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T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf supported and admired James Joyce

Virginia Woolf declined to print the first chapters of Ulysses in 1918, though she changed her mind about Joyce's novel after T. S. Eliot insisted that she read it in its entirety. "It is," Eliot claimed, "a book to which we are all indebted and from which none of us can escape."

Virginia Woolf was born into the world of arts and letters. She was the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, a well-known writer and editor, and Julia Prinsep Stephen, who had served as a model for Pre-Raphaelite painters. Her half-brother was Gerald Duckworth, one of the many publishers who rejected Joyce's Portrait. Woolf was a core member of the Bloomsbury Group, a collection of London artists and intellectuals that included E. M. Forster, the economist John Maynard Keynes, and the painter and art critic Roger Fry.

T. S. Eliot, the renowned poet and critic, held a complex and evolving view of James Joyce. In the early 20th century, Eliot admired Joyce’s work, particularly Ulysses. He taught Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to Harvard undergraduates in 1933. Eliot’s famous quip about Joyce — “He single-handedly killed the 19th century” — reflects his acknowledgment of Joyce’s revolutionary impact.


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