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Not Quite Honest: Samuel Roth's "Unauthorized" Ulysses and the 1927 International Protest
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In 1992, Adelaide Kugel, Samuel Roth's daughter, made her case in Joyce Studies Annual that her father might have had permission, through Ezra Pound, to publish excerpts of Ulysses in 1926 and 1927 in his Two Worlds Monthly.1 I knew and admired Adelaide, a brilliant woman who learned her research skills from assignments her father gave her while he was in prison and planning how to resume his publishing career upon his release. She noted the way Joyce's supporters had whipped up sympathy for the writer among readers, critics, and writers of modernist literature. They presented Samuel Roth to his colleagues, customers, and readers as a scoundrel and thief with such indignation that their labels determined the rest of his career. Admitting that her father was manipulative, self-absorbed, and abrasive, Adelaide nevertheless admired how he "fought back and continued to fight back all his life."2 Both Roth's and Joyce's authorized publishers were playing the same game of self-advertisement, the stakes in one case being a dramatic success in magazine publishing, and in the other, the ability to broadcast publicity about Joyce's plight in order to create an urgency among American journalists, publishers, and readers that might make Ulysses available in an edition by a reputable publisher. What Roth did in his rough-edged, piratical way, Joyce's supporters did in their polished one. It was not an example of a nefarious pirate taking advantage of a vulnerable artist. Instead, it was a contest between two different kinds of literary entrepreneurs to capture an audience, establish legitimacy, and make money.

This becomes clear when we consider, first, who Roth was and what he wanted to do. He claimed to have had permission from Pound, but Pound's attitude toward what Roth was doing is complex. Another complicated facet of this story is the response to Roth by Joyce himself and his sanctioned publishers, Sylvia Beach and Harriet Weaver. It culminated in an unprecedented International Protest, signed by 167 writers, artists, and intellectuals and published in both English and French in February 1927. Its avowed purpose was to expose to the world Joyce's predicament as a victim of piracy. However, the implicit purpose was to encourage publication of a legitimate American edition of Ulysses. The Protest was drafted by Ludwig Lewishon and Archibald MacLeish—the former was a reputed novelist and essayist on contemporary social issues, and the latter was a lawyer and poet. Joyce wrote the final draft. The moral indignation that the document expressed and aroused is ironic. It has hidden the truth regarding an important question. Roth was accused, as the text of the Protest put it, of "alterations which seriously corrupt the text." But did the Little Review, in which Joyce himself, through Pound, published excerpts of Ulysses from March 1918 to December 1920, present the novel to American readers with the least possible expurgation? Or was it, despite Roth's reputation as a scoundrel, his Two Worlds Monthly that did so? The answer cuts through the fog of publicity thrown up by both sides. Moreover, it demonstrates how legitimacy—"honorable and fair opinion" (LIII 151–2) in the concluding words of the Protest—was secured.

Samuel Roth

What kind of publisher was Joyce dealing with? By 1925, Samuel Roth had established credentials as a poet and critic. Edwin Arlington Robinson, Mina Loy, Aleister Crowley, John Reed, Maurice Samuel, Marie Syrkin, Frank Harris, Louis Zukovsky, and Charles Reznikoff were all friends and admirers. He had edited a successful Little Magazine, The Lyric, both as a student at Columbia University in 1916–17 and independently in 1919–20. In 1920, he founded The Poetry Book Shop in Greenwich Village, which was patronized by most of the writers mentioned above, as well as editors and publishers such as Frank Shay, Thomas Seltzer, Max Eastman, and Ben Huebsch. In 1921, he traveled to Europe as an unpaid correspondent for The New York Herald, visiting T. S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, H.D., the renowned Anglo-Jewish writer Israel Zangwill (who contributed an introduction to Roth's 1925 book on Jewish politics, Now and Forever), and various other men and women of letters...

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