Read the Original Serialized Edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1918)

In the sec­ond decade of the 20th cen­tu­ry, Amer­i­can edi­tor Mar­garet C. Ander­son pub­lished The Lit­tle Review, a month­ly lit­er­ary jour­nal of mod­ernist and exper­i­men­tal prose, poet­ry, and art. Four years into its exis­tence, at the begin­ning of 1918, Ander­son announced to her read­ers this:

“I have just received the first three instal­ments [sic] of James Joyce’s new nov­el which is to run seri­al­ly in The Lit­tle Review, begin­ning with the March num­ber.
It is called “Ulysses”.
It car­ries on the sto­ry of Stephen Dedalus, the cen­tral fig­ure in ‘A Por­trait of the Artist as a Young Man”.
It is, I believe, even bet­ter than the “Por­trait”.
So far it has been read by only one crit­ic of inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion. He says: “It is cer­tain­ly worth run­ning a mag­a­zine if one can get stuff like this to put in it. Com­pres­sion, inten­si­ty. It looks to me rather bet­ter than Flaubert”.
This announce­ment means that we are about to pub­lish a prose mas­ter­piece.”

Feb­ru­ary 2, 2022 marked the 100th anniver­sary of Ulysses, the day on which the full nov­el, first seri­al­ized in The Lit­tle Review, was pub­lished. Joyce, like many of The Lit­tle Review’s British and Euro­pean writ­ers, came to Ander­son through her fel­low edi­tor Ezra Pound. Ander­son might have sensed the great­ness that was to come and she knew the dan­ger in that great­ness. In the end, pub­lish­ing Ulysses would make her an ene­my of the state.

Over at the Mod­ernist Jour­nals Project, you can read every sin­gle issue of The Lit­tle Review (and oth­er such mag­a­zines) to place this rev­o­lu­tion­ary nov­el in con­text. The March 1918 issue which begins the jour­ney of Dedalus and Leopold Bloom also fea­tures works by Wyn­d­ham Lewis and Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, Jes­si­ca Dis­morr, and Arthur Symons; let­ters (and some hate mail) from read­ers; adver­tise­ments for oth­er lit­er­ary mag­a­zines like The Quill, The Pagan, and The Ego­ist; ads for restau­rants in Green­wich Vil­lage, and one for the Berlitz School of Lan­guages; and a final appeal for more read­ers.

The most inter­est­ing of these sec­tions is Pound’s screed against Amer­i­can obscen­i­ty laws. The Lit­tle Review had already had an issue con­fis­cat­ed by the US Post Office. In 1917, a Wyn­d­ham Lewis sto­ry about a sol­dier who gets a girl preg­nant and aban­dons her was declared obscene, both for “lewd­ness” and its anti-war stance. Pound sus­pect­ed the gov­ern­ment was tar­get­ing Ander­son and her co-edi­tor (and lover) Jane Heap for their sup­port of anar­chists Emma Gold­man and Alexan­der Berk­man, along with their anti-war stances.

The Wyn­d­ham Lewis inci­dent had made it dif­fi­cult for Ander­son and Heap to find a pub­lish­er, so they knew some of the risks in begin­ning the ser­i­al. Soon enough they ran into trou­ble. Ulysses con­sists of 18 chap­ters or “Episodes”. The US gov­ern­ment seized the issues fea­tur­ing Episode 8 (“Lestry­go­ni­ans”), Episode 9 (“Scyl­la and Charyb­dis”), and Episode 12 (“Cyclops”) and burned them. But it was Episode 13, “Nau­si­caa,” that led to charges being filed against the pub­lish­ers. The chap­ter, which fea­tures a girl expos­ing her­self and Leopold Bloom mas­tur­bat­ing to orgasm (but writ­ten in such a, well, Joycean way that most would just miss it), was too much for some.

The tri­al that fol­lowed was a trav­es­ty, includ­ing a judge rul­ing that the offen­sive sec­tions of “Nau­si­caa” not be read out loud because a woman was present. When it was point­ed out that the woman was the pub­lish­er Ander­son her­self, he declared  “she did­n’t know the sig­nif­i­cance of what she was pub­lish­ing”. Ander­son and Heap were found guilty, forced to dis­con­tin­ue pub­lish­ing “Ulysses” and fined one hun­dred dol­lars.

The Lit­tle Review print­ed a sec­tion of Episode 14 (“Oxen of the Sun”) and then stopped. Ander­son thought of giv­ing up the mag­a­zine, but turned over con­trol to Heap. The mag­a­zine con­tin­ued pub­lish­ing until 1929, but removed their mot­to: “Mak­ing No Com­pro­mise with the Pub­lic Taste.”

James Joyce did not stop, how­ev­er, and Sylvia Beach—an ex-pat liv­ing in Paris and run­ning the book­store Shake­speare and Co.—pub­lished the full nov­el in 1922. Amer­i­cans would have to wait one more year, 1923, to read this “obscene” nov­el.

Ander­son was cor­rect however—-she had a major role in pro­mot­ing this “prose mas­ter­piece.” And one hun­dred years lat­er, Puri­tan­i­cal Amer­i­cans are still ban­ning and burn­ing books, which is only result­ing, like it did for Joyce’s nov­el, in send­ing the works into the Best Sell­er lists.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Sylvia Beach Tells the Sto­ry of Found­ing Shake­speare and Com­pa­ny, Pub­lish­ing Joyce’s Ulysses, Sell­ing Copies of Hemingway’s First Book & More (1962)

James Joyce’s Ulysses: Down­load as a Free Audio Book & Free eBook

Vir­ginia Woolf on James Joyce’s Ulysses, “Nev­er Did Any Book So Bore Me.” Shen Then Quit at Page 200

James Joyce’s Cray­on Cov­ered Man­u­script Pages for Ulysses and Finnegans Wake

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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