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The New ‘Ulysses’: The Hidden Controversy

The current public debate surrounding Hans Walter Gabler’s 1984 edition of Ulysses was prefigured by an internal controversy about editorial principles among the editor and the advisers as they prepared the edition. As early as 1981, serious differences arose between the editor, Hans Gabler, a professor in the Institute for English Philology at the University of Munich, and his “Academic Advisory Committee” appointed by the James Joyce Estate—Richard Ellmann, Philip Gaskell, tutor and librarian at Trinity College, Cambridge, and Clive Hart, chairman of English at the University of Essex.

The advisers, the editor, and the Joyce estate, represented by Faber and Faber editor Peter du Sautoy, have revealed very little about this conflict. But the acquisition of Richard Ellmann’s papers by the University of Tulsa now makes it possible to reconstruct part of the unknown history of Gabler’s edition. That history supplies much of the missing background to today’s public dispute. It also reveals a great deal about the tangled forces—money, copyright law, critical ideology, strength of will—that have shaped the only edition of Ulysses being printed today.

Ellmann’s correspondence contains thirty-four letters circulated among the editor Hans Gabler, his academic advisers, and the trustee Peter du Sautoy. From these I have pieced together a chronology of behind-the-scenes events. Of particular interest are six letters written by Ellmann himself. Given Ellmann’s involvement with Gabler’s edition and the surmises one now hears about his attitude toward it, Ellmann’s own words have special value.

All previous editions of Ulysses, beginning with the first edition of 1922, have contained many inaccuracies. Some corruptions derive from Joyce’s own errors of transcription or his oversights in proofreading. Others derive from mistakes by typists and printers. Whatever the source of error, all editions have (depending upon how one interprets the manuscript sources) between several hundred and five thousand mistakes. In 1973, eleven Joyce scholars, including Hans Gabler, formed a committee to promote textual studies that might lead to an accurate text of Ulysses (see The James Joyce Quarterly, Fall 1973, p. 61). Professor Gabler subsequently served as associate editor of Garland Publishing’s sixty-three volume edition of The James Joyce Archive (1977–1980). Then, in 1977, Professor Gabler began to prepare the new Ulysses, which Garland eventually published in three volumes on Bloomsday, 1984, as Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition, and which was republished in one volume without the critical apparatus in 1986 by Random House and, in England, by The Bodley Head and Penguin Books, as Ulysses: The Corrected Text.

Both during its preparation and upon initial publication, Hans Gabler’s Ulysses aroused much attention among scholars. Gabler’s project was intriguing on two counts. First was his use of computers to record and collate Joyce’s early drafts and his bewildering array of revisions. Gabler was compiling “the computerized Ulysses,” as Hugh Kenner called it in 1980, and in so doing appeared to be breaking new ground in the use of computers in the humanities. Second was his innovative notion of the “copytext”—the technical term for the antecedent version of Joyce’s work that Gabler selected for emendation.

Typically, an editor chooses as copytext a given edition or complete manuscript version of a work. He then emends that to eliminate errors that have accumulated during the history of transmission from manuscript to publication. For example, in establishing Cambridge University Press’s 1987 edition of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, the editors passed over all published editions and selected as their copytext (they use the term “base-text”) Lawrence’s second typescript, prepared in September 1919. On the other hand, in editing a rival version for Penguin Books (1982), Charles L. Ross chose as his copytext Thomas Seltzer’s first American edition, published in 1920. The essential point here is that whatever previous version an editor selects as copytext, that version is unified and continuous, a previously existing entity.

An editor of Ulysses might take, for example, either the 1922 first edition or the 1961 Random House edition as the copytext and compare it with all available manuscript sources and any subsequent editions that Joyce reviewed or corrected. Theoretically, at least, the result would be a version that was closer to Ulysses as Joyce intended it for print. Gabler, however, decided that all previous editions of Ulysses were too corrupt to serve as copytext. He therefore chose not to correct any single version, but to reconstruct Ulysses by tracing and collating the various stages of Joyce’s actual composition. Gabler began with the so-called Rosenbach Manuscript, a handwritten copy that Joyce made during 1917–1921 for sale to the American collector John Quinn. Although the Rosenbach Manuscript, which is now housed in the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia, has important lacunae, it is the most nearly complete document in Joyce’s own handwriting before typescripts and proofs were made. Gabler augmented and emended it with material either derived from later work by Joyce or hypothetically reconstructed by Gabler himself. The result was an eclectic blend of materials from different stages of composition, what textual critics call a “genetic” or “conflated” text. Technically speaking, editors do not call such a text “corrected,” despite the subtitle of the Random House trade edition. Rather, it is an entirely new composite that differs from any single version that Joyce himself actually produced or saw.

