JOYCE, James. Gas from a Burner. [Trieste]: [s.n.], 1912.
Broadsheet (600 x 230mm). (Fold-marks, very short marginal tears, 3 deeper marginal tears skilfully reinforced.) Later clear plastic sleeve and cloth portfolio with gilt morocco lettering-piece.
FIRST EDITION. JOYCE'S SATIRE ON THE PUBLISHER AND PRINTER WHO BURNT DUBLINERS, AND HIS VALEDICTION TO IRELAND. On the completion of Dubliners in its first form as a collection of twelve stories in 1905, Joyce began offering it to various publishers including Grant Richards and William Heinemann (see the previous lot, offering the book to Heinemann in September 1905). Richards accepted the book in February 1906 and announced it in his catalogue of forthcoming publications for March of that year. However, following the addition of the story 'Two Gallants', Richards' printers expressed concern about the content of the volume, since, under English law, not only could the publisher, but also the printer of material deemed to be obscene, be prosecuted--a legal problem that continued to obstruct the English publication of Joyce's works (cf. lot 729, the first English-printed edition of Ulysses). Joyce defended the realistic elements of his stories to Richards--'It is not my fault that the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs around my stories' (J. Joyce Selected Letters, p.89)--but Richards remained resolute in his demand for changes to the text, whilst becoming increasingly uncertain about the publication of the collection, and eventually the edition was abandoned, existing only in the form of proof sheets.
Dubliners--now complete with its full complement of 15 stories, following the addition of 'Two Gallants', 'A Little Cloud' and 'The Dead'--was then offered to other publishers, before it was accepted by the Dublin firm of Maunsel in 1909, for publication in 1910. 1,000 copies were printed in July of that year; however, George Roberts, the managing director of Maunsel and a figure notorious amongst contemporary writers for his devious and untrustworthy ways, came under increasing pressure not to publish the volume. The principal objections raised against the works were that its depiction of the city and its inhabitants was unpatriotic; that its references to Queen Victoria and King Edward VII were offensive; that the sexual aspects of the stories could be considered obscene. These objections--and pressure brought by those who held them--caused Roberts to delay publication for ever-more specious reasons until 11 September, when the matter was settled by the printer, John Falconer; having heard of Roberts' concerns, and fearing that his reputation and trade would suffer were he to be known as an 'unpatriotic' publisher, Falconer burnt the sheets of the edition. Joyce, who was visiting Dublin at this time, had managed to acquire a set of proofs of the edition, but that was all that remained.
Joyce departed Dublin in disgust on the evening of the eleventh, crossing to London and then from England to Flushing in Holland, where he started to compose 'Gas from a Burner', a bitterly satirical piece, ostensibly spoken by 'The Burner', a character conflated of Roberts and Falconer, whose flatulent, hypocritical and deceitful self-justifications simply serve to expose more clearly their true natures. Joyce never returned to Ireland after this visit, and 'Gas from a Burner' is an expression of contempt that is not only particular to Roberts and Falconer's actions, but also condemns the larger society which nurtured their pusillanimous and treacherous natures: 'But I owe a duty to Ireland: , I hold her honour in my hand, , This lovely land that always sent , Her writers and artists to banishment , And in a spirit of Irish fun , betrayed her leaders, one by one. , 'Twas Irish humor, wet and dry, , Flung quicklime in Parnell's eye'. Slocum and Cahoon Joyce A7.