Thursday, 31 January 2013

When the stars align


"What spectacle confronted them when they, first the host, then the guest, emerged silently, doubly dark, from obscurity by a passage from the rere of the house into the penumbra of the garden?

The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit."
―  James Joyce, Ulysses

Wendy Weaver and Prof. Mike Groden at Starbucks

What happened on Tuesday January 29, 2013?

Wendy Weaver, Michael Groden and Michael Sherman met for coffee at the Starbucks in the Indigo Bookstore in the Manulife Centre to discuss James Joyce and to decide where to donate a 92-year-old copy of an historical periodical, known as the Egoist.

Who is Weaver? 

Wendy is a Toronto artist who is a distant relative of Harriet Shaw Weaver, James Joyce's patron and publisher.  Wendy is a frequent visitor of the Neilson Park Creative Arts Centre in Etobicoke, which Sherman's sister manages.  Wendy owns a copy of volume 6, No. 5 of the Egoist that was published in December 1919 by her great aunt. Wendy's copy of the Egoist includes a serialized excerpt from James Joyce's Ulysses which appeared two years prior to the novel's publication.   

Who is Groden?

Michael Groden was born in Buffalo in 1947 and graduated from Dartmouth College (B.A., 1969) and Princeton University (M.A., 1972, Ph.D., 1975). He moved to Canada in 1975 to teach at the University of Western Ontario and is now Distinguished University Professor in the Department of English there. He is the author of "Ulysses" in Progress (Princeton University Press, 1977) and "Ulysses" in Focus: Genetic, Textual, and Personal Views (Florida James Joyce Series, University Press of Florida, 2010; paperback, 2012), general editor of The James Joyce Archive (63 volumes, Garland Publishing, 1977-79), compiler of James Joyce's Manuscripts: An Index (Garland Publishing, 1980), and co-editor of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994; 2nd edition, 2005; Chinese translation, 2011), Genetic Criticism: Texts and Avant-textes (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), Praharfeast: James Joyce in Prague (Litteraria Pragensia, 2012), and Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory: The Johns Hopkins Guide (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).

Who is Sherman?

Michael Sherman is a Toronto-based communications strategist and lawyer. He's written speeches for CEO's and senior executives of some of Canada's largest corporations.  Michael is also principal of the communications consultancy firm: Trilogy Inc.

Why is the Egoist so special?

On January 22, 2013 Kate Taylor from the Globe and Mail wrote an article about Wendy's copy of the Egoist entitled "How much is a 92-year-old magazine with an historic excerpt worth?"

How much is a 92-year-old magazine with an historic excerpt worth?

Wendy's copy of the Egoist is the last edition printed -- one of just 400 copies. It's hard to say what it would fetch in an auction.  A first edition copy of Ulysses could easily sell for over $100,000, but since this is a magazine, it would likely sell for far less. Still, as it is the last edition and its originality can be easily authenticated, it is likely of significant value.

What else is in the Egoist magazine?

The magazine also includes one of T.S. Eliot's most famous articles: "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and a poem from William Carlos Williams called "Chicago."

Recite the William Carlos Williams poem: "Chicago":

IF you will come away with me into another state
we can be quiet together.
But here the sun coming up
out of the nothing beyond the lake is
too low in the sky,
there is too great a pushing against him,
too much of sumac buds, pink
in the head
with the clear gum upon them,
too many opening hearts of
lilac leaves, too many, too many swollen,
limp poplar tassels on the
bare branches!
It is too strong in the air. I have no rest against this
The pounding of the hoofs on the
raw sods
stays with me half through the night.
I awake smiling but tired.

To whom will Wendy be donating her copy of the Egoist? 

Wendy decided she would donate the Egoist magazine to the University of Toronto, thereby keeping the magazine in Canada's largest city where it can be seen by the most people while remaining in this country.  Groden had completed some research on Wendy's behalf and discovered that University of Toronto did not have a copy of an original edition of the Egoist, and he surmised that they would be very pleased to receive one.

Groden's mood?

He had not risked, he did not expect, he had not been disappointed, he was satisfied.

What satisfied him?

To have sustained no positive loss. To have brought a positive gain to others.

What did Wendy, Sherman and Groden see on the bar of the Starbucks?

Two grande cappuccinos for Wendy and Sherman and a grande Awake! tea for Groden.  Black. 

