John Quinn

Works

Life
1870-[1924]; b. Ohio, oldest son of Irish Catholic immigrants; collected books from an early age; ed. Georgetown Univ., reading law at night courses; later studied at Harvard; went to Washington as secretary of a friend in the Senate; started his own firm at thirty-six [?1906]; visited Ireland in 1902; purchased paintings by Jack Yeats and commissioned work from J. B. Yeats, Snr.; visited Lady Gregory at Coole Park, and became a patron of Literary Revival; corresponded with Jack Yeats; arranged to handle US copyright of W. B. Yeats’s play Where there is Nothing; advised Yeats to read Neitszche, 1902; organised Yeats’s American tour of 1903-04;

assisted in establishing short-lived Irish Literary Society in NY, ending through differences with the Catholic Archbishop; organised US tour for Douglas Hyde, 1905; offered to arranged US copyright for Synge and to purchase his MSS; purchased MSS from Joseph Conrad, 1911 and after; brief affair with Lady Gregory, then visiting New York, Winter 1911-1912; assisted Pound, Wyndam Lewis and Eliot; purchased MS of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) for $100; contrib. appreciative review to Vanity Fair;

the US pirate edition of Ulysses was destroyed following his litigation; he acquired the Ulysses MS on installments at cost of $1,200; later sold to Simon Rosenbach by auction, in Jan. 1924, while Quinn was terminally ill; the sale catalogue of his books included more than 10,000 items (1923-24); his papers were acquired by the manuscript division of the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library; his correspondence with Maud Gonne in 1921 - the remainder of an exchange originating in 1906 - has been edited by Janis & Richard Londraville (1999). KUN

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Works
Janis & Richard Londraville, eds., Too Long a Sacrifice: The Letters of Maud Gonne and John Quinn, with a foreword by Anna MacBride White (Susquehanna UP; London: AUP 1999), 316pp., ill. [Bibl. lists ‘The works of John Quinn’, pp.303-04.]

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Criticism
B. L. Reid, The Man from New York and His Friends (NY: OUP 1968); Richard Londreville, ‘Jeanne Robert Foster’, Éire-Ireland, 5, 1 (Spring 1970), pp.38-44; Myron Schwartzman, ‘“Quinnigan’s Quake”: John Quinn’s Letters to James Joyce 1916-1920’, in Bulletin of Research in the Humanities, 81, 2 (Summer 1978, pp.236-41. See also also John Quinn Selected Irish Writers from His Library (Locust Hill Press [2002]).

[Catalogue of] the Library of J. Quinn, 6 parts (NY 1923-24) [Pt. 6 is price-list]; rep. as Complete catalogue of the library of John Quinn / sold by auction in five parts, with printed prices, 2 vols. (NY: Lemma Pub. Corp. 1969), 1,205pp.), ill. [TCD Lib., Dublin.]

A. N. Jeffares, W. B. Yeats, A New Biography (London: Hutchinson 1988) [contains biographical details as above (p.133). See also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 14.]

Bruce Arnold, The James Joyce Scandal (1991), remarks on Quinn’s sale of Joyce’s Ulysses manuscripts and his final illness.

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Commentary
Richard Ellmann, James Joyce [1959] (OUP 1965 Edn.): ‘Joyce [...] describe[d] his meeting with Quinn to Wyndham Lewis, and he then read his friend a little lecture. ‘If I may be allowed to make an observation,’ he said, ‘with a person like Quinn you should never hint at any imperfection in your work; he wouldn’t understand it.’ Lewis had already perceived that Joyce kept a standard set of things to say to people, and had carefully arranged modes of behavior which in sum amounted to what Lewis called ‘adequate duplicity.’ It was not adequate to dissuade Quinn from the sale of the Ulysses manuscript, which took place at auction at the Anderson Galleries on January 16, 1924. The purchaser, for a price of $1,975, was the well-known American, collector and dealer A. S. W. Rosenbach. Joyce was chagrined at the price but at first philosophical; in this mood he said to McAlmon, ‘Probably they are right. Who can say what the next generation will think of me? What do we think of the great men of the past generation?’ But when he heard that Quinn, a few days after the sale, had bought back two Meredith poems in manuscript for $1,400, he became indignant, refused to accept his share of the sale which Quinn offered to send him, and instead asked Quinn to ascertain from Rosenbach at what price he would relinquish the manuscript. Rosenbach refused to sell, and countered by offering to buy the corrected page proofs of Ulysses. ‘When he receives a reply from me,’ Joyce wrote Miss Weaver on May 24, 1924, ‘all the rosy brooks will have run dry,’ and he composed a rhyme: ‘Rosy Brook he bought a book / Though he didn’t know how to spell it. / such is the lure of literature / To the lad who can buy it and sell it.’ [Ellmann adds at foot of page that Joyce’s irritation with Quinn left him when Quinn died in Aug. 1924, when Joyce cabled his ‘grateful remembrance of his friendship and kindness’ and spoke to Miss Weaver of his ‘many good qualities’. (p.570.)

