Dear Mr Grant Richards
, I am sorry
you do not tell me why the printer
, who seems to be the barometer
opinion, refuses to print Two Gallants
and makes marks in the margin
. Is it the small gold coin in the former story or the code of honour
which the two gallants
live by which shocks him? I see nothing which should shock
him in either of these things. His idea of gallantry
has grown in him (probably) during the reading of the novels of the elder Dumas
and during the performance of romantic
plays which presented to him cavaliers
and ladies in full dress. But I am sure he is willing to modify his fantastic
views. I would strongly recommend to him the chapters wherein Ferrero examines the moral code of the soldier
and (incidentally) of the gallant. But it would be useless for I am sure that in his heart of hearts he is a militarist
He has marked three passages in Counterparts
'a man with two establishments to keep up, of course he couldn't...'
'Farrington said he wouldn't mind having the far one and began to smile at her....'
'She continued to cast bold glances at him and changed the position of her legs often; and when she was going out she brushed against his chair and said "Pardon!" in a Cockney accent.'
His marking of the first passage makes me think that there is priestly blood in him: the scent for immoral allusions is certainly very keen here. To me this passage seems as childlike as the reports of divorce cases in The Standard. Or is it possible that this same printer (or maybe some near relative of his) will read (nay, more, actually collaborate in) that solemn journal which tells its readers not merely that Mrs So and So misconducted herself with Captain So and So but even how often she misconducted herself with him! The word 'establishment' is surely as inoffensive as the word 'misconducted.'
It is easier to understand why he has marked the second passage, and evident why he has marked the third. But I would refer him again to that respectable organ the reporters of which are allowed to speak of such intimate things as even I, a poor artist, have but dared to suggest. O one-eyed printer! Why has he descended with his blue pencil, full of the Holy Ghost, upon these passages and allowed his companions to set up in type reports of divorce cases, and ragging cases and cases of criminal assault -- reports, moreover, which are to be read by an 'inconveniently large section of the general public.'
There remains his final objection to the word 'bloody.' I cannot know, of course, from what he derives the word or whether, in his plain blunt way, he accepts it as it stands. In the latter case his objection is absurd and in the former case (if he follows the only derivation I have heard for it) it is strange that he should object more strongly to a profane use of the Virgin than to a profane use of the name of God. Where is his English Protestantism? I myself can bear witness that I have seen in modern English print such expressions as 'by God' and 'damn.' Some cunning Jesuit must have tempted our stout Protestant from the path of righteousness that he defends the honour of the Virgin with such virgin ardour.
As for my part and share in the book I have already told all that I have to tell. My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis. I have tried to present it to the indifferent public under four of its aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. The stories are arranged in this order. I have written it for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness and with the conviction that he is a very bold man who dares to alter in the presentment, still more to deform, whatever he has seen and heard. I cannot do any more than this. I cannot alter what I have written. All these objections of which the printer is now the mouthpiece arose in my mind when I was writing the book, both as to the themes of the stories and their manner of treatment. Had I listened to them I would not have written the book. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot write without offending people. The printer denounces Two Gallants and Counterparts. A Dubliner would denounce Ivy Day in the Committee-Room. The more subtle inquisitor will denounce An Encounter, the enormity of which the printer cannot see because he is, as I said, a plain blunt man. The Irish priest will denounce The Sisters. The Irish boarding-house keeper will denounce The Boarding-House. Do not let the printer imagine, for goodness' sake, that he is going to have all the barking to himself.
I can see plainly that there are two sides to the matter but unfortunately I can occupy only one of them. I will not fall into the error of suggesting to you which side you should occupy but it seems to me that you credit the printer with too much infallible a knowledge of the future. I know very little of the state of English literature at present nor do I know whether it deserves or not the emminence which it occupies as the laughingstock of Europe. But I suspect that it will follow the other countries of Europe as it did in Chaucer's time. You have opportunities to observe the phenomenon at close range. Do you think that The Second Mrs Tanqueray would not have been denounced by a manager of the middle Victorian period, or that a publisher of that period would not have rejected a book by George Moore or Thomas Hardy? And if a change is to take place I do not see why it should not begin now.
You tell me in conclusion that I am endangering my future and your reputation. I have shown you earlier in the letter the frivolity of the printer's objections and I do not see how the publication of Dubliners as it now stands in manuscript could possibly be considered an outrage on public morality. I am willing to believe that when you advise me not to persist in the publication of stories such as those you have returned to me you do so with a kind intention towards me: and I am sure you will think me wrongheaded in persisting. But if the art were any other, if I were a painter and my book were a picture you would be less ready to condemn me for wrong-headedness if I refused to alter certain details. These details may now seem to you unimportant but if I took them away Dubliners would seem to be like an egg without salt. In fact, I am somewhat curious to know what, if these and similar points have been condemned, has been admired in the book at all.
I see now that my letter is becoming nearly as long as my book. I have touched on every point you raise in order to give you reason for the faith that is in me. I have not, however, said what a disappointment it would be to me if you were unable to share my views. I do not speak so much of a material as of a moral disappointment. But I think I could more easily reconcile myself to such a disappointment than to the thousand little regrets and self-reproaches which would certainly make me their prey afterwards. Believe me, dear Mr Grant Richards, Faithfully yours
Correspondence Regarding Joyce's "Dubliners":
Previous - Next