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The Scandal of ‘Ulysses’

When the 1984 edition added capitalization to Joyce’s Youth here has end (example 1 above), it did not inform us that the working draft reads Youth has here and (sic) end. If we assume that Joyce slipped in writing and for an, we get a different sequence from the Rosenbach Manuscript:

Youth has here an end [draft—not recorded in 1984]

Youth here has end [Rosenbach Manuscript]

Youth here has End [1984/1986 emendation; also in 1961]

Joyce is translating Sweelinck’s Mein junges Leben hat eine Ende. Not a coincidence, then, that End is capitalized by the editors, though Joyce’s usage requires no capital. There are two long books and scores of articles on Joyce’s musical allusions, yet none cite the draft title. The grandly named Critical and Synoptic Edition does not provide the variants to set others scurrying for Joyce’s source of Sweelinck (the spelling of which is another hint). The same seekers would track the Johannes Jeep couplet and the utterly unidentified, barely translatable “Und alle Schiffe brücken.” Maybe all three airs are in an anthology Joyce consulted.

The single most important linguistic clue about these lyrics is in the working draft’s archaic (but once standard) dieresis on Jeep’s Poëten. That Joyce omitted it from his final draft is regrettable, since the baroque accent has a scent of Kammermusik absent in plain modern Poeten. No one interested in Joyce’s allusions and linguistic talents can proceed without notice of Poëten. The variant is unrecorded in the Synoptic Edition or anywhere else in print. For a study of Joyce’s Ulysses drafts, the self-styled genetic apparatus in the Synoptic Edition (like the editors’ transcription of the Rosenbach Manuscript) is, to repeat myself, worthless.

For foreign languages and accenting in Joyce’s drafts, see my “Gaelic in the New Ulysses,” Irish Literary Supplement (Fall, 1985). The Irish Gaelic is botched in The Corrected Text, despite unattributed corrections of 1984 errors taken from my article and worked into the 1986 text. A majority of the thirty changes made between 1984 and 1986 (Irish, Latin, Spanish, French, and German phrases, and crucial punctuation) are lifted from my post-1984 articles and interviews. With these borrowings, Ulysses became a corrected text in a sense not explicit in the book’s subtitle.

Close scrutiny of individual pages of the 1986 edition reveals seven, six, or five editorial changes per page of Joyce’s final manuscripts. A more general perspective turns up entire classes of emendation not discussed in the Synoptic Edition or The Corrected Text. Changes from what Joyce actually wrote fall into at least thirteen classes:

  1. changes in Joyce’s correct, contemporary spelling

  2. compounding into one word what Joyce wrote in two words

  3. creation or removal of italics

  4. addition of unneeded punctuation

  5. changes of dates, money, and other numbers

  6. changes of personal names

  7. changes of place names

  8. rejection of specific typographical features ordered by Joyce (and intentional suppression of Joyce’s instructions to the printer, making a patchwork of Joyce Archive transcriptions)

  9. changes of Joyce’s idiosyncratic abbreviations

  10. changes of capitalization

  11. changes in literary allusions

  12. changes in Joyce’s spelling or accenting of French, German, Greek, Irish Gaelic, Italian, Latin, Scots English, and Spanish, while other errors in each of these languages are neglected and unidentified (oddities in Swedish and Hebrew stand unnoted and uncorrected)

  13. illusory improvements when a character misspeaks or makes a Freudian slip, where Joyce wrote and clearly intended the slip.

The haphazard execution of these unneeded changes leads to scores of new inconsistencies in The Corrected Text. That Joyce himself may have been irregular and unruly in spelling and punctuation is no license for an edition to outdo him and introduce new muddles. Yet that is precisely how the new text differs from the old. Where we once had Joyce and his printers tangled in their own lapses and second thoughts, a third force asserts itself to add more knots of hazard and mischance to the whole.

