On this day…13 February

On 13 February 1904 Gogarty wrote to Joyce from Oxford.

Oliver St John Gogarty arrived in Oxford at the end of January 1904 with a barrel of Guinness as part of his baggage. He was to spend two terms at Worcester College but his main aim seemed to be to qualify for entry to the Newdigate Prize, a prestigious poetry competition. As he wrote to Joyce: “I’m reading for a Litt. D. which I don’t intend to take out but it enables me to read with the lady students.”

Apart from writing his competition poem and reading with the lady students, Gogarty played soccer, went punting on the river, and toured the locality on a motorbike. He also joined the Oxford Gaelic Society, where students took weekly lessons in Irish, and there he met Samuel Chenevix Trench, who later lived with Gogarty and Joyce at the Martello Tower at Sandycove.

Gogarty sent numerous invitations to Joyce to come to Oxford to visit him, writing in one letter: “Be Jaysus Joyce – You must come over here for a day or two next fortnight, I want your advice… I want to get dhrunk, dhrunk [sic].” Gogarty copied out unpublished Elizabethan lyrics at the Bodleian Library for Joyce to add to his repertoire as a concert singer, and he also sent Joyce more of his obscene writings about Medical Dick and Medical Davy and a bawdy parody of a Yeats poem.

As for Gogarty’s Newdigate Prize poem, it came second, and he failed both exams that he sat during his terms at Oxford. He also ran up debts which he couldn’t pay, but eventually his mother covered his debts and he returned to Dublin at the end of June 1904. Early in July he began negotiating with the War Office about renting the Martello Tower.

In ‘After the Race,’ Jimmy Doyle “had been sent for a term to Cambridge to see a little life. His father, remonstrative, but covertly proud of the excess, had paid his bills and brought him home.” The ‘ragging’ of Clive Kempthorpe in the ‘Telemachus’ episode of Ulysses may also be derived from Gogarty’s Oxford experiences.

Gogarty and Joyce exchanged numerous letters while Gogarty was in Oxford. Gogarty’s letters to Joyce survive, but most of Joyce’s letters to Gogarty were destroyed when Gogarty’s home at Renvyle was burned down in 1923.


Sources & Further Reading:

Lyons, JB: Oliver St John Gogarty – The Man of Many Talents, Dublin: Blackwater Press, 1980.

O’Connor, Ulick: Oliver St John Gogarty – A Poet and his Times, London: Jonathan Cape, 1964.