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The Scandal of Ulysses’: Yet Another Exchange

In response to:

The New 'Ulysses': Grave Matters from the March 30, 1989 issue

To the Editors:

Charles Rossman [Letters, NYR, March 30] asks me to acknowledge mistakes unambiguously. This I am happy to do without any of the spirit of rancour which has marked other contributions to the Ulysses debate. The real “Conolly Norman” was spelt thus as John Kidd shows. I accept his proof, although, as I stated in my letter which provoked him to further research on the topic, this spelling, or any “real” spelling, does not in itself justify “correction.” If I don’t feel rancour, I am prey to some feelings of resentment at Dr. Kidd’s asking why I quoted Joyceans of the 1980s. His own earlier misleading proofs quoted sources from the 1970s as conclusive; the charges of being economical with the facts (“on the desk before him”) in James Joyce and Medicine and Thom’s Directory still stand. To repeat my original letter, every point which the late Charles Peake raised about the Gabler edition, and which Dr. Kidd has taken up, demands full discussion and requires the level of research which Dr. Kidd has now been stung into carrying out.

But not in the spirit of paranoia Dr. Kidd sets as the norm for debate, nor necessarily in the present forum which dramatises and condenses the discussion. For example, Dr. Kidd opens his reply to my letter with a fusillade of accusations of allegiances, including my own as attested to by The Ulysses Pagefinder. My not declaring this particular interest, not that I ever claimed to be disinterested, was purely a matter of avoiding lengthy self-advertising. Dr. Kidd appears to assume that Pagefinder ties me to supporting Gabler but anyone who has spent more than three minutes with the book will realise that it enables collation between various editions of Ulysses using the Gabler chapter/line reference as a standard and would function perfectly well if the Gabler edition never existed and the chapter/line format was hypothetical. My co-compiler and I make the statement in our Introduction to the book: “Although Professor Gabler would renounce any attempt to see his work as representing the ‘final’ edition of Ulysses, there is no doubt that it will remain the standard text for some time to come.” This is the understandable basis for using the Gabler references as a standard in Pagefinder rather than inventing one. Dr. Kidd seems to assume that if Joycean A knows (or has dealt in a friendly manner with) Joycean B, they are therefore in total agreement and form a conspiracy.

Professor A. Walton Litz is also misrepresented—perhaps the phrase quoted by Dr. Kidd from the Foreword bears quoting in context:

The Gabler edition of Ulysses was the product of rigorous textual scholarship, and although some of the editorial principles can be debated it is likely to remain the standard text for decades to come. One of the final ironies in the publishing adventures of Ulysses is that many readers who treated the older, corrupt texts as sacred books are disturbed by the Gabler edition, which in its synoptic pages reveals the inherent instability of any work as complicated as Ulysses. Eventually there will be competing texts of Ulysses, just as there are competing texts of Shakespeare’s plays. [My italics]

This spirit in which Dr. Kidd has conducted himself and his argument has forced an artificial polarisation of the debate. As Rossman states: “No matter what text Random House chooses to continue in print, from now on no edition can be definitive. We have lost our bibliographical innocence forever.” In that, you see, we concur. The final paragraph of my letter stated and acknowledged “The Corrected Edition of 1986, the trade edition, should not, however, stand inviolate through successive printings….” On the other hand, Dr. Kidd may stand alone if he thinks, as the last paragraph of his response seems to imply, that any previous edition is better than the Gabler. Errors may have been made but so far there is nothing that cannot be fixed with a sharp pencil and a copy of the forthcoming Gaskell-Hart “repair kit” at hand. Before long, Dr. Kidd should offer his “repair kit” in full for comparison.

Alistair McCleery
Edinburgh, Scotland

John Kidd replies:

Mr. McCleery promises he will “acknowledge mistakes unambiguously” yet immediately waffles on whether or not the spelling “Conolly” was Joyce’s last revision on the type-scripts. That Gabler has no policy on names and has not undertaken the essential historical digging passes without protest from Mr. McCleery as he makes vague murmurs about the nature of “correction.” In “The Scandal of Ulysses,” published in the June 30, 1988, issue of The New York Review, I cited Thom’s Directory for 1904 to dispute Gabler’s misspellings of Conolly, Thrift, and Buller. At that point I had never heard of Mr. McCleery or his Pagefinder. Now I learn of Mr. McCleery’s spurious claim to have “provoked” my research and “stung” me into action. It is wrong of Mr. McCleery to suggest that Charles Peake anticipated my use of the Conolly Norman example. In Assessing the 1984 “Ulysses,” edited by C.G. Sandulescu and C. Hart, Peake calls “Conolly” an “evident typing error” (p. 156) and, like Gabler and McCleery, was unaware of its historical basis. My review of Peake, Sandulescu, and Hart is found in The James Joyce Broadsheet, number 25, February 1988.