Who drank more quickly?

Sherman, having the advantage of several minutes at the initiation.

What else did Groden and Sherman agree to at the meeting?

With Wendy Weaver's enthusiastic encouragement, the two agreed to jointly teach a course on the joys of reading James Joyce's Ulysses.  The course will be held in Toronto and will take place in the Spring.  They expect the course to take place over an eight-week period, with one three-hour class each week at a venue to be announced, possibly at the University of Toronto or the Neilson Park Creative Centre.

How will Groden and Sherman market this course? 

Several ways, including via this blog.

How can prospective students show their interest in taking this course?

If you are interested in signing up for a course about the joys of reading James Joyce's Ulysses -- please send an email to  The course will be limited to about about 20 students.   At this stage there's no commitment, we only ask for expressions of interest.  If there are enough people showing interest, the course will go forward.

How much will this course cost? 

It's still a work in progress, but it will likely be at the going rate of a continuing education course.

Who was the first person to express an interest in taking this course? 


Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Lass of Aughrim


“The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

―  James Joyce, The Dead, Dubliners

Nora Barnacle: James Joyce's lifetime companion and wife.

Those of you who have been following this blog know that my wife doesn't share my interest in James Joyce.  Not a bit. She hasn't read Ulysses and refuses to go anywhere near anything Joyce has written.

Yet she does love traveling and exploring new places -- so fortunately, over the years, we've discovered a few creative ways to intersect our interests.

In an earlier post I wrote about how my wife and I spent a wonderful vacation in Ireland a few years ago.  After enjoying three days of walking around Dublin and seeing the sites, we decided to rent a car and see some other parts of the country.    

We travelled westward via Ireland's southern perimeter, stopping for a while at Kenmare, which served as a base to explore the spectacular landscapes of the Kerry and Bearra Peninsulas.   They're the closest thing I've ever seen to God's country.   

View from the Kerry Peninsula
More scenery from the Kerry Peninsula
After visiting the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, we took a ferry across the Shannon River towards the central port-city on the west coast of Ireland: Galway. 

When we arrived, we were surprised to find Galway bustling with activity and entertainment -- we came in the midst of Galway's annual arts festival and there wasn't a vacant hotel room to be found anywhere.  We spent what seemed like hours trekking from hotel to hotel searching for an elusive room - and finally landed a small place to stay above a pub near Galway's central Eyre Square.  

Galway offers an eclectic mix of historic monuments (such as the Spanish Arch), shops, seaside promenades, music and rows upon rows of restaurants with great seafood and inviting patios.

Galway also happens to be the birthplace of Joyce's lover, companion and later his wife, Nora Barnacle -- and I could hardly wait to visit the house where she was born, which at the time, had been transformed into Ireland's smallest museum. 

Surely my wife wouldn't turn down a chance to tour the house where Joyce's companion was born?  

But before I go there, I want to provide some background on Nora:

* * * * *

Nora Barnacle was born in March 1884 in Galway.  While in her teens, a teenager named Michael Feeney fell in love with her, but sadly, he died shortly after from typhoid and pneumonia.  Several years later another young man named Michael Bodkin fell in love with Nora, but he also took ill and died.  Joyce later used this unfortunate series of events as the basis for The Dead, the final short story in the Dubliners. 

By 1904 Nora moved to Dublin and started working as a maid at Finn's Hotel.  In June she met James Joyce during a walk, and he immediately and brazenly asked her out on a date.  Nora accepted, but her supervisor wouldn't let her leave the hotel and she wasn't able to meet Joyce at the agreed upon time.   She stood Joyce up, but he wasn't deterred;  he asked her out again, and their first date took place on June 16, 1904 -- the day upon which the events of Ulysses occur. 

When Joyce's father initially heard Nora's name, he joked: "Barnacle? She'll never leave him."   He was right.  From that date on, Nora and Joyce stuck together.  

Not too long after they met, Joyce decided to take a self-imposed exile from Ireland, and he asked Nora to leave with him.  They took an excursion through a series of European cities, until they ultimately landed in Trieste, Italy, where the couple stayed for 10 years. 