Less than a year following the much publicized appearance of Gabler’s Ulysses, John Kidd called Gabler’s editorial procedures into question. In April of 1985, Kidd delivered his paper “Errors of Execution in the 1984 Ulysses,” the first serious public criticism of Gabler’s methods, to the Society for Textual Scholarship in New York. Kidd’s charges boil down to three technical objections to Gabler’s concept of copytext.1 Kidd’s first charge is that Gabler has included in his genetic assemblage of Joyce’s manuscripts a number of hypothetical documents that are lost but inferred from existing documents, and has unconvincingly granted them authority as part of his copytext. Kidd’s second charge is that Gabler, in emending his newly created copytext, has “corrected” Joyce’s own spellings in English and many foreign languages, revised Joyce’s own punctuation and his formation of compound words, and altered such other “errors” as Joyce’s dates and money sums. Kidd’s third charge is that Gabler has overlooked Joyce’s own involvement with the text of Ulysses after he completed the manuscript. Such involvement includes instructions sent by Joyce to his typists, his corrections to editions that appeared during his lifetime, and his acceptance of, or collaboration in, changes initiated by others.

Gabler was not on the program when Kidd delivered “Errors of Execution in the 1984 Ulysses.” But he had a copy of Kidd’s paper in advance, and he rose from the audience to offer a previously prepared, ten-page rejoinder (“A Response to: John Kidd, ‘Errors of Execution in the 1984 Ulysses,’ ” unpublished typescript widely circulated in photocopy). Gabler’s response was to declare his Ulysses above Kidd’s criticism. He began by saying: “A defense of the critical edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses against the allegations in Dr. Kidd’s paper is not required.” He rejected Kidd’s allegations as “all unfounded or misconceived.” More substantially, Gabler insisted on the validity of his distinctions among copytext, genetic text, and reading text. He justified his treatment of post-1922 editions of Ulysses on the grounds that Joyce “corrected” but did not “revise” after 1922. Gabler then concluded that “I wish I had had the privilege of answering a worthier challenge…. Let me stress in closing that nothing has emerged from Dr. Kidd’s paper to change the critical text of Ulysses.” (Despite Gabler’s emphatic denial, in subsequent impressions of the Garland edition and in the trade editions, he incorporated several new emendations mentioned in Kidd’s “Errors of Execution.”)

Although Gabler dismissed Kidd’s criticism, others took it seriously. Jeremy Treglown, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, in his account of the conflict between Kidd and Gabler in the TLS (May 10, 1985), called for a delay in bringing out a trade edition of the 1984 text until Kidd’s detailed findings could be published and evaluated. About the same time, Jerome McGann, a specialist in bibliography and textual scholarship now at the University of Virginia, published “Ulysses as a Postmodern Text: The Gabler Edition” (Criticism, Summer 1985). For McGann, Gabler’s edition was neither a technological miracle nor definitive. It was simply one more version of Ulysses that needed to be assessed for bibliographical soundness. McGann specifically cites Kidd’s work as “an important critique” whose implications “scholars have yet to assess fully” (Note 7, p. 304).

On May 24–27, 1985, four weeks after Kidd delivered his paper, a conference devoted to just such an assessment of the new Ulysses took place at the Princess Grace Irish Library of the Principality of Monaco. Thirty-five Joyce scholars attended. C.G. Sandulescu, the conference organizer, invited both Kidd and Gabler. Kidd said that he could not attend for personal reasons. Gabler also refused the invitation, with the observation that Sandulescu was “to a considerable degree falling victim to the strange operations of Dr. John Kidd.”2

What became clear at the Monaco conference was that the “Academic Advisory Committee” and the Joyce estate had some serious disagreements with their own edition. Indeed, Richard Ellmann and Clive Hart both delivered papers at the conference that took issue with several aspects of the very text that they had helped to prepare. But this public disagreement in Monaco merely hinted at the much deeper rift between the advisers and the editor that had first opened, as I have said, in 1981. The Ellmann papers at Tulsa do not supply all the details about either the origin of that rift or its resolution. But they tell us a great deal about what took place.

