On this day…22 January

On 22 January 1889 Eileen Joyce was born.

Eileen Isabel Mary Xavier Brigid Joyce was the sixth of John Joyce’s ten children. When Joyce visited the family home in Dublin in 1909, he wrote to his brother Stanislaus: “This is such a dreadful house that it is a God’s act to rescue Eileen from it.” Despite Stanislaus’ objections, Eileen arrived in Trieste in January 1910. Joyce intended that she should take singing lessons but, along with her sister Eva who was already in Trieste, she helped look after Joyce’s children, Giorgio and Lucia, and kept Nora company.

In 1911 Eileen and the Joyce’s maid Maria Kirn rescued part of the manuscript of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man after Joyce threw it into the fire during a row with Nora. Eileen burnt her fingers, and a grateful Joyce bought her soap and a pair of mittens the following day, telling her that there were sentences in the manuscript that he could never have rewritten. For a time, Eileen worked as a governess for the Serravallo family in San Daniele del Friuli, near Udine. Later, she was governess to Ettore Schmitz’ daughter, Letizia.

In 1914, she became engaged to one of Joyce’s private students, Frantisek Schaurek, a Czech working as cashier in a bank in Trieste. They married on 12 April 1915 with Joyce as best man. They went to Prague where Schaurek was called up for military service, but he was discharged on medical grounds a short time later. They remained in Prague for the duration of the war where their first daughter, Bozena Berta, was born on 9 February 1917. She was named after Beatrice and Bertha, the two lead female characters in Joyce’s play Exiles. A second daughter, Eleonora, known as Nora, was born later.

When they returned to Trieste in 1918, Schaurek took up his post at the Zivnostenska Banka and the family took a flat at the via Sanità with Stanislaus. In October 1919, Joyce and his family also came to live at the flat, despite objections from Stanislaus and Schaurek, and stayed there until they moved to Paris in July 1920.

In November 1926, Schaurek committed suicide. It seems that he had been embezzling the bank where he worked and felt his only way out was to shoot himself. Eileen was in Dublin with her daughters at the time. Unaware of what had happened, she met Joyce in Paris on her way back to Trieste. Joyce couldn’t tell her that her husband was dead, and she only found out from Stanislaus when she returned home. Refusing to believe the news, she insisted on the exhumation of the body, and she collapsed for some time after that. Stanislaus looked after her and her children until they returned to Ireland in March 1928.

In the 1930s Lucia, whose mental health was declining, asked to be looked after by her aunt Eileen. The two had been close in Trieste where Eileen taught English to Lucia, and Joyce agreed to pay Eileen to look after his daughter. Eileen and Lucia stayed with Harriet Weaver in London before moving to Dublin and Bray, where Eileen’s daughters lived. Joyce stopped paying Eileen as she had returned to work at the offices of the Irish Sweepstakes, but Lucia remained with Eileen’s daughters in Bray for a couple of months.

Eileen remained living in Dublin and Bray until her death from a heart attack on 27 January 1963. She was buried at St Peter’s Cemetery, Little Bray. She had three children. Bozena married a Polish jeweller named Delimata and wrote ‘Reminiscences of a Joyce Niece’ which appeared in the James Joyce Quarterly.

 

Sources:

Delimata, Bozena Berta: ‘Reminiscences of a Joyce Niece,’ edited by Virginia Moseley, in James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 19, no. 1, Fall 1981, pp. 45-62.

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

McCourt, John: The Years of Bloom – James Joyce and Trieste, 1904-1920, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2000.

Shloss, Carol Loeb: Lucia Joyce – To Dance in the Wake, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.

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