Along with being Joyce's model for Greta Conroy, the female lead in the Dead, Nora served as Joyce's role model for Molly Bloom in Ulysses, Bertha in Joyce's play Exiles and Anna Livia Plurabelle in Finnegans Wake.   Her personality and experiences have influenced some of the most iconic characters in modern literature.

Although Nora spent much of her life in the shadow of Joyce, she was the subject of a fabulous biography by Brenda Maddox called Nora, the Real Life of Molly Bloom.  In 1999, the book was made into a critically acclaimed movie starring Ewan McGregor as Joyce and Susan Lynch as Nora. 

Here's a short YouTube video clip from the movie Nora featuring Susan Lynch and Ewan McGregor singing The Lass of Aughrim, the signature song from The Dead:

Susan Lynch and Ewan McGregor (as Barnacle and Joyce)  

Director Pat Murphy cleverly seems to have based the image of Joyce in this scene on an actual photograph of Joyce playing guitar.  If you click on my previous post Music in Ulysses, you'll see the similarity to the image in the video.  

Aughrim is a town in County Galway -- as such, the song is about a girl from Galway, just like Nora.

The song, The Lass of Aughrim, is of central importance in The Dead -- it's the catalyst which motivates Greta Conroy to remember the young man named Michael Furey who died in a similar fashion to the two teenagers who died during Nora's youth.  In Proustian madeleine-cake-like fashion, a flood of memories wash over Greta when she hears the Lass of Aughrim -- which causes her to reveal the death of the teenager to her husband, Gabriel.   In the final lines of The Dead, as Greta falls asleep in the hotel room, Gabriel is left looking out the window in utter solitude, realizing that he's been deceiving himself for all these years --  he was neither Greta's first love nor her greatest love.   The quote at the beginning of this post encapsulates his severe desolation and loneliness -- it's one of the most profoundly stirring passages in all literature. 

* * * * *

Fast-forwarding back to modern day Galway...

As you'd expect, my wife declined my invitation to visit the Nora Barnacle House Museum.

"Why don't you go see it yourself, Michael.  It's really not my thing," she said with a smile. "I'll go shopping."  

As she headed off in one direction towards the excitement of Galway's pedestrian shopping mall, I made my way through a quiet lane to the smallest house on Bowling Green which was once occupied by Nora and her family.   

Entrance to the Nora Barnacle House Museum, Galway

As I entered the two-room house, I was shocked by how tiny it was; particularly since Nora lived in it with her mother and six siblings until she left in 1904.  The room on the ground floor served as a living room and a kitchen. Upstairs there was a communal bedroom;  I had no clue where the entire Barnacle family slept.   

The museum was staffed by a friendly young Irish woman sitting at a desk by herself; unsurprisingly, she had the slightly lonesome look of someone who spends a great deal of time in a house that few people visit.  During the hour that I was there, no-one else came by.

The inside of the Nora Barnacle House Museum
After touring the tiny upstairs bedroom, I went downstairs and started chatting with the woman in the museum; she told me she was studying to be an actress.  She had a copy of the Dubliners on her desk, and we started talking about what a beautiful story "The Dead" was.  As we spoke about the final passage, I asked her to read it aloud -- and she seemed very pleased with the change of pace.  She did a beautiful job of reading the section of the Dead which I've quoted at the beginning of this post. 

There was electricity in the air as she read it.  After all, it was based on the woman who lived in this house a century ago, the woman who suffered the deaths of Michael Feeney and Michael Bodkin, and the woman whose husband visited this house and wrote about the death of a fictional teenager named Michael Furey, echoing the deaths of the other two Michaels.

And that day, another Michael was in Nora's house.

As I was getting ready to leave, the young woman wanted to know if I was the mayor of a Canadian city.  I told her I wasn't, but I was curious why she asked.

"I don't know, Michael," she said. "You just look like a mayor."

No-one had ever said that to me before -- and it's not something you easily forget.   I wonder if the young woman might someday come across this blog and remember reading a passage from The Dead to a guy who looked like a mayor.

As I left the petite museum and the girl from Galway, I headed towards the lively crowds of Galway's effervescent arts festival, and felt myself returning from the dead to the living.  

* * * * * 

While researching this post, I read that the Nora Barnacle House Museum did not open last year due to budget cuts by the Irish government; I wonder if this tiny -- yet meaningful -- museum will ever open its door again.

