, in places, "an emetic but not an aphrodisiac." It made Morris Ernst aas a lawyer, and earned Random House a lot of money. Sylvia made nothing. Joyce, blind, died in in 1941.
He too has earned his place in literature, and in Bartlett's Quotations.
Samuel Roth, a poet and novelist who ran a bookshop in New York, and also wrote and published scads of erotica - more of him in the forthcoming articles about my friend Jack Brussel - capitalized on the notoriety of "Ulysses" by printing 12 expurgated installments in his short-lived Two Worlds Monthly (July 1926-October 1927). Whether or not he paid Joyce any monies is debatable. Roth claimed he did. This piracy resulted in an "International Protest" signed by 167 writers and artists, and an injunction aginst Roth by Joyce's New York lawyers in 1928.
Roth had already pirated excerpts of "Work in Progress" ("Finnegan's Wake") in another ephemeral literary journal, Two Worlds Quarterly, September 1925-September 1926, copied from such European journals as Criterion and This Quarter. Roth went to jail for piracy when he in 1927 boldly reset the 9th Paris printing of "Ulysses" in its entirety and printed it in New York, by the Loewingers at 230 West 17th St. It was so good that Joyce gave a copy to Bennet Cerf to set the first legal, Random House edition.
Jail did not stop Sam Roth. When the notoriety of D.H.Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (Florence, 1929) generated demand, he wrote and published an expurgated version, and even wrote sequels to it. Roth had a sense of humor. Late in life, when appearing before the Joyce Club which met in Frances Steloff's Gotham Book Shop, he described himself as a lion in a den of Daniels. That is my recollection of a tale told by Prof.Leo Hamalian of City College, a Joycean who was fascinated by Roth and wrote two biographies of the rapscallion, in essay form.
Roth is a romantic figure, a pirate out of Raphael Sabatini, and, in his own way, a fighter for the First Amendment. Eventually there was a Roth case and decision before the Supreme Court of the U.S.
More Roth to come, in conjunction with D.H.Lawrence, T.S.Eliot, Henry Miller. Nancy Gross.
shortly before his death, and was a charmer.