The printing history of a work can be as important in editing as manuscript study, particularly when friends of the author help to correct the text. Such alterations were passed on by Sylvia Beach in 1927, Stuart Gilbert in 1932, and again for the 1935 text illustrated by Matisse, and Paul Léon in 1937. (Their contributions are unmentioned in the 1984 edition.) Every different state of the text in an author’s life and soon after must be first detected, then examined, analyzed, and recorded. Text experts say, “Locate, Collate, Relate.” The compilation of a lifetime printing history will also uncover posthumous editions of interest to collectors and historians of the book.

The 1984 edition provides a brief description of ten editions and concludes, “The present edition is the eleventh edition of Ulysses” (p. 1856). Not by a long shot is this true. It is the eighteenth edition. Seven separate typesettings were overlooked, though most are available in the New York Public Library, the British Library, and the Library of Congress. Some were listed in Alan Cohn’s periodic checklists in The James Joyce Quarterly. A more amateurish result cannot be imagined. (An entirely different list of Previous Editions is at the front of The Corrected Text. This is a longer but equally confused mishmash, capped by the misspelling of and as und near the page’s bottom.)

Does it matter that the printing history in the 1984 edition is so shoddy? Aren’t the editions published in Joyce’s lifetime what really count? If seven typesettings are overlooked, those few that were seen may have been only skimmed. No collations of variants in the 1934, 1935, or 1940 printings were made. Those who have never prepared a critical edition may not shudder at the dangers of a sloppy printing history. In the case at hand, collations of all the printings are more important than for any edited version in recent memory because The Corrected Text relies on editions after 1922 for four hundred emendations of Joyce’s manuscripts.

Both Joyce and the first edition are overruled to borrow from the 1926, 1932, 1936, 1960, or 1961 editions. In each of four hundred instances we have Joyce’s own hand and his approval of what he wrote through several proofs. Variants of later printings were substituted for his manuscripts, although the Synoptic Edition has not one paragraph on the individual merits or demerits of any of the 1926–1961 editions. Joyce’s style is thrown out in favor of spellings, punctuation, accents, and italics of unknown authenticity. Absolutely no justification is attempted for these four hundred changes. Some are so patently un-Joycean that the very fabric of Ulysses, its allusions, linguistic texture, and tone are endangered.

To take a typical example, Joyce alluded to Aelfric’s Homilies by lifting the word twey from his copy of Saintsbury’s History of English Prose Rhythm and wrote out twey—an archaic spelling of “two”—in his own hand four times. Someone attempting to correct the text of the Bodley Head edition in 1937 checked a dictionary, located tway but not twey. An early draft manuscript, the Rosenbach Manuscript, the typescript of the lost final working manuscript, and Joyce’s notesheets for “Oxen of the Sun” in the British Museum all have twey. Neither the early draft nor the notesheets are recorded in the Synoptic Edition, yet the inauthentic tway of 1937 is adopted against Joyce’s own hand. The Bodley text contains many such bad guesses, some incorporated in the 1986 text.

A vowel in Joyce can speak volumes, and tway is not the only slight to world authorship. The 1984 and 1986 editions mangle Joyce’s use of Aelfric, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Burns, Goldoni, and Goethe (and others, I suppose). There may be a record here: Most Authors Abused in a Single Edition.

The Corrected Text draws more emendations from the 1932 Ulysses than any other (but denies it outright: 1984 Afterword, p. 1899). When Joyce quotes Dante, Goethe, or Robert Burns, the “corrected” readings do not follow the manuscript but go against Joyce to follow an edition set up in Hamburg. If there is any merit at all to the Odyssey Press text printed in Hamburg in 1932, it would come from Joyce’s close contact with Stuart Gilbert, who looked over the Hamburg proofs. Gilbert also provided the introduction, text, and further changes for the Limited Editions Club edition illustrated by Matisse in 1935. In the Limited Editions Club newsletter for October 1935 we read that it is “the most complete possible text” with “corrections suggested to Mr. Gilbert by James Joyce himself!” (exclamation in original). The correspondence of Joyce, Gilbert, Paul Léon, Matisse, and the Limited Editions Club is extant. (Mr. Erik Stocker of the St. Louis Public Library traced these letters for me.) More than one blunder in The Corrected Text can be traced to ignorance of this material and failure to collate the Limited Editions Club text with the Hamburg text of 1932. Thus the 1984 and 1986 editions overrule Joyce’s manuscripts 110 times to follow Gilbert’s 1932 editing, explicitly deny the debt to Gilbert, and then neglect his further work in 1935 for the Limited Editions Club.