                                                                           * * * * * 

One more note about the song "The Lass of Aughrim" -- there's something quite familiar about it.  No?  That's because the song's structure is very similar to the academy award winning tune "Somewhere Out There" which appeared in the 1986 movie "An American Tail."   Listen again and you'll hear it.  Who knows how many songs "The Lass of Aughrim" may have inspired over the years...

Friday, 25 January 2013

Love's Old Sweet Song


Frseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeefrong that train again weeping tone once in the dear deaead days beyondre call close my eyes breath my lips forward kiss sad look eyes open piano ere oer the world the mists began I hate that istsbeg comes loves sweet sooooooooooong Ill let that out full when I get in front of the footlights...

 ―  James Joyce, Ulysses

(Note: don't be intimidated by this'll all make sense after reading this post.  MS)

James Joyce on keyboards

When you think of a popular television show, it usually doesn't take too long for the theme song to start playing in your head.  

Just think of Seinfeld's signature slap-bass theme.  Or take the theme from the original Star Trek where William Shatner begins by reciting the words "Space: the final frontier" followed by a memorable fanfare that boldly goes where no theme song has gone before.  

You get the idea.  You don't really appreciate the full impact of a show or movie without knowing its music.

The novel Ulysses also has a theme song.  It's a charming sentimental tune called "Love's Old Sweet Song," and references to the song are scattered throughout the novel.  

Please click on the video below and listen to it as an accompaniment as you continue reading this post.       

In the fourth chapter of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom's wife, Molly, tells him she's decided to sing "Love's Old Sweet Song" at an upcoming concert -- and the song hovers in the characters' heads for a good part of the day.

The song begins in almost a dirge-like fashion. It mentions the "dear dead days beyond recall" -- and paints a dark and misty picture of the world, and it refers to an old sweet song that "softly wove itself into our dream."

Then there's a shift.  As you hear the words "Just a song at twilight" the song brightens up, the time signature transforms into a waltz, and the listener somehow feels transported into a turn-of-the-century parlour.  I'd be surprised if some of you weren't swaying back and forth to the refrain.   

We learnt in an earlier post that June 16th was the day in which Molly Bloom had an affair with her manager, Blazes Boylan. This song serves as a motif for her planned, and eventually consummated, tryst.   

Here are the lyrics to the might wish to play the video once again as you read the lyrics.  

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall,
When on the world the mists began to fall,
Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng
Low to our hearts Love sang an old sweet song;
And in the dusk where fell the firelight gleam,
Softly it wove itself into our dream.
Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low,
And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go,
Tho' the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes Love's old song,
comes Love's old sweet song.
Even today we hear Love's song of yore,
Deep in our hearts it dwells forevermore.
Footsteps may falter, weary grow the way,
Still we can hear it at the close of day.
So till the end, when life's dim shadows fall,
Love will be found the sweetest song of all.
Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low,
And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go,
Tho' the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes Love's old song,
comes Love's old sweet song.

* * * * *

Up until now, we haven't spoken about the final chapter of Ulysses.  The remarkable chapter, known as Penelope, is presented as an unbroken stream of consciousness with virtually no punctuation and few capital letters.  It this chapter, Molly lies in bed in a dream-like state and the thoughts that float through her mind end up on the page.

When you first read a section of the Penelope chapter it's a daunting jumble -- but when you begin to dissect its constituent elements, it begins to take shape and become clearer.

Here's an example of a few lines from Penelope; read this quote and see what you can make of it:

"Frseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeefrong that train again weeping tone once in the dear deaead days beyondre call close my eyes breath my lips forward kiss sad look eyes open piano ere oer the world the mists began I hate that istsbeg comes loves sweet sooooooooooong Ill let that out full when I get in front of the footlights..."

Confused?  Don't be...Molly is lying in bed and the song "Love's Old Sweet Song" is, quite literally, weaving itself into her dream.  

Now that you know the song, you should be able to follow along.   Here are a few pointers:

1.  First of all, don't be put off by the word: "Frseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeefrong" -- it's just the sound of a train that Molly hears as she lies in bed.  If you say it aloud, it kind of captures the Doppler effect sound of a train rushing by.  Try it -- you'll see.   And she confirms it's a train when she says "that train again."