Ellmann’s papers indicate that from the inception of the project in 1977 until early 1981, work proceeded without serious conflict among the editor and his advisers. To be sure, Gaskell and Hart had been critical of Gabler’s early version of “Lestrygonians,” the eighth episode of Ulysses. The exact cause of their criticism is unclear from the correspondence. It is merely alluded to in a letter of May 7, 1981, from Gaskell to du Sautoy, in which Gaskell praises Gabler’s recent work on “Cyclops” and “Eumaeus” as “a great advance over the Lestrygonians of a couple of years ago.” The earlier version of “Lestrygonians” that Gaskell refers to was published by Gabler in 1979 as a short book, Ulysses 11.5: Prototype of a Critical Edition in Progress, intended not for sale but for the use of scholars at the International James Joyce Conference held between June 11 and June 16, 1979, in Zurich. Gabler argued in his preface that “Lestrygonians” did not derive directly from the Rosenbach Manuscript, but that both the Rosenbach and the typescript derived collaterally from a lost working draft. He explained that his copytext for the episode had been neither the Rosenbach Manuscript nor the typescript, but a hypothetically reconstructed version of the lost final working draft. It is precisely Gabler’s treatment of this episode (and others not immediately derived from the Rosenbach Manuscript) that eventually provoked the advisers’ later objections.

In view of Gabler’s demonstration in 1979 of how he planned to handle such episodes, it is puzzling that no objections to his methods appear in the Ellmann correspondence before Gaskell’s passing reference to “Lestrygonians” in May 1981. It is also puzzling that just three months after Gaskell praised Gabler’s recent work in that same letter, both Gaskell and Hart should suddenly find themselves strongly resisting some of Gabler’s editorial procedures.3 In a letter of August 21, 1981, Gaskell proposed to Hart that the advisers meet with Gabler “for a detailed textual discussion”—the letter does not spell out the details—in the hope of reaching agreement about general editorial principles. The meeting took place in Gaskell’s rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge, on September 21, 1981.

The meeting resolved (or patched over) their differences for the short run. The Ellmann correspondence reveals that Gabler was conciliatory, that Hart and Gaskell were less assertive than Ellmann had anticipated, and that Ellmann himself played the role of mediator between Gabler and his (other) advisers. A week after the meeting, Peter du Sautoy, acting as the responsible trustee for the Joyce estate, wrote to Hart that “it certainly seems to have been a useful and constructive meeting.” On October 2, 1981, Ellmann wrote to du Sautoy to report that the meeting was disarmingly genial:

This is just a brief note to comment on Clive’s letter and our meeting. On the whole, you must have felt as I did that the objections to Hans Gabler’s work were surprisingly minor after the rather considerable intimations of thunder in the correspondence before the meeting. Hans was I thought quite tractable about everything. So far as Clive’s letter is concerned I thought that Hans was quite willing to make concessions, and that in any case the general rule of holding to the manuscript version was far from being inflexible. [Here Ellmann evidently refers to Gabler’s willingness to concede that the Rosenbach did not always have maximum authority.] In fact, I thought the meeting had no Wedgy Benns to contend with, and that disagreements in the future are not likely to be any graver than what we had that day.

The letter from Clive Hart that Ellmann refers to was sent to Peter du Sautoy right after the meeting with Gabler. Despite the apparent harmony at the meeting, Hart expressed lingering doubts. He particularly wanted to clarify who would have final authority in the event of disputes between the editor and the academic advisers. A week later, Peter du Sautoy wrote Hart to lay his doubts to rest. Du Sautoy confessed that he had himself been worried that Gabler might interpret his role as general editor to mean that “he has the last word.” Du Sautoy made it clear that the academic advisers, not the editor, have the last word. Du Sautoy also assured Hart that the trustees would not accept a final text without the “imprimatur” of the academic advisers. The next day, Hart responded with pleasure to du Sautoy’s position, agreeing with his cryptic suggestion that Gabler’s “attitude” may “need some modification.” It is unclear what “attitude” the two had in mind.

