John Quinn, 50, attorney, art collector, and supporter of the arts and artists, doesn’t want to have to be here.
But The Little Review magazine needs him. Again.
Here in court for the preliminary hearing into their obscenity trial, Quinn has asked The Little Review’s founder and publisher, Margaret Anderson, 33, and her editor, Jane Heap, 37, to sit away from him.
Jefferson Market Courthouse by the Sixth Avenue Elevated
It’s bad enough that he has to be here, pro bono, when he should be in Washington DC preparing for the corporate case he is set to argue before the US Supreme Court. For a big fee.
Quinn only rushed over here because, after he stopped in his midtown law office following an important corporate meeting in the Bronx, the junior lawyer he had assigned to The Little Review case had called to say it would be best if Quinn were present in court. The magistrate, Judge Joseph E. Corrigan, 44, was not a fan of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice [NYSSV] which brought the complaint. But he is an old friend of Quinn’s from their involvement in Irish-American groups in the city.
So Quinn took the Sixth Avenue El down here to sit, in his three-piece suit with his gold watch chain spread across his vest, amidst the
immigrants, Negroes, Italians, and Lesbians,”
as he later describes them, waiting for Corrigan to finish privately reading the passage in question, the “Nausicaa” episode of Ulysses, by the genius—as far as Quinn is concerned—Irish novelist James Joyce, 38, published in the July-August issue of The Little Review.
Previous issues of the magazine with other Ulysses excerpts had been confiscated by the US Post Office. But this is the first time a warrant has been served for the arrest of Anderson, Heap and even bookstore owners who sold the magazine. Quinn managed to at least get charges against the book sellers dismissed and delay the preliminary hearing until now.
As Quinn understands it, some uptight conservative businessman had found a copy of this issue of Little Review with his teenage daughter’s magazines—and read it. He was appalled by Gerty MacDowell flashing her knickers, and wrote a nasty letter to the New York City District Attorney asking how this smut could be kept out of the hands of unsuspecting readers—the magazine had been mailed unsolicited to his daughter!
The DA knew that there is a way—the NYSSV, directed by John Sumner, 44, whose mission is to rid New York of filth.
Quinn had taken Sumner to lunch last week, hoping to get all the charges dismissed. He gave the NYSSV director a copy of a glowing review of Joyce’s work from the Dial magazine, and admitted that some of that language should not have been in a magazine. Quinn assured Sumner that he would stop Joyce from publishing his work-in-progress in the Little Review. Quinn has been urging Joyce to agree to private publication of a high-quality book version of Ulysses, and he’s close to getting a publisher, Ben Huebsch, 44, to agree.
Sumner doesn’t believe Quinn can get Joyce to withdraw the rights from the magazine. And he wants the smut eliminated.
Sumner’s deposition only has to say that the material is
obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent and disgusting.”
The law says that to quote passages would just repeat the offense.
But Corrigan is not willing to take Sumner’s word for it. So he has halted today’s proceedings to retire to his chambers and read the relevant 16 pages of the issue himself.
When he comes back into court, he shoots a bit of a smile towards his friend, Quinn. He says that one passage
where the man went off in his pants [is definitely] smutty, filthy.”
Then Corrigan orders Anderson and Heap held for trial, postponed until February. Quinn asks that they be released to his custody—a technicality, as he intends to spend no more time with them than professionally required. His junior lawyer pays their $25 bail—each—and they are all free to go.
The Little Review is thrilled—Anderson defiantly tells the judge that this trial
would be the making of The Little Review.”
Quinn doesn’t give a damn about the magazine or the women. He wishes they would go back to the stockyards of Chicago where they started. He feels work like Joyce’s should be kept out of publications sent through the mail, where any teenager can see them. Quinn believes that literature belongs in books.
Now Quinn is looking forward to a week’s hiking trip in the Catskills. He’s bought new light woollen socks and rubber-soled shoes for the occasion.
At 5 rue l’Assomption, 16th arrondissement of Paris, James Joyce sits at the desk in his family’s cramped three-room apartment trying to finish the “Circe” section of his novel.
He’s been working on Ulysses for six years, and on this part for six months. Joyce described his current state to a friend as
working like a galley-slave, an ass, a brute.”
Joyce is aware that the sections he has sent to The Little Review, via their foreign editor, American poet living in London, Ezra Pound, about to turn 35, have been published. And confiscated. And in some cases burned.
He hasn’t heard much more about it. The magazine’s attorney, Quinn, says that Joyce would be better off pulling out of the publication and publishing an expensive privately printed book version. The legal controversy could even increase book sales! But Joyce doesn’t want to lose his Little Review audience.
And he has to finish writing the book first. Joyce just wants to keep working.
5 rue l’Assomption
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
This fall I am talking about writers’ salons in Paris and New York after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of Pittsburgh.
My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theatre and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table are available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University early next year.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.