Skip to Content

University at Buffalo Libraries

The Poetry Collection

Case XIII: Finnegans Wake

102. Finnegans Wake notebook page, 1922 (Buffalo VI.B.10: 1).

On November 3, 1922, while he was staying in Nice, Joyce sent Weaver a list of corrections for Ulysses up to page 258, although he claimed that the list extended to page 290 (LI: 192). [61] The remaining corrections can be found in a small stenographer's notebook. The first extant page of this notebook lists six corrections for the "Cyclops" episode. With the seventh entry, Joyce abruptly changes track and writes the curious line "Polyphemous is Ul[ysses]'s shadow." Obviously this line was prompted by the episode of Ulysses he was correcting, but it is hardly an emendation. It is as if he is taking a step back to think about an aspect of the text he had just written and its relationship with its Homeric background. The remainder of the notes on this page are of a qualitatively different nature. They are taken from the October 20, 1922 edition of the Irish Times and combine words from various sections of that paper. [62] Instead of continuing his list of corrections for Ulysses, Joyce has begun to record words that strike his fancy, for whatever reason, for some later, as yet undetermined, use. Three of the notes are crossed out in blue since Joyce incorporated them into early Wake drafts the following year. Most of the remaining pages in this notebook are filled with similar notes derived mostly from journals. Joyce is thus reprising the note-taking technique he had employed with Ulysses (items 16 and 17, case II). There are several additional reference to Ulysses later in this notebook, but none of these are corrections. This may be an overstatement but it seems that on this one page, Joyce is stopping work on Ulysses and starting work on what will become Finnegans Wake. Indeed, in response to a series of questions from Vanity Fair in 1929, Joyce replied "7 years. Since October 1922. Begun at Nice." [63]

A great deal of the Wake's verbiage derives from notes taken from a variety of sources (newspapers, books, overheard conversation, etc.). In some cases, especially with the later Wake notebooks, Joyce took the notes for specific purposes (item 105) and in others he merely jotted down random words which were then subsequently used because they struck his fancy a second time, when he was going over his notebooks and preparing drafts. It appears that Joyce was amassing a heterogeneous stockpile of phrases in order to litter his work with all sorts of echoes of the world around him (of course, these echoes are almost impossible to identify without recourse to the notebooks). In this regard, Joyce really was "a scissors and paste man" as he admitted in 1931 to George Antheil. [64]

103. Finnegans Wake notebook page, 1922 (Buffalo VI.B.10: 15).

The first series of notes on this page from VI.B.10 derives from a two-part article on modern versions of the Tristan and Isolde legend by Thomas Sturge Moore that was published in The Criterion — the first part of which appeared in the same issue as the English translation of Larbaud's essay on Joyce and Ulysses (item 39, case IV).

104. Finnegans Wake notebook page, 1926 (Buffalo VI.B.15: 154-55).

On the top of page 155 is an early draft of the first hundred-letter thunder-word that appears on the first page of Finnegans Wake. This one word collects together words that all mean "thunder" from a wide variety of languages, such as French, Greek, Irish Gaelic, Hindustani, Italian, Swedish, Portuguese, Old Rumanian, and so on. Joyce used this notebook extensively in writing the first chapter of the Wake, and it also features an early draft of the hundred-letter word from the "Prankquean" episode. On the top of page 154 is one of the many Americanisms Joyce collected in his notebooks: "turkey & fixins."

105. Finnegans Wake notebook page, late 1937-early 1938 (Buffalo VI.B.46: 88-89).

This late notebook is atypical in that Joyce categorized various note-clusters into indices. Most of these involve lists of words from various languages, such as Romansch, Basque, Burmese, Provençal, Hebrew, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Polish, and Kissuaheli, among others. The notebook is opened onto a page of Armenian words. There are also notes on various books and a wide variety of other materials. At this late stage in the composition of the Wake, Joyce was looking for very specific things to add to his text and this notebook served as an organizational repository for such items. (Atypically, the notes in this notebook were taken in pen rather than in pencil.)

106. James Joyce, Anna Livia Plurabelle, 1928 (first edition).


Starting in 1924, excerpts from Finnegans Wake were published in a variety of journals under the title "Work in Progress" (item 108). Some of these excerpts were published separately by a variety of European and American publishers. The first separately-published excerpt was the eighth chapter, "Anna Livia Plurabelle." The first edition was published in New York by Crosby Gaige, with a Preface by Joyce's friend Padraic Colum, an Irish poet and playwright. The cover features an inverted delta — Anna Livia's symbol.

Of the two copies on display, the unopened copy, in brown covers, is copy #757 of a limited edition run of 850 copies, all signed by Joyce. The opened copy is one of a special edition of only fifty copies, in black covers, and on green-tinted Alexandra Japan paper.