Within a year or so, however, renewed tensions between Gabler and his advisers began to develop. By January of 1983, Gaskell had become sharply critical of Gabler’s most recent work—apparently on “Aeolus,” “Lestrygonians” (again), and “Scylla and Charybdis.” In each case, Gaskell objected to the authority Gabler was giving to the Rosenbach Manuscript over the typescript, proofs, and printed texts. In a letter to du Sautoy of February 9, 1983, Ellmann agrees with Gaskell:

I have gone over the Lestrygonians episode with the help of Pip’s [i.e, Gaskell’s] commentary. There is a complicated issue here, as you know, which centers on the fact that the typist whose typescript was the basis of the printed text probably didn’t follow Joyce’s punctuation and spelling with complete fidelity, and occasionally probably left out phrases. It seems impossible to deny that Rosenbach occasionally has phrases that were inadvertently omitted. Pip allows for these…. But Pip’s principal contention is that the typescript should have precedence wherever possible.

I checked the readings and it seemed to me that Hans had several times preferred Rosenbach readings inferior to the typescript readings. Pip objects on textual grounds, but I should add an objection on artistic grounds.

Here follows a discussion of five of Gabler’s emendations and one of Gaskell’s. Gabler, for instance, preferred “A sombre Y.M.C.A. young man…placed a throwaway in the hand of Mr Bloom.” Ellmann preferred “in a hand.” Gabler wanted a passage to read “Lady Mount-cashel has now completely recovered from her confinement.” Ellmann preferred “now quite recovered.” It should be noted that Ellmann’s wishes to follow the typescript for the 1922 text prevailed in the published version in all five of the instances in which he differed from Gabler. Ellmann continues:

While I realize one could argue about idiomatic usage, I agree with Pip that the typescript has much more authority than Rosenbach in this chapter [“Lestrygonians”]. Since Pip also accepts some Rosenbach readings, chiefly where words have been omitted, I suppose we are bound to have a text which is slightly eclectic. But the eclecticism should be kept to a minimum. Wherever possible the typescript would rule.

To this somewhat technical letter Ellmann added a cover letter, in which the first paragraph introduces a new element—questions about Gabler’s command of colloquial English.

Besides this formal letter enclosed, a copy of which I’m sending to Pip, I wanted to say privately that Hans’s choices in this episode seem to me to be liable to attack in the way I feared earlier, that his command of English idiom was a little less firm and reliable than that of someone born in an English-speaking country.

Two weeks later, in a letter to Clive Hart dated February 24, Ellmann repeats his agreement with Gaskell’s criticism of Gabler’s text and offers the hypothesis that Gabler’s non-native English leads him to mistaken readings:

Thanks very much for sending me your searching criticisms of the edition. It does seem as if we may have reached the crisis. I went over the Lestrygonians episode and wrote to Peter [du Sautoy] about my support for Pip’s comments. I hope you can make some headway with Hans. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a sufficiently native command of English, in spite of his high intelligence, and so he makes wrong choices based ultimately, I think, upon a deficient sense of the nuances.

The divisions between Gabler and the academic advisers intensified as the spring of 1983 advanced. On April 12, Gaskell wrote to Hart that he finds numerous problems with Gabler’s editing of the “Nausicaa” episode. Hart replied that unless some progress was made in June—when the advisers and Gabler had scheduled a meeting to discuss their differences—“our ways may have to part.” On April 22, Gaskell wrote to Gabler explaining his and Hart’s objections. During this time, Gaskell also wrote to du Sautoy to warn him of the gathering storm.