2. Next, Molly starts thinking about the "weeping tone" of the first line of Love's Old Sweet Song, and she remembers the lyrics "once in the dear deaead days beyondre call."   The lyrics are somewhat distorted as she's thinking about the way she'll actually sing the words, elongating several syllables in the process.

3. Then she starts imagining what she will do when she sings the part.  She reminds herself to "close [her] eyes" then hints that she should take a "breath" and keep "[her] lips forward...kiss...sad look...eyes open..."   It's all stage directions.

4.  After that she starts thinking about the words again: "ere oer the world the mists began I hate that istsbeg comes loves sweet sooooooooooong."  Now you'll note that half way through the excerpt she says "I hate that istsbeg" -- what is she talking about there? She's pondering how tricky it is to pronounce each of the consonants in the phrase "the mists began" -- and she's hammering home the need to articulate the final "s" in the word "mists" before singing the next syllable in the song ("beg").

5.  And finally she thinks to herself that she'll "let that out full when I get in front of the footlights..."   So once again, she's just imagining what she'll do when she sings the song.

So, once you know the songs and music of James Joyce...what initially seemed like a daunting and dense section of the book starts to make sense.

* * * * *

One final word on "Love's Old Sweet Song" -- most James Joyce aficionados know the words and music of this song so well that when they get together each June 16 to celebrate "Bloomsday" the participants eventually stand together and break into a version of the song.   If you'd like to start becoming familiar with Ulysses, it wouldn't hurt to get to know this song.  Some people would say: If you don't know this song, you don't know Joyce. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Dear Miss Weaver: Part III


The paper is yellowing and tattered at the edges, and Wendy Weaver turns the pages of the old magazine very gingerly until she comes to the headline she is looking for: “Ulysses by James Joyce.”

 ― Kate Taylor, Arts Feature Writer
The Globe and Mail 
January 23, 2013
The Dec. 1919 Edition of the Egoist with Ulysses

To those of you who haven't read today's Globe and Mail, here's a link to an article showcasing Wendy Weaver -- the great niece of James Joyce's patron and publisher: Harriet Shaw Weaver.   

The article tells a very human story about a woman who uncovers a magazine called the Egoist containing excerpts from James Joyce's Ulysses;  the periodical, published by her great aunt, appeared in print two years prior to the publication of the great novel.  

Wendy has decided to donate the magazine to a Canadian university or museum.  Next week Wendy will be meeting with distinguished Joyce scholar Mike Groden and me to discuss her great aunt, James Joyce, and where best to donate the storied magazine.   Stay tuned. 
Wendy Weaver and the 1919 edition of the Egoist Magazine

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Dear Miss Weaver: Part II


“Life can be about following the threads that turn up unexpectedly and lead one on to discoveries which might have been missed. Right now, I feel excited to be given a chance to follow an old thread which has just been renewed. These threads are unpredictable, significant in unusual ways, beacons like blue butterflies. They can take us to places unexplored, and nurture a passion for living in our uncertain world.” 

 ― Wendy Weaver, great niece of James Joyce's patron: Harriet Shaw Weaver

January 18, 2013  

Wendy Weaver looks over her great aunt's 1919 publication: The Egoist
When I first started writing my blog "My Journey with James Joyce" I set out to chronicle the steps I'd taken to understand and appreciate the greatest novel of the 20th century: Ulysses. 

I didn't expect to be taking any new journeys. 

But yesterday, I hopped into my car and travelled to an arts centre in the west end of Toronto to meet the grand niece of James Joyce's patron and publisher: Harriet Shaw Weaver. 

Before I tell you about our wonderful meeting, let me share some background:

*  *  *  *  * 

In my last post, I recounted how Wendy Weaver and I first connected.  My sister, Cindy, who manages the Neilson Park Creative Centre in Toronto, told some friends about my blog.  One of the artists at the centre, Wendy Weaver, was excited to hear about it, and told Cindy that her great aunt was James Joyce's publisher. Within minutes, Wendy and I were speaking on the phone and we really hit it off.  

Her great aunt, Harriet Shaw Weaver was the editor and financial backer of The Egoist, a London periodical magazine described as the major magazine of modernism. Long ago, Wendy came to own a rare edition of The Egoist containing a serialization of the tenth chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses. 

