Dear Mr Grant Richards
, I am sorry that in reply to my letter you have written one of so generalising a character
. I do not see how you can expect me to agree with you about the impossibility
of publishing the book as it is. Your statement that no publisher
could issue such a book seems to me somewhat categorical
. You must not imagine that the attitude I have taken up is in the least heroic
. The fact is I cannot see much reason
in your complaints.
You complain of Two Gallants, of a passage in Counterparts and of the word 'bloody' in Grace. Are these the only things that prevent you from publishing the book? To begin at the end: The word 'bloody' occurs in that story twice in the following passage:
--At dinner, you know. Then he has a bloody big bowl of cabbage before him on the table and a bloody big spoon like a shovel etc...
This I could alter, if you insist. I see no reason for doing so but if this point alone prevented the book from being published I could put another word instead of 'bloody': But this word occurs elsewhere in the book, in Ivy Day in the Committee-Room, in The Boarding-House, in Two Gallants:
The first passage
I could alter. The second passage (with infinite regret
) I could alter by omitting the word simply. But the third passage I absolutely
could not alter. Read The Boarding-House
yourself and tell me frankly
what you think. The word, the exact expression
I have used, is in my opinion the one expression in the English language
which can create on the reader the effect which I wish to create. Surely you can see this for yourself
? And if the word appears once in the book it may as well appear three times. Is it not ridiculous
that my book cannot be published because it contains one word which is neither indecent
The objections raised against Counterparts seem to me equally trivial. Is it possible that at this age of the world in the country which the ingenuous Latins are fond of calling 'the home of liberty' an allusion to 'two establishments' cannot appear in print or that I cannot write the phrase 'she changed the position of her legs often'? To invoke the name of Areopagitica in this connection would be to render the artist as absurd as the printer.
You say that it is a small thing I am asked to do, to efface a word here and there. But do you not see clearly that in a short story above all such effacement may be fatal. You cannot say that the phrases objected to are gratuitous and impossible to print and at the same time approve of the tenor of the book. Granted this latter as legitimate I cannot see how anyone can consider these minute and necessary details illegitimate. I must say that these objections seem to me illogical. Why do you not object to the theme of An Encounter, to the passage 'he stood up slowly saying that he had to leave us for a few moments &c...'? Why do you not object to the theme of The Boarding-House? Why do you omit to censure the allusions to the Royal Family, to the Holy Ghost, to the Dublin Police, to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, to the cities of the plain, to the Irish Parliamentary Party &c? As I told you in my last letter I cannot understand what has been admired in the book at all if these passages have been condemned. What would remain of the book if I had to efface everything which might give offence? The title, perhaps?
You must allow me to say that I think you are unduly timid. There is nothing 'impossible' in the book, in my opinion. You will not be prosecuted for publishing it. The worst that will happen, I suppose, is that some critic will allude to me as the 'Irish Zola'! But even such a display of the critical intellect should not be sufficiently terrible to deter you from bringing out the book. I am not, as you may suppose, an extremely business-like person but I confess I am puzzled to know why all these objections were not raised at first. When the contract was signed I thought everything was over: but now I find I must plunge into a correspondence which, I am afraid, tends only to agitate my nerves.
The appeal to my pocket has not much weight with me. Of course I would gladly see the book in print and of course I would like to make money by it. But, on the other hand, I have very little intention of prostituting whatever talent I may have to the public. (This letter is not for publication). I am not an emissary from a War Office testing a new explosive or an eminent doctor praising a new medicine or a sporting cyclist riding a new make of bicycle or a renowned tenor singing a song by a new composer: and therefore the appeal to my pocket does not touch me as deeply as it otherwise might. You say you will be sorry if the book must pass from your list. I will be extremely sorry. But what can I do? I have thought the matter over and looked over the book again and I think you are making much ado about nothing. Kindly do not misrad this as a rebuke to you but put the emphasis on the last word. For, I assure you, not the least unfortunate effect of this tardy correspondence is that it has brought my own writing into disfavour with myself. Act, however, as you think best. I have done my part. Believe me, dear Mr Grant Richards, Faithfully yours
Correspondence Regarding Joyce's "Dubliners":
Previous - Next