On May 5, 1983, Peter du Sautoy wrote Gaskell about his unhappiness over recent developments. He began by expressing surprise that, after five years of the editing project, the academic advisers should suddenly raise fundamental questions about Gabler’s principles of editing. The issues at this point ought to be, du Sautoy insists, pragmatic matters of detail that would lead to publication. He then mentions two concerns that have been important to the estate from the beginning. First is du Sautoy’s own longstanding expectation that the new edition would contain “a significant element of fresh creativity,” with little dissension among the editors. The second concern appears to be little more than an elaboration of the first: “one of the important arguments that weighed with the Estate” was the prospect of an edition sufficiently different from prior editions to justify a renewed copyright.4

Peter du Sautoy’s letter to Gaskell clarifies the conflicting issues that would seek their resolution at the June meeting of Gabler and the advisers. One was Gabler’s uncompromising commitment to his editorial methods. Another was the theoretical opposition to those methods on the part of Gaskell and Hart. Third was the intentions of the Joyce estate, which as du Sautoy had made clear, were the best possible text of Ulysses and a renewed copyright.

Two days later, on May 7, 1983, Philip Gaskell wrote du Sautoy to explain that the sudden objection to Gabler’s editorial methods had arisen because they have reached a stage in their editing where “the Rosenbach ms is outside the main line of descent,” and that he and Hart were in “fundamental disagreement” with Gabler’s handling of the “verbal variants from the Ros in these episodes.” He warned that at present he felt he could not continue as a member of the advisory committee.

The anticipated meeting of Gabler, Hart, Gaskell, and Ellmann took place at New College, Oxford, on June 4, 1983. Unlike the meeting at Cambridge in September 1981, this one proved to be a disaster. Just how thorough a disaster it was is plain from two letters in the Ellmann collection at Tulsa. The first is from Ellmann to Gabler, written the day after the meeting, in which Ellmann expresses his distress at the meeting’s failure, and blames Gabler’s recalcitrance for much of that failure. He makes a strong appeal for compromise, including a rather avuncular anecdote about what the eminent textual scholar Fredson Bowers of the University of Virginia thought of the whole crisis. The entire letter deserves quotation:

Dear Hans,

Our meeting yesterday disturbed me a good deal, as it must have disturbed you. You will recall that at our lunch in New College I tried to persuade you to modify your presentation of your own point of view, so as to make it seem less dependent upon fixed principles. Although I think you made some effort in this direction, you were ultimately inflexible and what I feared happened. You will agree that the resignation of the Advisory Board—for that is what it comes to—is disastrous for the hopes of those who were looking forward to an edition of Ulysses that should be generally acceptable, under the direction of a wise and tolerant scholar. Although the Estate has decided to proceed with the edition regardless, I am sure that the result, which calls the enterprise into question, cannot be gratifying to you.

In advance of your coming to Oxford I had a long talk with Fredson Bowers about the issues involved. He pointed out that there were two distinct schools of editing, one depending upon a copy text and the other upon genetic reconstruction of the author’s best intentions. As you know, Fredson has worked in both modes, so I thought his opinion important. He thought that where differences were slight that it would make sense to stick to the printed version or typescript rather than seek to alter it. [By “alter” Ellmann implies he means substituting words of the Rosenbach Manuscript.] Of course there would be instances where typists’ derelictions could be demonstrated, or where, as in accidentals, typists’ variations must be expected. I don’t know whether he communicated this view to you, or whether he continued to hold it. But it is exactly the position which I should have wished you would take.

You seemed to feel that to grant any concession would be to deny all that you had done. But would it really be incompatible with your genetic working out of the ideal manuscript to say that, aside from inadvertent omissions from earlier versions and occasional special instances where exceptional treatment seemed to be required, there are two or three hundred verbal variants in nine chapters which can be reconstructed from earlier versions, but that since there is no final document which lends them authority, you are listing them in an appendix rather than putting them into the text proper? This would show a commendable freedom from doctrinaire inflexibility, and would be highly creditable to you as indicating the fact that you recognise limits to any textual theory, even your own.

We have been friends for many years and I can’t refrain from making this last ditch appeal to you. What I said at our meeting on Saturday was awkwardly put, but it was a plea to recognise that much of what you have been describing as logical or systematic is in fact capricious, based upon aesthetic, linguistic, or psychological inferences that are open to question. I wish we could enter Joyce’s mind and know why he changed whipser to whisper [in the last paragraph of episode 14, “Oxen of the Sun”], but we can’t. All we know is that he did it, and of course reasons could be found. On the linguistic side, the problems are equally insuperable, even for native speakers of English. And of course no one will ever agree about aesthetic shadings. I hope you will not take this comment amiss. Any editor of any text is bound to be limited in one way or another. Some sense of this fact would be appropriate where the text—Joyce’s work—is so important to so many people. Besides personal limitations, there are also the limitations of textual scholarship. I should plead for a little self-skepticism in a field where so much is problematic and in a situation where so much cannot be known. I am not asking you to throw up your hands, but only to show an awareness of the pitfalls and a respect for the work as Joyce knew it from 1922 until his death twenty years later.

