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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

James Joyce


James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born on February 2, 1882 to John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane "May" Murray, at 41 Brighton Square, in the Dublin suburb of Rathgar.

When James was 5, his father, was appointed rate collector by Dublin Corporation; the family subsequently moved to the fashionable new suburb of Bray.

In November 1887, James' spendthrift and alcoholic father was entered in Stubbs Gazette (an official register of bankruptcies) and suspended from work. Six years later, John Joyce was dismissed with a pension. This was the beginning of a slide into poverty for the family, mainly due to John's drinking and general financial mismanagement.

John Joyce was the model for the character of Simon Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, as well as several characters in Dubliners.

When James was nine, he wrote a poem, Et Tu Healy, on the death of Charles Stewart Parnell. His father had it printed and even sent a copy to the Vatican library.

James Joyce was initially educated at Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boarding school in County Kildare, which he entered at the age of six. James was good academically, but when his father was pensioned off from his job, he was forced to leave.

James was offered a place in the Jesuits' Dublin school, Belvedere College, in 1893. Whilst there he slipped back at all subjects except English.

At school James won several cups for hurdling and took a keen interest in cricket.

He was known for his cheerful disposition by his fellow pupils, who gave him the nickname "Sunny Jim."

The offer of a place at Belvedere College was made at least partly in the hope that James would prove to have a vocation and join the Jesuits himself. Joyce, however, would reject Catholicism by the age of 16; although, the philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas would remain a strong influence on him throughout his life.

In 1898 Joyce went onto University College, Dublin, where he studied modern languages, specifically English, French and Italian. Many of the friends he made at University College would appear as characters in Joyce's written works.

Joyce made his first visit to Paris in 1902 to study medicine at the Faculte de Medicine. He left the city in 1903 to return to Ireland as his mother was dying.


Joyce knew seventeen modern and ancient languages and at times eked out a living as a language instructor.

In 1904, in his early twenties, Joyce decided he wanted to become a writer and moved from Ireland to the European continent. He settled first in Pola then went on to to an English school at Trieste in Austria-Hungary to teach English.

Joyce completed his first book, his collection of short stories, Dubliners in 1905. He had to wait nine years before it was published.

In 1909, Joyce made two trips to Dublin, to arrange publication of Dubliners, and to open the city's first cinema.

Joyce's last visit to Ireland was in 1912, when he failed to overcome his publisher's doubts about Dubliners. He vowed never to set foot in Ireland again.

In Paris, 1924. Portrait by Patrick Tuohy.
During World War One, Joyce took his family to neutral Switzerland. He completed A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in Zurich.


The multi-lingual Joyce often used foreign words in his books and frequently made trans-lingual puns. He liked to use words for the sake of their own sound including words of his own fashion.

His review of henrik Ibsen's When We Dead Awaken was published in 1900 and resulted in a letter of thanks from the Norwegian dramatist himself. Joyce wrote a number of other articles and at least two plays (since lost) during this period.

Dubliners, a collection of fifteen short stories by Joyce, was first published in 1914. Between 1905, when Joyce first sent a manuscript to a publisher, and 1914, when the work was finally published, Joyce submitted the book 18 times to a total of 15 publishers.

In it's first year Dubliners sold only 259 copies.

The novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published by American publishing house B. W. Huebschis on December 29, 1916. Originally, this semi autobiographical work was going to be called Stephen Hero.

Originally published in serial form in The Egoist from 1914 to 1915, Portrait of the Artist established Joyce's reputation as a  writer of genius.

Ulysses was first published in its entirety in Paris on Joyce's 40th birthday on February 2, 1922, though the United States banned its publication for several decades. Joyce began the work on June 16, 1904 when he walked around Dublin for hours taking notes. In total Joyce spent 20,000 hours working on Ulysses.

At the time Joyce lived at Marello Tower (a sea defense tower), Sandy Cove, Dublin, which was immortalized in the opening chapter of Ulysses.

Ulysses is about events of a single Dublin day on June 16, 1904, which follows the course of The Odyssey. It was the first novel to explore the unconscious reactions of it's characters. Joyce believed that if all the thoughts of one man in one day could be recorded just as they came into his mind, then the study of the result would reveal the secrets of the processes by which the human being operated.