107. Galley-Proof for transition 11, February 1928 (Buffalo VI.G.5).

Joyce's "Work in Progress" began appearing in the journal transition in 1927 (item 108). The eleventh issue published an excerpt Joyce subsequently entitled "The Muddest Thick That Was Ever Head Dump," which was later incorporated into chapter II.2. This page is a galley-proof of four pages for transition 11 with extensive corrections by Joyce. Eugene Jolas, one of the editors of transition, remarked that because of his constant additions and revisions to his text, the word "Joyce" had become a "verb of objurgation" amongst the transition typesetters. [65] At the top left of this galley, there is an early (but not the first) version of the diagram that appears on page 293 of the Wake.

108. transition, 21, 1932.

Joyce had been publishing excerpts from his new "Work in Progress" (later titled Finnegans Wake) in a variety of literary journals since 1924. However, he still ran into problems. In 1925, the English review The Calendar of Modern Letters refused to publish the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter (item 106) on the grounds that it might be too prurient and so Monnier stepped in and published it in the review she edited, the Navire d'argent. The following year, The Dial rejected a series of chapters he submitted. Joyce lamented to Weaver: "I am sorry the Dial has rejected the pieces as I wanted them to appear slowly and regularly in a prominent place." [66] On December 12, through Sylvia Beach, Joyce got his wish when he met Eugene Jolas. Along with his colleague Elliot Paul, Jolas was planning to start a new journal, to be called transition, and he was eager to have Joyce as a contributor. As the first chapter was virtually ready when Joyce met Jolas and Paul, that piece was promised for the first issue of transition. For most of 1927 Joyce worked to revise the other chapters in book I for publication there. The publication schedule of transition more-or-less revolved around the availability of Joyce's chapters. The early issues appeared very regularly, almost monthly, since the chapters for book I had already been drafted. Once the cache of available chapters had been exhausted, subsequent issues of transition appeared more infrequently. Certain issues also included essays explicating Joyce's "Work in Progress," some of which were collected in a volume published by Beach (item 84, case XI).

The idea for transition was that it should serve as a transatlantic link for the avant-garde. In 1949, Jolas coined the woolly term "pan-romanticism" to name the variety of writings published by transition. "Transition contained elements of gothic, romantic, baroque, mystic, expressionist, Dada, surrealist, and, finally, verticalist modes of thinking. In the last phase, it tried to blend these traditions into a cosmic, four-dimensional consciousness." [67] Transition was not so much a journal of the avant-garde, but rather a document of the various avant-gardes that were circulating and mingling (and not without friction) in Paris in the 1920s and 30s. While transition has often been mistaken for a journal solely dedicated to Joyce, there are some key differences. Jolas sought to harness the literary experimentations in transition into a full-fledged revolution, something he formalized into a manifesto, "The Revolution of the Word," in 1929.

The issue on display is one of the few that do not contain an installment of Joyce's "Work in Progress." By the early 1930s Joyce's output had slowed considerably, only to pick up again in 1935. Instead, this issue contains an homage to James Joyce, in honor of his fiftieth birthday, with articles by Jolas, Stuart Gilbert, Padraic Colum, and Philippe Soupault, among others.

109. Finnegans Wake notebook page, 1924 (Buffalo VI.B.5: 36-37).

On the bottom of page 37 is the entry: "to day 16 of June 1924 | twenty years after. | Will anybody remember | this date." This note is in Nora Joyce's hand.

110. James Joyce, The Mime of Mick, Nick and The Maggies, 1934.

James Joyce [in red] | THE MIME OF MICK | NICK AND THE | MAGGIES | A FRAGMENT FROM [in red] | WORK IN PROGRESS [in red] | [publishers' device] | MXMXXXIV | THE SERVIRE PRESS [dot] THE HAGUE [in red]

Another fragment for "Work in Progress," this one appears as chapter II.1 in Finnegans Wake. The cover, initial letter, and tailpiece were designed by Joyce's daughter Lucia. The copy on display is #23 of twenty-nine parchment-bound copies on Simili Japon of Van Gelder Zonen and is signed by both Joyce and Lucia. (In the Wake, the number of the Maggies is twenty-nine, hence the number of the special limitation.)

111. James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 1939 (first English edition).

FINNEGANS | WAKE | by | James Joyce | London | Faber and Faber Limited

The composition of Finnegans Wake was possibly more complex and arduous than Ulysses had been. Joyce began taking notes for Finnegans Wake in late 1922 (item 102) and did not finish making the final revisions until early 1939. Faber and Faber were able to get copies to Joyce for his birthday on February 2, although the official publication was held off until May 4. Joyce had kept the title Finnegans Wake a secret until the book finally appeared. Even Harriet Weaver did not know the final title until she saw it on the page proofs of the title page. [68]