I very much hope that you will still see the possibility of modifying your rigid stance about the results of your genetic investigation, and of modifying your oppositely indulgent position about critical questions where changes must inevitably seem presumptuous. If you do so, the result would be much more widely acceptable, and the brilliant way in which you have prepared the genetic text and the final version would receive the accolade it deserves. Otherwise the enterprise is clouded from the start and you lose the sympathy you would have.

In our personal dealings I have never felt that you were unwilling to take other views into consideration and to alter your own when necessary. Now that tempers have cooled, I believe you will be true to your own nature if you show yourself willing to make the rather minor withdrawals from a doctrinaire position that would be necessary.

I hope to see you again in Oxford before long.

Best wishes,

Ellmann here discloses in passing that an event of considerable importance occurred during the month between May 5, when Peter du Sautoy wrote to Gaskell to explain the estate’s intention for a renewed copyright, and the meeting of June 4. The estate decided that the advisers no longer had the last word, and that the “imprimatur” of the advisers was no longer required. As Ellmann puts it to Gabler: “…the Estate has decided to proceed with the edition regardless.” Of course, no one can be certain about the estate’s motives in this decision. But the estate appears to have decided that if a new copyright could not be attained with harmony between the editor and the advisers, it would be attained without the advisers.

The second letter that documents the extent of the failure of the June 4 meeting is from Philip Gaskell to Peter du Sautoy. On June 7, Gaskell wrote a brief letter withdrawing from the entire editing project. He makes it clear that he doesn’t want his work on the edition to be acknowledged or his name to be connected with the project in any way.

The correspondence in Ellmann’s papers records no direct response by Gabler to the resignation of two of his advisers. On June 16, 1983 (omitting to note that it was Bloomsday), Gabler replied to Ellmann’s letter from the day following the meeting in four single-spaced pages in which he makes no concessions. He defends his editorial positions, does not mention Gaskell and Hart, and notes that he has taken on as his personal advisers A. Walton Litz of Princeton and Michael Groden of the University of Western Ontario, “to support me inofficially [sic] with their advice.” Gabler speaks with the confidence of a person in command—as indeed he was, given the estate’s recent commitment to his edition over the objections of the advisers.

One might imagine that Gaskell’s and Hart’s departures from the project were settled. But in fact the advisers apparently completed their evaluations of the emended texts that they had already been sent. Ellmann again apparently acted as the mediator. There are no letters in Ellmann’s correspondence that explain how or why Gaskell and Hart accommodated themselves in August of 1983 to what they had rejected in June. But by August Ellmann had written to Gabler trying to restore the status quo ante bellum. Gabler replied on August 13, 1983, noting that Ellmann was now proposing that the advisory board resume its functions. Gabler expresses no desire for the advisory board to do so, but he says that he will abide by any decision of the trustees—on the specific condition that members of the board are appointed as his advisers, not the estate’s, and that he make the final editorial decisions.

For whatever reasons, Gaskell and Hart rejoined the project. It took several months to work out the manner in which the reconstituted and augmented body of advisers—now including A. Walton Litz and Michael Groden—were to be presented to the public. Eventually, in a memo dated December 4, 1983, Peter du Sautoy announced the form in which the divided advisers would be acknowledged. Ellmann, Gaskell, and Hart were to continue as the “Academic Advisory Committee,” but they would be “assisted by” Groden and Litz. And so the five are described in the Garland edition.

A week before du Sautoy’s memo, Gaskell and Hart wrote to him announcing that they were “content that [Gabler’s edition] go ahead in its present form, as decided by the estate.” But following that terse statement they appended four paragraphs that relate to their continuing quarrel with Gabler’s editorial procedures. With this last obstacle from the off-again, on-again academic advisers now overcome, the Garland edition appeared some six months later.