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Robert O’Byrne, feature on John Quinn on occasion of National Library of Ireland purchase of the MS of Joyce’s “Circe” episode in Ulysses (27 Jan. 2001), gives bio-data: b. Ohio, 1870; oldest son of Irish immigrants; collector of books from early age; ed. Georgetown and Harvard; B. L. Reid, his biographer; corresponded with Jack Yeats; visited Ireland in 1902; purchased paintings by Jack and commissioned work from J. B. Yeats, Snr.; brief affair with Lady Gregory in winter 1911; arranged to handle US copyright of W. B. Yeats’s play Where there is Nothing; assisted in establishing short-lived Irish Literary Society in NY; foundered when the Catholic Archbishop, on being asked to serve as hon. vice-president, discovered that W. B. Yeats, a known anti-cleric, had assumed the same position; organised Yeats’s 1903 US tour; another for Douglas Hyde, 1905; offered to arranged US copyright for Synge and to purchase his MSS; bought MSS from Joseph Conrad, 1911 and after; assisted Pound, Wyndam Lewis and Eliot; purchased MS of A Portrait for $100; contrib. appreciative review to Vanity Fair; acquired Ulysses MSS on installments at cost of $1,200; sold in Jan. 1924 while Quinn was terminally ill; more than 10,000 listed in sale; Ulysses MSS sold below the reserve of $2,000 to Dr. Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach, a Philadelphia book dealer; early draft of “Circe” section surfaced in NY in 2000; purchased by NLI for $1.4m.; Quinn’s collection of Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Seurat, et al., sold by his heirs for ludicrously low prices.

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Sam Slote, Catalogue Notes - Lockwood Memorial Library (Univ. of Buffalo), “Bloomsday/Joyce Centennial Exhibit”, 2004: ‘[...] In June 1919, John Quinn, an Irish-American lawyer in New York and a patron of Pound and Eliot, offered to buy the manuscript of Ulysses. Initially Joyce was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to sell Quinn the fair-copy manuscript in installments as it was being written. [Myron Schwartzman, ‘“Quinnigan’s Quake”: John Quinn’s Letters to James Joyce 1916-1920’, in Bulletin of Research in the Humanities, 81, 2 (Summer 1978, pp.236-41.] In 1923 Quinn sold his manuscript at auction to Dr A. S. W. Rosenbach, a prominent Philadelphia manuscript and book dealer; it now resides at the Rosenbach Museum and Library and is thus known as the Rosenbach Manuscript. / Joyce did not send Quinn two pieces of the fair-copy: the Messianic scene in “Circe”, because that was a late addition, and the final sentence in “Penelope”. Both of these are now at Buffalo. While he was preparing his manuscript for auction, Quinn noticed that his draft of “Penelope” was incomplete. He repeatedly asked Joyce if he still had this fragment but Joyce claimed that it had been written only on the proof pages.’ Exhibit displays the last page with Molly’s final “Yes” and Joyce’s dateline “Trieste-Zurich-Paris / 1914-1921.” [online; 30.12.2008]

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Quotations
The Outlook (1911), ‘Every summer Yeats spent at Coole [...] Lady Gregory devoted herself to his work. With infinite tact and sympathy she has got the best out of him, and the world owes it chiefly to her that in the last ten years Yeats has done so much creative work and has been able to devote himself so fully to the Irish theatre’. [Q. source.]

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Notes
Peter Kavanagh published from memory MS material in John Quinn’s papers in New York Pub. Lib. held under embargo till 1988; inc. letters from Synge, Lady Gregory; also letters to James Joyce.

Yeats’s Latin: We know that the Latin sentences in Yeats’s “The Tables of the Law” were translated for Yeats by Lionel Johnson from Yeats’s originals in English on account of the inscription on Yeats’s presentation copy of The Rosa Alchemica [and] The Tables of the Law (Bullen 1897).

Pass it on: Quinn reputedly communicated genital herpes to Lady Gregory during their affair of 1912 in New York. [Communication of CS to BS.]

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