Paris: Bibliothèque-Charpentier, 1900. Full modern red buckram lettered in gilt, yellow publisher’s wrappers bound in. Ink signature of James Joyce to top corner of front wrapper; signatures of James Joyce (dated June 1901) and Ernest Boyd to front free endpaper. Bookplate of Alexander Neubauer to front pastedown. Front wrapper chipped and mounted, early repairs to front free endpaper and rear wrapper, text block embrowned.
James Joyce’s personal copy of Flaubert’s novel of “provincial manners,” one of the most controversial and influential novels of the nineteenth century, first serialized in La Revue de Paris in 1856. In the character of Emma Bovary, an unhappy wife ruined by her romantic aspirations, Flaubert projected his own struggle with the challenges of realism: “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” Flaubert was, in fact, prosecuted for his heroine’s adultery, but was acquitted of obscenity. The censorship trial made the novel a bestseller when it appeared in book form early in 1857. This paperback édition définitive, which includes transcripts of the Bovary trial, bears Joyce’s early ownership signature, dated June 1901, when he was nineteen. Flaubert’s writing was a lifelong touchstone for Joyce. In “The Day of the Rabblement,” an essay published later in 1901, Joyce cites Madame Bovary as the starting point of modern literary realism, and the Bovary trial would strikingly prefigure the legal challenges to Joyce’s Ulysses, another work featuring a complicated, unapologetically unfaithful wife. Irish critic Ernest Boyd (1887-1946), editor of Ireland’s Literary Renaissance and former owner of this copy, drew a direct parallel between the Bovary trial and the American trial of Ulysses. Boyd noted that the French court was capable of considering Flaubert’s novel as a complete work of literature, with intention and context, “not as if it were a dirty postal card,” in contrast to “the ineffable buffoonery and low philistinism of similar trials in America,” which resulted in a decade-long ban on Ulysses (The Dial, April 1921). When the American ban was finally overturned in 1933, Joyce wrote to T.S. Eliot that Random House was publishing Judge Woolsey’s decision as part of the first American edition: “I suppose like the édition définitive of Madame Bovary.” Provenance: James Joyce to unknown Irish owner(s) to Ernest Boyd to Thomas Quinn Curtis to Alexander Neubauer. The modern binding dates from Boyd’s ownership; he has signed across the repaired front free endpaper. This copy is a primary source for Scarlett Baron’s Strandentwining Cable: Joyce, Flaubert, and Intertextuality (OUP, 2012). A great association.