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Rare James Joyce letter to go under the hammer

The letter from Joyce to his friend, Italian writer Carlo Linati, sees the frustrated Irishman decry the censorship of his books.

A statue of James Joyce in Trieste. Joyce lived in the northern Italian town in 1919 when he wrote the auctioned letter to Carlo Linati.
A statue of James Joyce in Trieste. Joyce lived in the northern Italian town in 1919 when he wrote the auctioned letter to Carlo Linati.
Image: cloudsoup via Flickr

A RARE LETTER handwritten by James Joyce, in which the author lashes out against censorship of his books, is to go before a public auction in London later this month.

The letter – dated December 1919 – sees Joyce write to an Italian friend, publisher Carlo Linati, to moan about the publication difficulties finding publishers for his short story collection Dubliners, and his novel Ulysses.

In it, he writes:

For the publication of Dubliners I had to struggle for ten years. The whole first edition of 1000 copies was burnt at Dublin by fraud; some say it was the doing of priests, some of enemies, others of the then Viceroy or his consort, Lady Aberdeen. Altogether it is a mystery.

“My new book Ulysses was to appear in the Egoist of London. The same old story,” the exiled author moaned. “From the very beginning the printers refused again. It appeared in fragments in the New York Little Review.

On three occasions its distribution through the postal system has been halted by the intervention of the American Government. Now legal action is being taken against it…

The letter was written as part of a correspondence on whether Linati – who had also translated works by Synge and Lady Gregory – could offer an Italian translation of his semi-autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

That book, he added, “was refused by nearly all the publishers in London. Moreover, when the courageous review The Egoist decided to publish it, not one printing works in the whole of the United Kingdom could be found to consent to print it.”

The two-page document is part of a collection compiled by Roy Davids, who is auctioning off his assembled manuscripts and portraits at Bonham’s in London on March 29.

Bonhams believe it is expected to fetch between €14,000 and €21,000. Among the other items in the collection being auctioned are a photograph of Joyce by Paris-based photographer Josef Breitenbach, and an outline portrait by Percy Wyndham Lewis.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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