The anxiety of the advisers and of the estate was not to end with publication of Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition, despite the praise for the edition in the press and the enthusiastic early reviews, including one by Ellmann himself. Kidd’s criticism of the edition, Jerome McGann’s influential discussion of Gabler’s notion of copytext, and the Monaco conference all made the decision of whether to publish a subsequent trade edition unexpectedly complex.

After the Monaco conference, both Ellmann and Hart sent reports to Peter du Sautoy. Ellmann’s remarks have apparently not been preserved in his papers, but du Sautoy’s reply on August 13 describes them as “a bit worrying.” Ellmann’s papers contain Hart’s two-page assessment of the conference, written on June 12, 1985. Hart describes the numerous quibbles over details that took place and “the fairly general attack” by critics at the conference on the editorial principles upon which Gabler’s edition is based. As it happens, Hart’s own paper at the conference—“Art Thou Real, My Ideal?”—was a telling attack on the edition’s “fundamental presuppositions.” Hart argued against Gabler’s assemblage of the reading text from different stages of composition. Hart called the result “the Garland cockatrice: the incoherent amalgam of so many different Joyces in the clear reading text” (Assessing the 1984 Ulysses, p. 64).

A few items in the Ellmann correspondence suggest Ellmann’s own attitude toward publishing Gabler’s text as the trade edition. The letter from du Sautoy to Ellmann of August 13, 1985, implies that Ellmann had been arguing for a delay in publication. No doubt one of his chief reasons for advising such a delay was his dispute with Gabler over perhaps the most important single emendation in Gabler’s edition—the so-called love passage. In the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode, Gabler had added to Stephen Dedalus’s interior monologue five lines that include the passage: “Do you know what you are talking about? Love, yes. Word known to all men.” This addition has become famous because it appears to answer a question that Stephen asks his mother in a fantasy more than three hundred pages later: “Tell me the word, mother, if you know now. The word known to all men.”

Ellmann welcomed the addition of the passage in his earlier review praising the edition: “The Big Word in Ulysses” (The New York Review, October 25, 1984). But he changed his mind and publicly challenged its legitimacy at the Monaco conference. Following the conference, Ellmann sent Gabler the paper that he read in Monaco. Gabler responded on July 29, 1985, arguing against Ellmann’s views on the love passage and concluding that he did not intend to remove it. Ellmann subsequently made his most overt declaration of his feelings about publishing the existing text as the trade edition in a letter to du Sautoy dated August 22, 1985:

That we are publishing an edition not as Joyce intended it to reach readers but as he wrote it, no doubt with many implicit ideas about changing it before publication, is really dismaying. I feel that Hans has been most tendentious about this theory. If we wanted it as he wrote it, we could have a facsimile of the manuscripts—the use of print argues different criteria. I enclose a copy of my answer to Hans. It doesn’t seem possible to conduct a real debate with him at this stage, and his refusal to reconsider now what he considered earlier is certainly a discouragement.

Clive’s letter and its disquietudes seem sensible. But I suppose that Gabler will automatically reject any suggestions from Kidd, in view of the bad feeling that has been generated. [Here Ellmann refers to Kidd’s 1985 paper, “Errors of Execution in the 1984 Ulysses,” discussed above.]

This is a touching lament from a man who had devoted hundreds of hours to the very text that now dismays him, and who had worked diligently to promote harmony among the members of its editorial team. But before we infer from Ellmann’s reservations a general condemnation of Gabler’s work, we should also remember that Ellmann allowed a revised version of his 1984 review to serve as the preface to the trade edition, and that in the summer of 1986, in his discussion of “The New Ulysses” in the Georgia Review, he called it “a great gift to Joyce’s readers.”

Du Sautoy’s letter to Ellmann of August 13, 1985, reveals the ambiguity of his own position. He resists any delay in bringing out a trade edition, but admits to being troubled by Gabler’s text. He says that he has read Jerome McGann’s article and that it made him wonder whether Gabler’s text ought to be published at all in a trade edition without the technical apparatus. But he quickly recoils from the implications of that doubt. He writes as if accepting a fait accompli, saying that he thought it was too late to go back. He then mentions, as he had in his letter to Gaskell more than two years before, on May 5, 1983, the importance to the estate of establishing a new copyright. The result of all this soul searching was that the trade edition appeared on June 16, 1986, as Gabler wanted.

