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The New ‘Ulysses’: Unanswered Questions

In response to:

The New 'Ulysses': The Hidden Controversy from the December 8, 1988 issue

To the Editors:

In “The New ‘Ulysses’: The Hidden Controversy” [NYR, December 8, 1988] Charles Rossman says that Clive Hart and I, having withdrawn in June 1983 from the Editorial Advisory Committee for the edition of Ulysses then being prepared by Hans Walter Gabler, “rejoined the project” in August of the same year. Clive Hart and I did not rejoin the project, then or later, in the sense of continuing to work on the edition by considering any more of Dr. Gabler’s work in progress or attending further meetings of the Academic Advisory Committee. What we did do was to decide, on reflection, not to advertise our disagreement with Dr. Gabler by publicly withdrawing our names. This was because we believed that, despite our disapproval of some aspects of Dr. Gabler’s approach, his edition would still have considerable value, and we did not wish to prejudice its reception by making a show of our doubts before its publication.

The value of Dr. Gabler’s edition is illustrated in a forthcoming book in which Clive Hart and I review three central texts of Ulysses (those of 1922, 1961, and 1984). Having looked again at the documentary evidence concerning the (predominantly) verbal alterations that we would make to bring these three texts into line with what we believe Joyce intended for his novel in 1922, we propose 1,692 changes to the first edition of 1922 and 1,584 changes to the standard American edition of 1961, all of which are readings already adopted by Dr. Gabler in his edition of 1984. As to Dr. Gabler’s own edition, we propose only 484 changes, two-thirds of which are the result of rejecting his readings from documents which are not in the main line of descent of the text.

Philip Gaskell
Trinity College
Cambridge, England

To the Editors:

The Estate of James Joyce has agreed to work with an advisory group set up by Random House, the American publishers of Ulysses, and chaired by Dr. Thomas Tanselle, to examine the criticisms of the “Corrected Text” edited by Dr. Hans Walter Gabler expressed in the press by Dr. John Kidd and others. After a full statement of Dr. Kidd’s criticisms has been received Dr. Gabler will be given an opportunity to comment; the group will meet to consider both statements and will then prepare a report. The Trustees of the Estate will be directly involved in the discussions at that stage. Any changes to the text of Ulysses will require the specific approval of the Estate. Until the process of consultation is complete, neither the Estate nor the publishers intend to make any further public statement on the matter. Peter du Sautoy
Clive Hart
Trustees of the James Joyce Estate
London, England To the Editors:

We should be grateful for the opportunity to draw to your readers’ attention that the James Joyce Trustees and the copyright owners of other members of the Joyce family wish to make clear the following points in relation to applications for the use of copyright material of James Joyce, Nora Joyce, Giorgio Joyce, Lucia Joyce, Helen Kastor Joyce, Stephen James Joyce and John Stanislaus Joyce:

  1. Adequate time must be allowed for those concerned to consider carefully the application made, to ensure that the material is treated faithfully, to satisfy themselves that family views are respected, and to assess any other matters that may arise.

  2. While consideration will be given to all applications, there can be no guarantee that permission will be granted.

  3. For these reasons, those concerned will be reluctant to grant permission where it is clear that, for no particularly good reason, an application is made so late that it is difficult for them to form a judgment in time to meet the applicant’s deadline.

  4. Applications should in each case be made through the Society of Authors at 84 Drayton Gardens, London SW10 9SB. Roma Woodnutt
    The Society of Authors
    London, England

Charles Rossman replies:

I am grateful for Dr. Gaskell’s effort to clarify the dispute between Hans Walter Gabler and his academic advisers, as they neared publication of their new edition of Ulysses. In my reconstruction of the history of the new Ulysses, one of the most puzzling elements in the story had been why Philip Gaskell and Clive Hart lent their names (as members of the “Academic Advisory Committee,” which also included Richard Ellmann) to an edition that troubled them so much. Welcome as Dr. Gaskell’s remarks are, especially when contrasted with the evasions of the Joyce estate, they raise new questions about the editing of the latest version of Ulysses and the compromises that led to its publication. In “The Hidden Controversy,” I wrote that I found it puzzling that Philip Gaskell and Clive Hart should withdraw from Gabler’s editing project in protest against his editorial methods in June of 1983, yet rejoin the project in August of the same year. Dr. Gaskell takes exception to my word “rejoin.” He writes: “Clive Hart and I did not rejoin the project…in the sense of continuing to work on the edition by considering any more of Dr. Gabler’s work in progress or attending further meetings of the Academic Advisory Committee.” Dr. Gaskell’s implication is that he and Clive Hart made minimal concessions to Gabler’s edition, and that they somehow managed to lend their names to it without actually approving it. But Richard Ellmann’s papers at the University of Tulsa suggest that Dr. Gaskell’s memory may be faulty here.

