On 28 June 1908 Joyce announced his plan to sell Irish tweeds in Trieste.
In his biography of Joyce, Richard Ellmann claims that as early as 1905 Joyce had the idea of selling Irish tweeds in Trieste, but that it never went any further than an idea. In June 1908, Joyce apparently revived the idea, mentioning it to his brother Stanislaus to whom he had wondered why Irish industries weren’t sending people abroad to promote Irish goods.
However, it was not until 1909, when he returned to Dublin to set up the Volta Cinema, that Joyce actually pursued the plan. He went to the Dublin Woollen Company at 15 Bachelor’s Walk and made an arrangement to act as their agent for Irish tweeds in Trieste. Joyce later claimed that he was the first person to introduce Irish tweeds into Austria.
Apparently, as part of his deal to become their agent, the company gave him twelve yards of tweed samples which Joyce sent on to Trieste. It seems that Joyce sent samples to Ignazio Steiner, owner of shop selling ready-made clothes in Trieste. Perhaps he hoped that Steiner would sell the tweeds through his shop, but Steiner never replied to Joyce.
Undaunted, Joyce took upon himself the sale of tweeds and seems to have been reasonably successful selling tweeds to his students. Invoices from the Dublin Woollen Company show that Joyce managed to sell suits, tweeds, and homespun cloths to a number of Triestines. The extant letters, however, show that the Dublin Woollen Company didn’t always get the money it was expecting for its goods. In July 1911 VJ Roche from the Dublin Woollen Company wrote to Joyce setting out new terms for any future sales.
Though sales seem to have been good, and though the 10 per cent commission that Joyce got was certainly a welcome addition to his income, the last extant invoice from the Dublin Woollen Company to Joyce is dated 31 July 1911, after which he seems to have given up his attempt to sell tweeds.
The Dublin Woollen Company was established in 1888 by Valentine James Roche. Four generations of the Roche family ran the business until Valerie Roche closed it, on Bloomsday 2012.
Sources & Further Reading:
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. II, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.
McCourt, John: The Years of Bloom – James Joyce in Trieste, 1904-1920, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2001.
Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.