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Harriet Weaver, Joyce's patron and publisher of the first UK edition of Ulysses

Joyce’s most important patron was a prim London spinster named Harriet Shaw Weaver, whose dedication to Joyce puzzled Londoners as well as her devout family. Miss Weaver, as she was known to everyone, subsidized Joyce during the years he wrote Ulysses and continued to support him until he died. Weaver was an heir to her maternal grandfather's cotton fortune.

The first UK edition of Ulysses, which Harriet Weaver published, was partially burned, and the second UK edition, was entirely burned. One of the ironies of Ulysses is that while it was banned to protect the delicate sensibilities of female readers, the book owes its existence to several women. It was inspired, in part, by one woman, funded by another, serialized by two more and published by yet another.

In 1913, Weaver, like Dora Marsden, was a disaffected member of the Women's Social and Political Union, Britain's radical suffrage organization. When she found Marsden's audacious magazine she knew she had discovered something vital. The Freewoman embraced unmentionable subjects, which, predictably, got the magazine in trouble, such as articles about divorce reform, contraception and free love.

When Weaver read Marsden's appeal for finances in The Freewoman's final issue, she offered Marsden, whom she had never met, two hundred pounds to revive the magazine as The New Freewoman. The money was a pledge of support rather than a bid for control. To keep the magazine going, Miss Weaver found herself donating more money, leasing a new office and hiring London printers to consolidate operations. In June 1914, after Ezra Pound allied with Marsden and The New Freewoman morphed into The Egoist, and Weaver reluctantly became the magazine's editor.

Harriet Shaw Weaver’s life embodies the intersection of literature and activism. Her unwavering support for Joyce and her commitment to artistic freedom remain etched in literary lore. We remember her — a silent patron and a literary luminary.


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