James Joyce's Dubliners advertised
Published on 19th November 2012
This advertising sheet from the publishers Maunsel and Company, Abbey Street, Dublin, announces the imminent publication of James Joyce’s collection of short stories Dubliners. The collection was due for publication on 24 November 1910 at a cost of 3s.6d. It was due out in good company with illustrated books by Lady Gregory, Ella Young and Seosamh MacCathmhaoil, James Connolly’s Labour in Irish history, and Tom Kettle’s The day’s burden.
Dubliners is a collection of fifteen short stories portraying the lives of mostly lower-middle-class Dublin characters. It focuses on themes of family, religion, and nationality, which are treated under the successive aspects of childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. Joyce made clear that this was a deliberate scheme. From the very beginning he had Dubliners in mind as a title for the overall collection. Writing to the publisher Grant Richards, in October 1905, he stated; “I do not think that any writer has yet presented Dublin to the world.” Though the stories are saturated in the sights and sounds of early twentieth-century Dublin they have always carried a much wider resonance and have won the admiration of readers throughout the world.
Joyce, using the pseudonym Stephen Daedalus, published early versions of ‘The Sisters’, ‘Eveline’ and ‘After The Race’ in The Irish Homestead between August and December 1904. After leaving Ireland in October 1904 he continued to write stories, first in Pola then in Trieste and, following several rejections, had a collection of twelve stories accepted by the English publisher Grant Richards in October 1905. When ‘Two Gallants’ was added in April 1906 the printers refused to set it on the grounds of possible obscenity. After a protracted period of negotiations, during which Joyce endeavoured to meet the objections to this and other stories by making a number of changes while strongly defending the integrity of his work, Richards eventually withdrew from the contract. A succession of publishers then rejected the work which had been augmented by the addition of ‘The Dead’, written in 1907 following an unhappy period working in a bank in Rome.
In August 1909, while back in Dublin managing the short-lived Volta cinema, Joyce signed a contract with Maunsel & Company, the leading Irish publisher of the time. But difficulties arose when the firm’s managing director, George Roberts, took exception to references to real people and places in some of the stories. After a lengthy delay, from the announcement in 1910, the text was set in type by the summer of 1912 but, after more heated argument, during which both sides consulted legal opinion, Roberts refused to publish it. The printer, John Falconer, destroyed the entire print run with the exception of one copy which Joyce managed to rescue.
Several publishers then rejected the work but, in January 1914, Grant Richards agreed to revive the original contract and Dubliners was published on 15 June 1914. Initially it sold poorly - a mere 379 copies in the first year - and early reviews were mixed. But gradually its reputation began to grow and it has remained in print ever since, being published all over the world in English language editions and in translation.