Those coming late to the Scandal of Ulysses may be mystified by the letters about Conolly Norman. His is only one of eight names I have discussed in these pages, and after five letters about him (and my five responses), I am glad someone finally concedes—on the evidence of a photograph—that I have got the spelling right. What about the other seven names? After ten months, can I assume Gabler and his associates concede that they have a problem with the names of Captain Buller, Harry Thrift, the cyclists Adderley and Greene, and Doctor Louis Werner? If he has kept track of the names mentioned in The New York Review this year, is Gabler planning to reverse the changes he made from “Landsdowne” to “Lansdowne” and “Lockart” to “Lockhart” to follow Mr. McCleery’s principles of no change is a good change?

Mr. McCleery makes the diagnosis of “paranoia” rather hastily. His Pagefinder‘s acknowledgments list only three scholars; two of them, A. Walton Litz and Michael Groden, are advisers to Gabler named on the 1984 title page. Litz wrote an introduction to the Pagefinder lauding Gabler’s “rigorous textual scholarship.” While most of the literary world is shocked about Gabler’s sloppiness and evasions before his critics, Mr. McCleery descends bearing synoptic tables graven in the language of Gabler.

My Boston University assistants have spent many hours with the Pagefinder, and both Stuart Sheffer and Linda Rodgers tell me that it does not “function perfectly well” in any context except converting to and from the Gabler text. When converting from the 1922 text to the 1961 text, for example, we do not use it. Gabler’s insertion of large chapter numerals and running line numbers never authorized by Joyce are a bizarre feature better shunned than made standard.

Incidentally, the notes on each edition’s printing history in the Pagefinder are so thoroughly erroneous that the influence of Gabler is undeniable. The 1960 Bodley Head edition was not set from the 1936 limited edition as Gabler and McCleery assert, but from the 1958 impression; the Penguin Ulysses was not the last setting before Gabler, but was followed by seven more from five publishers; Judge Woolsey’s court decision was not reproduced in all resettings of the 1934 American edition—the Milestone and Book-of-the-Month Club editions omit it.

The Gabler-derived blunders aside, potential purchasers should be aware that although the Pagefinder attempts to provide a conversion to the manuscripts and proofs in the James Joyce Archive, the tables offered aren’t adequate to the task. A former assistant, David Seaman of the University of Virginia, has constructed for my use an alternative Archive pagefinder.

The omission of Pagefinder conversions for the 1935 Matisse-illustrated edition is very serious, given the claim of the Limited Editions Club to have corrections direct from Joyce’s hand. Gabler didn’t collate the 1935 text and Mr. McCleery compounds that negligence. To revert to names, the 1935 edition ignored by Gabler is the only one to name correctly both the boxers Corbett and Fitzsimmons, called “Corbet” and “Fitzsimons” by Frank Budgen from Joyce’s dictation, spellings adopted in Ulysses: The Corrected Text. Gentleman Jim Corbett was also correctly named in the 1934 Random House edition, which, like the 1935 one, was not collated by Gabler.

The Pagefinder’s misplaced trust in Gabler’s data may have a parallel in the forthcoming “repair kit” prepared by Philip Gaskell and Clive Hart. Neither man is claiming to have reedited Ulysses. Where Gabler omits or misrecords evidence, Gaskell and Hart are helpless. Still, I agree with their general orientation toward the first edition and away from Gabler’s excesses.

In Mr. McCleery’s nation, Scotland, as in all of Europe, Africa, and Asia, the only edition of Ulysses being printed and sold is that of Gabler. Despite the “competing texts of Shakespeare” invoked by A. Walton Litz and Mr. McCleery, Gabler announced in his 1984 foreword that he intended “to replace the text made public in the book’s first printing and every subsequent printing since 1922.” Is it really I who “forced an artificial polarisation of the debate”?

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