Critics claimed that the book's stream of consciousness technique had washed away traditional ideas of a novel's format. To most readers, Ulysses is vulgar and incomprehensible. One review referred to it as "the literature of the latrine " and another called it "rotten caviar."

Virginia Woolf referred to Ulysses as "The work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples."

EM Foster claimed "Ulysses is a dogged attempt to cover the universe with mud."

Joyce described the protagonist Leopold Bloom's eating habits in Ulysses as a man who "ate with relish the inner organs of beats and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast hart, liver slices fried with crust crumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faint scented urine."

There is a statue of the 19th century songwriter, Thomas Moore, standing over an underground public lavatory in Dublin. Joyce joked in Ulysses that Moore's most famous song was the meeting of the waters.

Today, Ulysses sells 100,000 copies a year, many of them to academics who spend a whole lifetime analyzing it. Case in point being a German, Herr Gabler, who wrote a three volume critical edition.

Written in Paris over a period of seventeen years, and published in 1939, Finnegan's Wake continued Joyce's experiments with language, the first chapter alone took him 1000 hours.

Among the made up words in Finnegan's Wake is  "bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonntonnerronntuonnthunntrouarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurrnuk”, which apparently describes the sound of a long fall.

When he wrote "Three quarks for Master Mark." in Finnegan's Wake, little did Joyce realize that the word "quark" would be adopted by the American physicist, Murray Gell-Man.

Asked about the demands his writing made upon the reader, Joyce replied "The demand I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works." His partner Nora disagreed. She mocked his writing and called him "simpleminded Jim."


James Joyce arranged to meet sharp tongued, auburn haired Nora Barnacle near the famous Greene bookshop in Dublin for their first date. She failed to show up. Joyce persisted and on June 16, 1904 they did meet up and went walking.

James Joyce used the date with Nora Barnacle to set the actions for his novel Ulysses. Joyce fans celebrate 16th June as Bloomsday.

Joyce and Nora had two children together, George in 1905 and Lucia in 1907.

Joyce Family Paris 1924: Clockwise from top left - James Joyce, Giorgio Joyce, Nora Barnacle, Lucia Joyce.

James Joyce and his family lived in bohemian poverty until 1915 when grants from patrons began to arrive.

Nora never read Ulysses as she was upset about its revelation of her intimate thoughts and bodily secrets.

Joyce refused to marry Nora for several decades, as he had lost his Catholic faith. He refused to let any man say what he believed to be meaningless words over him.

They finally married for "testamentary reasons" on July 4, 1931 at Kensington register office in London. Their grown child Lucia attended their wedding. Joyce and Nora leased a home, 28B Campden Grove in London for four months during this period.


Joyce became active in theatrical and literary circles in Dublin, after enrolling at University College, there.

As a student in Dublin, Joyce popped across to London on several occasions to see the wonderful actress, Eleonora Duse.

Curiously for an Irishman, Joyce’s favourite drink was a Swiss white wine, Fendant de Soin, which he regulary drank at Mulligan’s pub in Poolbeg Street, Dublin

Joyce had a good singing voice and once won a bronze medal in a Dublin singing contest. He threw it into the River Liffey.

Joyce and Nora had two parakeets, Pierre and Pepi.

Joyce suffered from eye problems, caused by glaucoma, which by the late 1920s were greatly handicapping him. He underwent a long series of operations and had to wear a patch over one eye,

Joyce's sight was so appalling that he went out to buy a second hand white jacket from a dentist. He did this so that when he sat in the window some of the light would reflect off the white jacket.


After the fall of Paris,(where Joyce and Nora had lived for 20 years) in 1940, they moved back to Zurich to escape the German occupation of France.

On January 11, 1941, Joyce underwent surgery in Zurich for a perforated ulcer. While he at first improved, he relapsed the following day. On January 13, 1941, he asked for a nurse to call his wife and son, before losing consciousness again. They were still on their way when he died 15 minutes later  His last words were "Does nobody understand?"

Joyce is buried in the Fluntern Cemetery near Zurich Zoo, together with Nora, who outlived him for ten years.

Source Mr Harty's Grand Tour by Russell Harty

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