Chamber Music


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JOYCE, James. Chamber Music. New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1918. Slim octavo, original brown paper boards.

First authorized American edition of Joyce's first book.

Joyce considered Chamber Music to be a memorial of his youth, calling it in a letter to his brother "a young man's book. I felt like that. It is not a book of love-verses at all, I perceive. But some of them are pretty enough to be put to music. I hope someone will do so… they are not pretentious and have a certain grace. I will keep a copy myself and (so far as I can remember) at the top of each page I will put an address, or a street so that when I open the book I can revisit the places where I wrote the different songs" (Ellmann, 232). "Arthur Symons, to whom Yeats introduced Joyce in December 1902, was responsible for the publication of Chamber Music and for much of the praise it received. Symons submitted the manuscript to Grant Richards for Joyce in September 1904. When Richards refused to publish it without a subsidy from Joyce, Symons offered it to Constable. Eventually Elkin Mathews accepted and published it at Symons' urging. Symons also gave it a very favorable review… Joyce never received royalties for Chamber Music, although he claimed in a letter to Elkin Mathews that his contract called for payment after the sale of 300 copies. In 1912 Joyce himself undertook the sale of copies in Trieste with considerable success" (Slocum and Cahoon, A3). Symons wrote the first review of Chamber Music for Nation, calling it "a book of pure poetry, free of schools, each poem an 'instant of "made eternity".' The poems were delicate and musical and had, too, an occasional 'sharp prose touch… Irish musician G. Molyneux Palmer wrote Joyce in July 1909 to ask permission to set some of the lyrics to music… [Joyce] liked Palmer's first settings and urged him to continue, adding a rare note of explanation: 'The central song is XIV after which the movement is all downwards until XXXIV which is vitally the end of the book. XXXV and XXXVI are tailpieces just as I and III are preludes" (Ellmann, 262). The first edition was published by Elkins in London in 1907; the first American edition was published— unauthorized— in Boston in 1918 by the Cornhill Company for Alfred Bartlett. Slocum and Cahoon state that they were "unable to obtain any information about Bartlett or details of publication of this book" (Slocum & Cahoon A5). This first American edition to be authorized by Joyce was published in September of 1918, after the unauthorized American edition. See Slocum & Cahoon A6.

Only a bit of wear to spine ends. A very nearly fine copy.

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