Where are we now—or rather, where is the edition—four years after original publication? Gabler’s Ulysses is the only version currently being published on either side of the Atlantic. Critically, on the other hand, the edition is distinctly sub judice. Following the publication of John Kidd’s “Scandal of Ulysses,” Jason Epstein, vice-president of Random House, announced that a committee to be headed by G. Thomas Tanselle, past president of the Bibliographical Society of America, would be appointed. The committee’s task will be to advise Random House whether to continue publishing Gabler’s Ulysses as the trade edition or to withdraw it from the market.5

On July 7, 1988, Michael Groden, Hugh Kenner, and A. Walton Litz wrote Jason Epstein arguing against appointing a committee to decide the fate of Gabler’s Ulysses, and urging Epstein to let the edition be debated by scholars in public before he makes any decisions. Gabler, they said, had not been given an opportunity to respond to criticism. They charged Tanselle with being incapable of impartial judgment. (Their letter has been widely circulated in photocopy and Groden has now made similar charges in an attack on Kidd published in the TLS of October 7–13.)

On November 1, 1988, Tanselle announced that the members of his committee would be Jo Ann Boydston, distinguished professor, Southern Illinois University, editor of the Works of John Dewey, chair of the Committee on Scholarly Editions of the Modern Language Association of America, and president of the Society for Textual Scholarship; Herbert Cahoon, curator of manuscripts at the Pierpont Morgan Library and coauthor of A Bibliography of James Joyce; Denis Donoghue, Henry James professor of English and American letters at New York University; and Tanselle, vice-president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, adjunct professor of English at Columbia University, coeditor of the Northwestern-Newberry edition of the Writings of Herman Melville, and former president of the Society for Textual Scholarship and Bibliographical Society of America.

The next important event in the controversy over Ulysses will be the publication of Kidd’s detailed claims that Gabler’s edition is deficient. Kidd’s work, some 180 pages in typescript, was submitted in September to the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. It seems unlikely that Random House will make a decision before Kidd’s case has been set out in more detail and Gabler and his allies have had a chance to comment on it. What is now clear, however, is that Kidd’s public criticisms of the new Ulysses were preceded by serious private doubts among the scholars who were chosen by the estate to advise its editor.6

Letters

Ulysses’ Update February 2, 1989

The New ‘Ulysses’: Unanswered Questions January 19, 1989

  1. 1

    Kidd’s views were amplified in his article “Gaelic in the New ‘Ulysses’ ” in the Fall 1985 Irish Literary Supplement and in “The Scandal of Ulysses” (The New York Review, June 30, 1988).

  2. 2

    C. George Sandulescu and Clive Hart, eds., Assessing the 1984 Ulysses (Colin Smyth/Barnes and Noble, 1986), p. xxii.

  3. 3

    It seems likely that the approval or criticism of Gaskell and Hart depended upon which episodes they addressed. For example, in From Writer to Reader (1984), Gaskell cites the “Lestrygonians” episode as especially taxing for an editor, precisely because of its obscure line of transmission from working draft to typescript. In contrast to “Lestrygonians,” “Cyclops” and “Eumaeus” descend directly from the Rosenbach Manuscript, and thus pose fewer editorial problems that might provoke Gaskell’s and Hart’s criticism of Gabler’s methods.

  4. 4

    For a fuller discussion of the implications of this crucial letter, see my comments in the Times Literary Supplement, September 2–8, 1988, p. 963.

  5. 5

    Random House’s decision will have important implications for future editions of Joyce’s other works. The Ellmann correspondence indicates that as early as 1981 Hans Gabler regarded his association with Garland Publishing as possibly leading to publication of newly edited editions of all Joyce’s works. In a letter to Ellmann of August 13, 1985, Peter du Sautoy mentions a synoptic version of Finnegans Wake being edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon according to principles similar to Gabler’s. Du Sautoy expresses his doubts that the estate would want to get involved in any more synoptic texts.

  6. 6

    I wish to thank the Richard Ellmann Estate and the Department of Special Collections at the McFarlin Library of the University of Tulsa for permission to examine and quote at length from the correspondence of Richard Ellmann.

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