While on the subject of unexamined archives, I should note some preliminary findings. Extraordinary materials that go unmentioned in the Synoptic Edition have turned up in my search of holdings in American collections. Joyce’s correspondence with Ezra Pound in which he discusses changes in the first episode of Ulysses is accessible. Letters to a typist of the “Circe” episode are extant, and two copyists of that episode are identifiable from their handwriting. The identity of another typist for the drafts that were written in Zurich is now known. A set of Shakespeare and Company proofs with Sylvia Beach’s changes exists. An annotated copy used to check the proofs of the first American edition has been found in another archive; its existence is explicitly referred to in yet another. An edition made while Joyce was alive had trial pages set from one source, then work resumed from scratch with another. The earlier pages still exist. Typescripts with Joyce’s revisions that were exhibited in 1975 at the Joyce Symposium in Paris and prominently cataloged are not lost, as the Synoptic Edition claims (p. 1740, lines 1–3).

Even correspondence about the 1937 Bodley Head text (the twey/tway botch) gullibly embraced in 1984 is available. I turned up a postcard from Joyce to the typist Claud Sykes with textual alterations; its existence was denied in The New York Times, April 29, 1985, page B2. Robert Bertholf, the curator of rare books at SUNY–Buffalo, produced the card. None of these documents is mentioned in the Synoptic Edition. The overlooked documents are listed in the registers of libraries in Austin, Buffalo, Carbondale, New Haven, New York City, Princeton, and Tulsa. What I tracked down to Paris has already migrated to Austin, where Joyce has a champion in the director of the Humanities Research Center, Decherd Turner. Scavengers, good luck! Remember, facsimiles don’t lie. But liars facsimile.


With the recent death of Richard Ellmann, Joyce’s biographer and trusted adviser to the Joyce estate, we lost the figure who might have quickly cut short the textual travesty of Ulysses: The Corrected Text. It was Ellmann’s endorsement of the “synoptic” 1984 text that set the stage for the 1986 trade release. Under the title “The Big Word in Ulysses,” in these pages (The New York Review, October 25, 1984)—reprinted as “Finally, the Last Word on Ulysses” (The New York Times Book Review, June 15, 1986)—Ellmann emphasized the addition of a single passage alleged to alter the meaning of Ulysses. So compelling was Ellmann in support of inserting the words “Love, yes. Word known to all men” that his review of 1984 became the Preface to Ulysses: The Corrected Text. The passage was actually uncovered and published by Clive Driver in 1975 in his facsimile of the Rosenbach Manuscript, and is not a 1984 “discovery” as Ellmann first thought. Stephen muses:

Do you know what you are talking about? Love, yes. Word known to all men. Amor vero aliquid alicui bonum vult unde et ea quae concupiscimus… [86U 161]

What he endorsed in 1984 Ellmann was quick to renounce. Only a handful of specialists know that the core of Ellmann’s support for the edition and the most heralded textual addition soon eroded. In The Georgia Review (Summer, 1986), Ellmann turned against “The Big Word” Love:

It is extremely helpful to have Joyce confirm that the word known to all men is love…. But there are reasons for arguing that, however much it may clarify Joyce’s outlook, it should not be included in the final text.

He then confronts the Latin love gumbo added in 1984 without an editorial translation or source. John T. Noonan, in a response to Ellmann’s first review, identified Joyce’s hash of two fragments of Aquinas. Now aware of the contorted Latin that had stumped the Synoptic Edition, but not impeded its insertion, Ellmann decided:

Unfortunately it puts together two passages that are separate in the original…in looking at the passage again [Joyce] could see that the Latin was without further explanation unintelligible…. By striking out the passage he could avoid drawing undue attention to a weakness in Stephen’s argument.

