Owner of the Paris bookstore Shakespeare in Company, Sylvia Beach served, at different times, as James Joyce’s agent, publisher and friend. He was very brusque with her, showing no special kindness, but this was hardly unique for Joyce. Although we imagine the lives of certain well-known authors to be financially solvent, Joyce struggled for many years up until the publication of Ulysses. These abridged letters from Joyce to Beach in the 1920s prove this to be true.
October 30 1922
You already know the news about my eyes. For the past nine or ten days we have had filthy weather. I can do nothing. To face a long railway journey then the usual two hours a day wait in Dr Borsch’s waiting room would finish me off.
August 29 1922
I hope you had a pleasant holiday. Mine has been a complete fiasco.
Will you thank Miss Moschos for sending me the cocaine. My son will be in Paris about the 8th or 9th of this month. I expect his first need will be for some money. If there is any to my credit since I left, I may advance him what he wants.
July 12 1923
Will you please order the following books (American) for me:
1) English Speech and Literature by E. Vizetelly
2) Ireland’s Part in the Making of Britain by O.J. Fitzpatrick
Perhaps Brentano’s has them.
1) New Book of Kings by Morrison Davidson
2) The Complete Peerage (8 vols) edited by Lord Howard de Walden
A dreadful thunderstorm passed by here on Monday. Luckily we got only the fringe of it – quite enough – but London was terrified.
March 24 1924
During lunch two people sent me round copies of Ulysses to sign. I declined to do so, saying I should first have the consent of my publisher. So if they ring you up please ‘probe’ their case. I did not flatly refuse however.
April 25 1924
With this is a photograph of a portrait of my father, commissioned by me a year ago from Mr Patrick Tuohy at Power’s suggestion. It has caused a great deal of talk as you will see by the paper enclosed. I like it very much.
I only work 3 hours a day.
July 4 1924
I cannot even find a sheet of notepaper.
October 6 1924
I see that the book I asked you to get is out. Medieval Woman by Eileen Power.
Can you please lend me your Treatise on Glaucoma. I want to look up something in it before I see Borsch tonight.
Can you please put one hundred francs into an envelope and give it to my wife?
With kindest regards,
November 8 1924
I have been sitting here for a good quarter of an hour wondering where the water is.
Can you please put a hundred francs in an envelope and give it to my wife?
October 19 1925
For goodness’ sake will you please take charge of this fellow. I cannot stand any more of him. I don’t know if I have corrected all of his errors and omissions. Anyhow please keep him in the cage until called for.
August 24 1926
A curious thing. I was sitting on a rock under a phare a few sunsets ago when a child, a barefoot girl of about four, clambered up the slope and insisted on filling my pockets with tiny shells from her apron. I told her in Flemish (I have now taken 43 lessons in it!) that I did not want them but she went on all the same. It was only after I had given her a coin and she had gone that I remembered the lighthouse of Patrick’s papa in Boulogne and Caligula’s order to his soldiers at the tower to gather up the seashells.
September 16 1926
Just a view from this interesting old town where we are staying a couple of days.
I spent a great deal of time on the piece for Wyndham Lewis. I don’t suppose his review pays anything.
Do not mention the matter unless he does.
May 12 1927
Please tell the Humanist I have nothing to give but regrets.