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Publishing the Unpublished Correspondence

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 49, Number 1, Fall 2011
pp. 143-153 | 10.1353/jjq.2011.0104

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Publishing the Unpublished Correspondence

As most readers of the James Joyce Quarterly are well aware, 1 January 2012 marked a watershed moment in modernist literary studies: on that date, all of James Joyce's previously unpublished writing entered the public domain in the United States and many parts of the European Union (having enjoyed that status in Canada and Switzerland since 1992). Among the most significant of these unpublished writings are letters constituting more than half of all of Joyce's known correspondence—at least 1,800 letters, postcards, and telegrams of the 3,594 total known to be extant.1 Under the auspices of Oxford University Press, we will be bringing out a three-volume scholarly edition of that previously unpublished correspondence, followed by a one-volume selection for the trade market. The first volume is scheduled for publication in 2017.

Those not intimately familiar with the state of Joyce scholarship are often surprised to learn that more than half of all the known correspondence written by Joyce is currently unpublished. Many of these letters came to light only after the three-volume standard edition Letters of James Joyce was completed in 1966 (LettersI, II, and III); in addition to these more recently available letters, though, we are eager to make available to scholars previously overlooked letters whose significance has only become clear in the light of new critical approaches to Joyce's writing.

The new edition will modify, nuance, and reveal a great deal about the writer that has to this point remained hidden. Much of the unpublished correspondence, such as the letters in the Paul Léon papers at the National Library of Ireland, casts important light on Joyce as a working writer—a professional writer, paid for his writing, concerned with the fates and fortunes of his work in the modern literary marketplace. As modernist studies have pursued a materialist turn over the past two decades,2 sources bearing on these aspects of Joyce's work and thought are increasingly sought after. In 1993, Kevin J. H. Dettmar published an essay in the James Joyce Quarterly grounded in unpublished letters from the Léon papers and showing the care with which Joyce shepherded Ulysses as it made its way in commodity culture;3 it is an argument one would never have anticipated and never be able to substantiate, based on the Joyce displayed [End Page 143] in Richard Ellmann's biography—the writer who, like his writer-protagonist Stephen Dedalus, is presented to us as being "like the God of the creation," remaining "within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails" (P 215). To give a sense of the range and richness of these letters, we have included sample transcriptions of two of Joyce's unpublished letters to Ezra Pound (10 March 1916, and 1 November 1918). See Appendix 1.

These unpublished letters, postcards, and telegrams reside in a large number of archives: forty-nine different repositories, from the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, to the Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, and everywhere in between. (For a visualization of the atlas of unpublished Joyce correspondence, see <http://tinyurl.com/cwtqspn>; for a background and a complete listing of the unpublished correspondence, see the recently updated Joyce Calendar at the website listed in endnote 1). The following eight archives house some highlights of the unpublished letters, and suggest some of the richness of these repositories:

Beinecke Library, Yale University:

Frank Budgen: twenty-four letters from 1919-1940 documenting their friendship.

Ezra Pound: sixty-nine letters providing rich documentation of Pound's support for Joyce's writing, 1913 to 1922. The EP correspondence tapers off after publication of Ulysses.

British Library, London:

Harriet Shaw Weaver: 333 unpublished letters; another 119 published by either Stuart Gilbert or Ellmann with deletions.4 Both editors worked from copies typed by Weaver. There is extensive documentation of financial matters and Lucia Joyce's illness.

Zurich James Joyce Foundation:

Giorgio, Helen, and Stephen Joyce: eighty-seven letters and cards primarily from the early 1930s, mixed Italian and English, mostly...