The Little Review’s founder and publisher, Margaret Anderson, 34, and editor, Jane Heap, 37, are back in court with their pro bono lawyer, John Quinn, 50, to hear the verdict of the three-judge panel in their trial for publishing in their magazine allegedly “obscene” excerpts from Ulysses, the work in progress of Irish novelist James Joyce, 39, currently in Paris.
The judges have spent the week since the trial reading the whole “Nausicaa” episode which has been published in three issues of The Little Review last year.
Guilty. Pay a $100 fine and don’t publish any more episodes of Ulysses. End of.
In Paris, French poet Valery Larbaud, 39, has been reading the sections of Ulysses in The Little Review which his friend, American ex-patriate bookseller Sylvia Beach, 33, has recommended to him. He can’t believe it. Joyce is a genius. Every bit as great as Rabelais. Larbaud hasn’t been this excited by an author since he first read Walt Whitman as a teenager. He has to write to Sylvia and ask: Maybe Mr. Joyce will allow him to translate some segments into French?!
Margaret Anderson, 34, founder and publisher of the literary magazine The Little Review, is disappointed. As is her partner, the magazine’s editor, Jane Heap, 37.
Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap
They were not happy about being served with papers last year for publishing “obscene” excerpts from Ulysses, the latest work in progress by Irish novelist James Joyce, just turned 39. And they are grateful that their lawyer, art collector John Quinn, 50, is not charging them a fee for all the work he has been doing.
But here they are in the New York City Court of Special Sessions and Quinn’s main argument is that no one would understand Ulysses anyway, so how can it be obscene?!
Quinn started off alright by presenting Joyce’s reputation as a respected man of letters, but when one of the judges asked how that was relevant, Quinn dropped it. He put a few well-known writers on the stand, but they just testified that the novel wouldn’t corrupt readers.
Anderson has called Ulysses “the prose masterpiece of my generation.” She and Heap want the defense to be that it is great literature and should not be suppressed.
Quinn will have none of that. He has already told Anderson that the case is unwinnable and he has no intention of appealing a guilty verdict. And he doesn’t think they should have published such material in a magazine anyway, because it is sent through the mails. Quinn has been trying to convince Joyce to agree to a privately published book, which couldn’t possibly be prosecuted.
Playing to the three-judge panel, Quinn seizes on the anger of the lead prosecutor:
There is my best exhibit. There is proof that Ulysses does not corrupt or fill people full of lascivious thoughts. Look at him! He is mad all over. He wants to hit somebody. He doesn’t want to love anybody. He wants somebody to be punished. He’s mad. He’s angry. His face is distorted with anger, not with love. That’s what Joyce does. That’s what Ulysses does. It makes people angry. They want to break something. They want somebody to be convicted. They feel like prosecuting everybody connected with it, even if they don’t know how to pronounce the name Ulysses. But it doesn’t tend to drive them to the arms of some siren.”
Anderson feels that the whole scene is surreal. When the prosecutor is about to read out one of the main offending passages from Ulysses’ “Nausicaa” section, one of the judges actually says that Anderson (ignoring Heap) should be excused from the room as she is a young woman. Quinn points out that she is the one who published that passage. The judge says that she can’t possibly understand the significance of what she is publishing.
Oh, yes I do, thinks Margaret.
Court is recessed for one week so the judges can read the full “Nausicaa” episode.
In another New York City courtroom, American self-published poet and general drifter Robert McAlmon, 25, is marrying English writer Annie Winifred Ellerman, 26, known by her adopted name, Bryher.
Newlyweds Bryher and Robert McAlmon
The couple met through friends at a Greenwich Village party just recently. Bryher explained to McAlmon that she is from a very well-to-do British family. But they are holding on to her rightful inheritance until she gets married.
So, if they get married, they can take the money and move to Paris! McAlmon figures this sounds like a pretty good deal.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions. Later this month I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the OLLI program at CMU.
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 TheLittle 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.
TheLittle Review is thrilled—Anderson defiantly tells the judge that this trial
would be the making of TheLittle 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.