Wendy and I sent emails back and forth over the next few days. I told her that first-edition Ulysses have sold for well over $100,000 (and a pristine signed edition once went for over $460,000) -- and The Egoist was likely of significant value; after all, it pre-dates the first-edition Ulysses by two years! It was one of only 400 printed, and it was the last edition of The Egoist ever published.

Though Wendy was well aware of the significant value of this treasure, she made it clear to me that her intention was to donate it to a worthy university or museum -- and she asked for my help in finding a good home for it.  

*  *  *  *  * 

Yesterday, when I entered the Neilson Park Creative Centre, I was taken to a room where Wendy and my sister (and a special guest, who I'll tell you about in a later post), were bent over a table examining an extensive Weaver family tree.

Wendy came prepared. Arranged on one of the tables was a series of books about her great aunt and James Joyce, and on another table was a collection of correspondence, newspaper articles and photos of Harriet Shaw Weaver and Joyce. 

Although we hadn't met before, Wendy and I recognized each other immediately, and gave each other a big hug -- just as if we had been friends for years. 

She shared a series of wonderful stories about travelling to the U.K. as a 12-year-old girl to visit her "Aunt Hat" -- a wealthy yet austere British woman. As one of the earliest feminists and suffragettes who published banned material, Harriet Shaw Weaver often found herself on the wrong side of the law.  Wendy spoke about how Aunt Hat and her sisters were once imprisoned for chaining themselves to a light-post to protest injustice. Wendy went on to tell us about how they worked out a system to talk to each other by tapping out morse code on the pipes in their cells.  

After getting to know each other a little better, Wendy brought out an envelope containing the hidden treasure.  Inside was a document encased in a folder and wrapped in wax paper. Wendy unsheathed  The Egoist, which was in excellent shape; perhaps, a little rough around the edges, but the magazine was uncreased,  and its pages were very readable.   
                 Wendy Weaver's original edition of The Egoist - Dec. 1919
We saw that T.S. Eliot was listed as the "Assistant Editor" of The Egoist -- and laughed about how the great writer played second fiddle to Aunt Hat. The edition contained an article by Eliot called "Tradition and the Individual Talent II" -- and it also included an original poem by the well-known poet William Carlos Williams called "Chicago". 

A close up of The Egoist's Table of Contents
Then Wendy donned a pair of surgical gloves and gingerly turned the pages of The Egoist to the section that contained Ulysses. We had chills as we saw the pages opened up to the word "Ulysses."

Inside The Egoist
The excerpt was from the beginning of the chapter known as Wandering Rocks -- one of my favourites. It's at the heart of Ulysses -- the 10th of eighteen chapters -- containing a series of nineteen short vignettes of major and minor characters as they meander through Dublin.

Wendy and I read aloud the first few paragraphs of the chapter and delighted in Joyce's prose and the way he manufactured verbs. As we continued to read on we cross-checked the text of The Egoist against the text of a published edition of Ulysses that I brought along, and it didn't take long for us to notice some differences. It looked like James Joyce had added sentences to Ulysses after the excerpt from The Egoist was published.

After spending a half hour or so looking through the magazine, we put it away, and Wendy and I discussed donating the treasure to a museum or university.

"You know, Wendy, you could easily sell The Egoist and pay off part of a mortgage or something," I said. 

But Wendy was resolute -- she said she was the last of the line of Weavers, and wanted to donate the magazine to an institution that would appreciate its true value.  It's what her great aunt would have wanted.

At the end of our meeting, I told Wendy that it was ironic that we were in a room that was decorated with images of blue butterflies. We both laughed when I told her that the world's most striking blue butterfly is known as the Ulysses Butterfly.  

The Ulysses Butterfly
Later that day, Wendy sent us a lovely note sharing her views on our first meeting.  You'll see that I've quoted a section of it at the beginning of this blog.  In it, Wendy made reference to tying up loose threads (after all, she is a "weaver") and finding rare treasures, like a blue butterfly.

At the end of the day, I realized how fortunate I was to see an original edition of The Egoist, a literary treasure. Yet I recognized that the real treasure for me was meeting Wendy. She's a kind, creative and unselfish person with creative energy and an artistic flair. I'm certain that Wendy and I will work together to find a good and fitting home for The Egoist

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Dear Miss Weaver: Part I


“Dear Miss Weaver... The task I set myself technically in writing a book from eighteen different points of view and in as many styles, all apparently unknown or undiscovered by my fellow tradesmen, that and the nature of the legend chosen...would be enough to upset anyone’s mental balance."

