Skip to Content

University at Buffalo Libraries

The Poetry Collection

Case II: Writing Ulysses

16. Ulysses notebook, 1918 (Buffalo VIII.A.5).

In 1906, while living in Rome, Joyce briefly considered, then abandoned, writing a short story entitled "Ulysses" for Dubliners. By the time he was finishing Exiles this idea was reawakened, but now Ulysses would be a full novel. On June 16, 1915, Joyce wrote to Stanislaus that he had completed the first episode of this new novel, although he did not mention anything about the significance of the date. Shortly after this, because of the war Joyce left Trieste for Zürich, where he finished Exiles and continued the early work on Ulysses. Very little material from the early stages of Ulysses' composition remains.

Frank Budgen describes Joyce's habit of note-taking:

He was always looking and listening for the necessary fact or word; and he was a great believer in his luck. What he needed would come to him. That which he collected would prove useful in its time and place. ... I have seen him collect in the space of a few hours the oddest assortment of material: a parody on the House that Jack Built, the name and action of a poison, the method of caning boys on training ships, the wobbly cessation of a tired unfinished sentence, the nervous tick of a convive turning his glass in inward-turning circles, a Swiss music-hall joke turning on a pun in Swiss dialect, a description of the Fitzsimmons shift. ... At intervals, alone or in conversation, seated or walking, one of these tablets was produced, and a word or two scribbled on it at lightening speed as ear or memory served his turn. No one knew how all this material was given place in the completed pattern of his work.... The method of making a multitude of criss-cross notes in pencil was a strange one for a man whose sight was never good.[10]

Besides using his notebooks to record snippets of quotidian life as Budgen recounts here (perhaps this is an extension of the concept of the epiphany from a decade earlier), Joyce undertook meticulous research for Ulysses. Each episode in the novel was planned to have a series of correspondences to Homer's Odyssey as well as other associations (item 22). Once Joyce had decided upon an episode's features, he would take notes on these subjects that he would use for his writing and revising. If an element from a notebook was transferred to a draft, he would cross it out in a colored pencil to preclude it from being inserted again. Elements taken from the notebooks at a single time would be crossed out in the same color; beyond that there is no apparent logic to the colors Joyce used to cross out material.

This particular notebook contains notes on Homer and Greek mythology that Joyce presumably took while studying reference works at the Zentralbibliothek in Zürich. The notes on the two pages on display come from Victor Bérard's Les Phéniciens et " l'Odyssée" (Paris: 1902) and W.H. Roscher's Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (Leipzig: 1884-1937).[11]

17. Ulysses notebook, ?1919-1921 (Buffalo V.A.2).

This notebook is later than VIII.A.5 (item 16) and the vast majority of notes here were used on the extensive revisions Joyce made on late typescripts and proofs as he was preparing Ulysses for publication, although a small number of notes appear to have been used earlier. Mostly, the notes are organized by episode, with most of the notes taken for the last seven episodes, although there are also notes for the late revision of six earlier episodes. This notebook is an adjunct to the notesheets Joyce used, which are now at the British Library (the National Library of Ireland holds two notebooks contemporaneous with V.A.2). Most of the notes here are for "Ithaca" and "Penelope," the final two episodes. In the "Penelope" notes, Joyce gathers details about Gibraltar to enhance his description of Molly's childhood. [12]

18. Holograph draft of the "Proteus" episode, 1917 (Buffalo V.A.3).

In writing out Ulysses, Joyce would make multiple drafts of each episode before writing out a comparatively clean and legible copy for his typist, this is known as a fair-copy (item 20). Since the working drafts were only intended for Joyce, these tend to be somewhat chaotic and illegible. Many of these drafts were written in school exercise books although a few exist on loose sheets of paper. This particular draft, of "Proteus," is written in a notebook from a stationer in Locarno, Switzerland (as part of its preservation, this manuscript has been disbound and each sheet encapsulated). The National Library of Ireland holds a "Proteus" draft that pre-dates this one.

