While English novelist Virginia Woolf, 40, in Rodmell, East Sussex, is struggling to get past page 200 of Ulysses, the book’s author, James Joyce, also 40, is about 70 miles north, here in Marylebone, London, meeting one of his key benefactors, publisher Harriet Shaw Weaver, 45, for the first time.
Gloucester Place, Marylebone
Joyce and Weaver have been corresponding for years; she published his work in her Egoist magazine and his books with her Egoist Press, in addition to supporting him substantially with stipends from her late mother’s inherited money.
Recent treatment Joyce has been receiving for his painful iritis seems to be working, so he decided this would be a good time to make the trip over from his home in Paris with his partner, Nora Barnacle, 38.
When the Joyces arrived here at Harriet’s home, she noticed that he was well-dressed and had excellent manners, but that his huge spectacles accentuate the terrible state that his eyes are in. He and Nora both impressed her with their Irish charm.
James Joyce with eye patch
Harriet is a bit concerned that the Joyces are going all over town by taxi—even Harriet rides the bus sometimes. He blows about £200 in the month they are here.
London taxis and buses
Weaver hadn’t realized until recently just how much personal care Joyce’s Paris publisher, American Sylvia Beach, 35, owner of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, has been providing for him. In addition to publishing Ulysses this past February, Sylvia has been helping to support the family and making sure Joyce is seeing eye specialists.
Now, toward the end of their trip, Joyce is having a relapse. Harriet arranges a visit to her own eye doctor who, like the French physicians, advises immediate surgery. Joyce figures it’s a good time to head back home to Paris.
Before he and Nora leave, however, they visit with one of his Irish relatives who works here in London. Joyce asks her what her mother back in Ireland thinks of his novel, Ulysses, and she says,
Well, Jim, mother thought it was not fit to read.”
To which Joyce replies,
If Ulysses isn’t fit to read, life isn’t fit to live.”
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.