Manners, morals and printers

by abbamoses

James Joyce

I’m a bit ashamed to admit that, late in life, I’m finally reading James Joyce’s Dubliners in its entirety. I’ve read “The Dead”, the famous final story in the collection, several times all the way through, and its heartbreaking final monologue many times — but never the entire book. Looking up its history I found that Joyce first submitted the manuscript to a publisher in 1905, but the book wasn’t finally published until 1914. Twice a publisher accepted the manuscript then rejected it for immoral or offensive content. In one case the publisher had no problem with the stories, but the printer refused to set some of them. This may mean that printers were once more moral than they are today, but I suspect that it also reflects a time when printers were often publishers and editors in their own right, not the technicians that they’ve become today.
I’ve made a bet with myself that I’ll read the entire book and not be able even to guess what it was that the publishers and printers of the early 20th century found so immoral that they would refuse publication. Thus have manners and morals changed in the past hundred years.

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