On the right is displayed page 1 with the famous opening line "Ineluctable modality of the visible" [13] — Stephen's meditation on Aristotle's theory of sight. To the left is page 15 where in the left margin Joyce experiments with several alternatives for a neologism that combines the words "moon" and "womb." On this draft he settles for the form "moombh" but on the subsequent fair-copy he changed it to "moomb." However, on the first setting of the galley-proof for this episode, the printer incorrectly, but understandably, thought this was a mistake and set this word as "womb," thereby removing the portmanteau effect Joyce was experimenting with on this page. This error remained until the Gabler edition of Ulysses: "His lips lipped and mouthed fleshless lips of air: mouth to her moomb." [14]Immediately above the list of the variants for "moomb," Joyce wrote out "a.e.i.o.u," which appears in "Scylla and Charybdis" as a jocular reference to the money Stephen owes AE (George Russell).

19. Holograph draft of the "Cyclops" episode, 1919 (Buffalo V.A.8).

This workbook contains the earliest extant draft of the "Cyclops" episode and here the episode is divided into eight discrete scenes, each of which Joyce numbered in blue pencil (the National Library of Ireland holds a workbook that is the continuation of this draft). Because it is such an early draft, its appearance is even more chaotic than what is found on most other extant working drafts. The verso of the front cover (also on display) contains a brief chronology of significant events in Bloom's life prior to 1904. [15] Since this chronology was written in pencil on a colored cover page, it is somewhat difficult to read and so a computer scan, enhanced for legibility, is also on display.

20. Fair-copy of the final sentence of the "Penelope" episode, 1921 (Buffalo V.A.22).

While the fair-copy manuscripts for Ulysses are clearer and more legible than the working drafts that preceded them, they are still working drafts themselves as they contain numerous revisions and additions. Joyce's fundamental process of writing was accretion and he seemed constitutionally incapable of leaving a document unsullied by further modifications and additions. In June 1919, John Quinn, an Irish-American lawyer in New York and a patron of Pound and Eliot, offered to buy the manuscript of Ulysses. Initially Joyce was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to sell Quinn the fair-copy manuscript in installments as it was being written.[16] In 1923 Quinn sold his manuscript at auction to Dr A.S.W. Rosenbach, a prominent Philadelphia manuscript and book dealer; it now resides at the Rosenbach Museum and Library and is thus known as the Rosenbach Manuscript.

Joyce did not send Quinn two pieces of the fair-copy: the Messianic scene in "Circe," because that was a late addition, and the final sentence in "Penelope." Both of these are now at Buffalo. While he was preparing his manuscript for auction, Quinn noticed that his draft of "Penelope" was incomplete. He repeatedly asked Joyce if he still had this fragment but Joyce claimed that it had been written only on the proof pages. On display is the last page with Molly's famous final "Yes" and Joyce's epigram "Trieste-Zurich-Paris | 1914-1921."

21. Joyce, Zürich, c. 1916.

22. Linati schema for Ulysses, 1920 (Buffalo V.A.1.a).

Joyce devised Ulysses in such a way that each episode would have its own set of correspondences to Homer, its own symbols, its own style, and other parallels. In September 1920, he contacted his friend Carlo Linati, who had translated Exiles into Italian, about the possibility of writing a review of Ulysses. To help Linati better understand Ulysses, Joyce sent him a table, or schema, of the correspondences in each episode. This was written out in Italian on two large sheets of graphing paper. Joyce divided each episode into the following categories: time; color; persons; technic; science, art; sense (meaning); organ; and symbol. The final three episodes are given much less detail than the others because they were still in a very primitive stage of composition in 1920. [17] Therefore, this manuscript documents a turning point in Joyce's conceptualization of Ulysses.

Ultimately, Linati never wrote the article Joyce requested and returned this document to Joyce, who in turn gave it to Sylvia Beach. Later, Joyce prepared a different schema (item 43, case V), which is, obviously, more comprehensive for the final three episodes. Joyce never intended either schema to be published or disseminated in any form as these were prepared only for his closest friends and associates.