On this day…19 April

On 19 April 1912 Joyce received permission to sit examinations in Padua.

Joyce hoped to teach English in Italian schools but needed to pass Italian teaching diploma examinations in order to qualify. On 19 April 1912 the Italian Minister of Education gave permission for Joyce to sit the diploma examinations at the University of Padua.

Up to 1912 Joyce had been teaching English at Berlitz schools and with private students. Seeking a steady job with a regular income, he applied for a job at the Instituto Tecnico in Como. They had nothing available at that time and pointed out that in any case he would need an Italian teaching diploma without which he was not qualified to teach in Italian schools.

He was told in November 1911 that the fact that he was a British citizen and was living in Austria would not debar him from sitting the teaching diploma examinations at the University of Padua. To get official approval to sit the exams, he sent his documents to the Secretary of the Higher Education Council at the end of November. The application was sent on to the Minister of Education and Joyce received his approval on 19 April 1912.

The following day he heard from the Rector of the University of Padua that he was eligible to sit the examinations and on 23 April the travelled to Padua. He had difficulty finding accommodation and the accommodation he got was expensive. On 24 April he wrote his Italian examination essay, ‘L’influenza letteraria universal del rinascimento’ (‘The Universal Literary Influence of the Renaissance’). Joyce scored 30 out of 50 for this. He also met his examiner who he described to his brother as being an old, ugly frump of a spinster.

On 25 April he wrote his English exam essay on ‘The Centenary of Charles Dickens’ and scored 50 out of 50 for this. English dictation followed on 26 April (a piece from Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii) and translation from Italian to English (a piece from Pietro Colletta’s Ricordi di mia vita). He scored 50 out of 50 on each of these.

He had a couple of days before the oral examination was to take place but since Padua was expensive he went back to Trieste, and returned to Padua again on 30 April. He scored 191 out of 200 in the translation and oral parts of the examination, and in a final written exam he scored 50 out of 50. In total he had scored 421 out of 450 and was deemed to have passed.

All that remained was for the Minister of Education to accept his degree from the Royal University. While Joyce was in Galway with Nora in August 1912, Stanislaus wrote to say that the Minister had decided Joyce’s degree did not fulfil the Italian requirements and his exam results were annulled. Joyce wrote to the Board of Education in London to protest about the lack of recognition of British degrees in Italy, and he enlisted the help of Guido Mazzoni and Carlo Galli to appeal to the Italian Minister, but without success. Thus, despite doing well in the examinations, he remained unqualified to teach English in Italian schools.


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.