 ― James Joyce on Ulysses, in a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, 24 June 1921

James Joyce's patron: Harriet Shaw Weaver
My sister Cindy was on the phone and she sounded excited. 

"Hi Michael, I've shared your blog with some friends and artists at the centre," said Cindy, who manages a creative arts centre in Toronto.  "One of them just told me she's related to James Joyce's publisher, and she thinks she still has some original James Joyce materials in her house."

"She's a wonderful artist and she's here with me right now," said Cindy.  "She wants to speak with you -- will you say hello?" 

"Yes," I said. "Yes, I will, yes." 

Cindy passed the phone to the woman, and a warm friendly voice greeted me.  

"I'm so pleased that you're writing a blog about James Joyce.  My great aunt was Harriet Shaw Weaver and she knew James Joyce very well," said the woman (who I'll refer to as Ms. Weaver). 

"James Joyce used to write Aunt Hat letters all the time asking for money, and it was funny how he always began each letter with the exact same words: Dear Miss Weaver," she said.

Ms. Weaver added that she wasn't sure, but she may still have an old copy of the Egoist magazine that her Aunt Hat gave her.  

The Egoist was a London literary magazine that Harriet Shaw Weaver published between 1914 and 1919. Because of the controversial nature of Joyce's books, Joyce had trouble finding anyone who would publish them. Harriet Shaw Weaver recognized Joyce's genius and set up the Egoist Press for the purpose of serializing A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  She did this at her own expense, and ultimately became Joyce's patron.  Over the years, she began serializing portions of Ulysses as well.   (For more information about Harriet Shaw Weaver click here.)

The next day, Ms. Weaver sent Cindy an email with news about the Egoist:

"Just found my old copy of it, dated Dec 1919, Harriet is the editor, asst. TS Eliot, Contrib. ed. Dora Marsden.  It contains what could be a chapter of Ulysses, at least there are about 5 pages of Ulysses - X.  The whole thing, No. 5 Vol VI is brown and tattered but readable.  Wonder if Michael knows where, if anywhere, this should go????  Cheerio.  Such a relief to find it."

Wow, a hidden treasure!  She found a 1919 copy of the Egoist, the journal that serialized Ulysses before the novel was actually published.  The edition of the Egoist contained portions of the Wandering Rocks chapter.  An original first edition Ulysses in pristine condition can go for hundreds of thousands of dollars -- and this magazine predates the first edition!   

Ms. Weaver told me that she was considering donating her copy of the Egoist to a worthy museum or charity, and she asked me to help her find a good home for it.  

Over the next week, Ms. Weaver and I emailed back and forth, and she liked the way that I started off each email with words "Dear Ms. Weaver" -- echoing the way Joyce addressed his letters.  

I told her I'd be happy to do some research for her on the copy of the Egoist.  I discovered that her edition of the Egoist was the last ever published, and was one of just 400 copies. 

I contacted Mike Groden, a Professor of English at The University of Western Ontario, one of the world's foremost experts on James Joyce.  (You can read about Mike here). Mike and I have corresponded on-and-off for years, and have met to share stories about our mutual passion for James Joyce.  

Mike was delighted to hear about the discovery of an edition of the Egoist, but he seemed even more excited to hear that a relative of Harriet Shaw Weaver was living in Canada.  Mike and I discussed some appropriate museums and universities for Ms. Weaver to consider -- he even offered to connect Ms. Weaver with a James Joyce scholar who likely knew Harriet Shaw Weaver personally.  

Ms. Weaver and I agreed to meet for coffee later this week.  She loved the idea of appearing in my blog, and promised to bring a copy of the Egoist with her so I could take a photo of it for an upcoming post.    

Considering this blog is about a serialized magazine...I've decided to write the story in several parts.  I'll report back on my meeting with Ms. Weaver in a future post, and hopefully will include a photo or two. 

To be continued...


Thanks for the nice feedback on my last post "Leo for a Day" about how Joyce employed several different writing styles in the Oxen of the Sun chapter of Ulysses -- and kudos to those of you who noticed that I switched to a different writing style halfway through my post as a tip-of-the-hat to James Joyce.  It seemed like the Joycean thing to do.