For example, Richard Ellmann wrote to Peter du Sautoy, the trustee for the Joyce estate, on July 9, 1983, just a month after Gaskell and Hart had resigned from the Academic Advisory Committee, with the surprising observation that “Clive [Hart] and Pip [Gaskell] have presumably reconciled themselves to the new text except for minor quibbles.” On July 14, 1983, Ellmann wrote Gaskell asking him to look over Gabler’s recent work, which he enclosed. Shortly thereafter, Ellmann wrote to Gabler in an attempt to put the conflict behind them. Gabler responded to Ellmann on August 13, 1983: “What you now propose—also if I understand you correctly, in the name of Pip Gaskell and Clive Hart—is that the Advisory Board resume its functions.” Finally, in their letter of November 29, 1983, to Peter du Sautoy in which they express their willingness for Gabler’s text to be published, Gaskell and Hart explicitly say that they no longer feel the need to dissociate themselves formally from the project. What is more, they express their willingness “to do any more work that may be asked of us.” All of this would seem to justify my word “rejoin.”

Despite Dr. Gaskell’s letter of clarification, then, it remains puzzling that Gaskell and Hart rejoined a project that indeed they apparently had lost faith in. In the very letter to du Sautoy (of November 29, 1983) in which they accept Gabler’s text for publication, they rail against the text on theoretical grounds. (While, I should add in fairness, they also remark that the text “has been prepared with a quite exceptional degree of scholarly expertise” on Gabler’s part.) Then, at the Monaco conference some eighteen months later, Clive Hart made clear his theoretical disagreement with the edition. Now we learn that Gaskell and Hart have been working on a book that outlines their disagreements with the 1922 first edition, the 1961 Random House edition, and the Gabler edition that they themselves worked on.

Equally puzzling is the question about the number of mistaken readings that Gaskell and Hart now find in Gabler’s edition. In their letter of November 1983, in which they express both their acceptance and their repudiation of Gabler’s edition, Gaskell and Hart tell du Sautoy that they disagree with Gabler over “fewer than 100 readings.” When Richard Ellmann wrote Gabler some four months earlier in an effort to patch up the quarrel between Gabler and his advisers, Ellmann asked Gabler to concede that there were “two or three hundred verbal variants” that could not with certainty be incorporated into the text of Ulysses. Yet Dr. Gaskell now informs us that he and Clive Hart continue to disagree with Gabler in “only” 484 instances—five times the number that they mentioned in November 1983, when they approved the edition for publication, and roughly twice the number that Ellmann had cited to Gabler. Which is to say that, in their opinion, Gabler’s edition has about one-third as many corruptions as the 1922 first edition or the 1961 Random House edition that Gabler’s Ulysses has replaced. This from the same scholars who “rejoined” the project and signed the text as academic advisers. I must admit that I’m confused. Were they wrong in 1983? Are they wrong now? Or are they simply paying closer attention now?

To put these numbers in perspective, I should note that Hans Gabler frequently justified his editorial project by referring to as many as 8,000 possible corrections to be made to the 1922 and 1961 editions of Ulysses. (Most Joyce scholars had presumed that all previous editions were notoriously corrupt, containing between four and five thousand errors.) Then, when his edition was first published, Gabler announced that it registered 5,000 departures from all previous editions. Dr. Gaskell now speaks of 1,500 to 1,700 changes that he and Clive Hart have made to the 1922 and 1961 editions, and 484 made to Gabler’s. How do we account for the difference between Gaskell’s and Hart’s 1,500 or so changes, and Gabler’s 5,000 changes? What are the nature and status of Gabler’s extra 3,500 changes, particularly when Gaskell says that he and Hart are making only 484 changes to Gabler’s text? These discrepancies may well be more apparent than substantial. But they certainly reveal the fragility of the statistics that have been bandied about these many years concerning the number of “errors” in Ulysses.

In the meantime, the spokesmen for the Joyce estate write to inform the world that neither they nor the publishers will “make any further public statement on the matter.” They also remind us that, whatever the Tanselle committee decides, and indeed whatever the merits of the case against Gabler’s edition, “Any changes to the text of Ulysses will require the specific approval of the Estate.” It becomes increasingly evident that the interests of the estate may be in explicit conflict with the interests of readers and critics who want the best possible text of Ulysses and free access to any information about Joyce that may help in reconstituting (and interpreting) Joyce’s intentions.

Of necessity, the estate’s primary concern (as it makes clear in the letter published above) is to protect and benefit Joyce’s heirs. That purview includes the privacy of the Joyce family and any economic benefits that may accrue to the estate as a result of new copyrights. Joyce’s readers and critics, on the other hand, are primarily concerned with Joyce’s words, their sources, and their meanings. Thus we have such conflicts between the estate and Joyce scholars as occurred when Joyce’s grandson, Stephen Joyce, destroyed the correspondence of James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia. And thus the estate can force the suppression of the concluding chapter of Brenda Maddox’s biography of Joyce’s wife, Nora. Similarly, Clive Hart and Peter du Sautoy have both denied me permission, as I explore these matters, to quote from their letters in Richard Ellmann’s correspondence file.

Perhaps more of the truth about the creation of Gabler’s Ulysses, especially about the conflicts between the estate, with their interest in protecting the Joyce family and in generating new copyrights, and the scholarly urge to establish an uncorrupted text, will come out next month at a conference to be held at the University of Miami. The conference, scheduled for February 2 through February 4, will be devoted exclusively to issues surrounding the new edition of Ulysses. Hans Gabler will be there, as will his advisers Gaskell and Hart, and his assistant Michael Groden. So will John Kidd, Fritz Senn of Zurich, Thomas Staley, editor of The James Joyce Quarterly, and the present writer. The other assistant, A. Walton Litz, will not attend.

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