In a paper read at the Princess Grace Library in Monaco in May 1985 and published in that conference’s proceedings, Assessing the 1984 “Ulysses” (edited by C.G. Sandulescu and Clive Hart), Ellmann’s objection was more forceful. The second of the two phrases from Aquinas, he wrote,

seems vaguely confirmatory…or simply incomprehensible. Since conjecture is in order, it seems reasonable to surmise that Joyce recognized what he had written as tortured and self-defeating…. [We are] entitled to follow Joyce’s example and give up love.

So much for the single most important “restoration” in Ulysses: The Corrected Text and the central theme of its already outdated Preface. Ellmann showed uncommon courage in his reversal.

The spurious “love” addition aside, what did Ellmann think of the edition as a whole? Full page ads in the literary weeklies quoted him in banner blurbs:


—Richard Ellmann

This is far and away the most widely known puff for the edition and is still in use in both America and England. Yet Ellmann never spoke such words. In a letter to me dated “22.iv.985” (sic) Ellmann wrote:

Incidentally, the quotations from me in the press were inaccurate. “Stunning” was not one of my words, though of course I was approbatory.

After this clarification, those promotions can blaze:


—Richard Ellmann

Today even the “approbatory” epithet seems too strong as Ellmann’s final word on the text that he watched disintegrate.

It was unfortunate that The New York Review of Books assignment fell to Richard Ellmann in 1984, because he was the principal adviser to the Synoptic Edition, was named on its double title page, and under most circumstances would be expected to decline reviewing a work he had advised for seven years. That his piece became the 1986 Random House Preface and appeared in The New York Times Book Review means that the godfather to the text was the only reviewer in the two most influential American literary journals. The pattern recurred in England when the Times Literary Supplement ran Hugh Kenner’s fulsome accolade, utterly unaware of Kenner’s relentless American campaign in favor of “The Computerized Ulysses” (as he called it in Harper’s, April 1980). For years, most Joyceans (myself included) knew about the long-awaited but darkly shrouded monument-in-progress only through Kenner’s writings.

Without appearing to build a conspiracy theory, I must add that the James Joyce Quarterly assigned its only review of the new Ulysses to Michael Groden, who had long been a collaborator in the edition and was named on the title page of both the 1979 edition prototype and the finished 1984 text.

And so it fell out that the players reviewed the play and found it pleasing. No wonder it has taken a while to uncloak this imposture. (My own study, “An Inquiry into Ulysses: The Corrected Text,” for the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, has taken more than three years to prepare. It will list, by page and line number, hundreds of errors not mentioned in the present article.)

In 1986, instead of the promised “Ulysses as Joyce wrote it,” a radical version forged of shoddy scholarship and puffed out with grandiose claims pushed Joyce’s authorized version off the shelves. Flawed it may be, but classic Ulysses is the better text. Because The Corrected Text is the only version being printed today, and is selling about 100,000 copies per annum through Random House and Penguin in England, the steps to withdraw it require some thought.

The publishers are victims as much as Joyce’s readers and certainly are not to blame for this fiasco. Fortunately, they stand to lose only the printing costs of the corrupted copies now warehoused. The stock should either be destroyed or all copies given a new title page and jackets without the word “corrected.”

The choice of a replacement is easy. Of the Modern Library imprint of Random House—priced only a dollar above the Vintage paperback of the 1986 text—there are some copies remaining. Orders of Ulysses can henceforth be filled with Modern Library copies reproducing the text of 1961. I propose that starting immediately the 1986 text be withdrawn and all American orders for Ulysses be filled with the Modern Library text, except for special requests for The Corrected Text by scholars and research libraries.

With the deceptive and inaccurate Corrected Text out of the way, Joyce’s publishers and estate will need to consider editing Ulysses afresh. If a foundation agrees to help, the scholarship can get under way. Until then, the Modern Library edition, the book roughly as Joyce last saw it, is the best we have, and Random House can start shipping copies tomorrow if it wishes.


More on the New ‘Ulysses’ December 8, 1988

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