On this day…11 October

On 11 October 1904 Joyce and Nora Barnacle arrived in Zurich.


Joyce and Nora Barnacle had eloped from Dublin together on 8 October and travelled to Zurich where Joyce expected to fill a vacancy at the Berlitz School. On 9 October they arrived in London and Joyce left Nora waiting in a park while he went to see Arthur Symons in the hope of getting some money from him. However, Symons was not home and Joyce and Nora left that evening for Paris.


In Paris the now penniless Joyce again left Nora waiting in a park while he went to visit his friend and former pupil Joseph Douce, the socialist and champagne dealer, to get some money. Douce, however, was on holidays in Spain and in desperation Joyce went to Dr Joseph Rivière, a friend of Lady Gregory’s, who had entertained him during his time in Paris in 1902. Rivière gave him sixty francs and even offered to introduce Joyce to the son of the richest banker in Zurich if Joyce came back that afternoon. Instead Joyce met up with Constantine Curran and James Murnaghan, and that evening he and Nora continued their journey to Zurich.


When they arrived in Zurich, Joyce and Nora took a room at the Gasthaus Hoffnung at Reitergasse 16, and Joyce wrote straightaway to his brother Stanislaus to tell him of their progress. In the final part of the letter (which Stanislaus was to detach and not show to the rest of the family) Joyce wrote about Nora: ‘Elle n’est pas encore vierge, elle est touchée.’ (In a letter to Nora on 7 August 1909, however, Joyce claimed that the first night he had slept with Nora was in Zurich on 11 October.)


Half an hour after writing to Stanislaus, Joyce went to the Berlitz School to announce his arrival only to discover from Herr Malacrida, director of the School, that there was no vacancy for him and he wasn’t expected. Joyce wrote angrily to Evelyn Gilford to whom he had already paid £2 2s for the information about the position and included a letter from Malacrida denying any knowledge of such a vacancy.


Gilford replied to Joyce’s letter by sending a copy of a letter from the European Berlitz headquarters in Vienna which promised a position in the School in Zurich, but when Joyce wrote to Vienna they denied any knowledge of the letter or the position. Malacrida offered to find a post for Joyce in Switzerland or Italy if he stayed for a few days and, by the end of the week, he told Joyce there was a position available in Trieste. By 19 October Joyce and Nora were on their way to Trieste, only to discover that there was no position available there either.



Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I edited by Stuart Gilbert, vols II & III edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1957, 1966.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.