On this day…20 April

On 20 April 1904 Stanislaus Joyce recorded in his diary that Joyce was living at Shelbourne Road.

Joyce moved into lodgings at 60 Shelbourne Road in April 1904, and remained there until the end of August. During that summer, Joyce taught at Clifton School, Dalkey; he met his future wife, Nora Barnacle; he won third place in the Feis Ceoil; he had his first story published; and he sang on stage with John McCormack in a concert at the end of Horse Show week.

The Joyces’ home life had deteriorated after May Joyce’s death. By the end of March 1904, Stanislaus claimed that either he or Joyce or Charlie had to be at home in the evening in case their drunken father attacked the girls. At the same time, Joyce was pursuing a singing career, taking lessons from Benedetto Palmieri, and looking for summer singing engagements around Dublin. John McCormack persuaded him to enter the solo tenor competition in the annual Feis Ceoil, and Joyce needed a place of his own where he could practice.

Joyce rented the first-floor room at 60 Shelbourne Road from a Mrs McKernan. The rent was borrowed from Oliver Gogarty, John Francis Byrne, and George Russell, but it seems that Mrs McKernan was pleased to have Joyce as a tenant and allowed him to fall behind with his rent.

The large room he rented in this Victorian terrace was the width of the house, enough to accommodate the piano he needed for his singing practice. He hired a piano from Piggott’s but, to avoid having to tip the piano movers, Joyce arranged to be out when they arrived. As there was no one home, the movers took the piano away again.

Joyce’s Aunt Josephine lived nearby, as did James Cousins and his wife Gretta, and Joyce’s presence on the street was noted by another local resident, William John Lawrence, a historian of Elizabethan theatre. Lawrence told his friend Joseph Holloway, that he had seen Joyce, with his strange eyes and his long hair, walking along Shelbourne Road with long strides, waving his arms. He thought Joyce was preparing for a grand opera as he was always singing operatic arias from his room with the windows wide open.

By August, Joyce was obliged to leave 60 Shelbourne Road as the McKernan’s went on holidays and closed up the house. In November 1906, Joyce was still coming up with new ideas for stories for Dubliners, and one of them, ‘The Last Supper,’ was to be about Joe McKernan, Mrs McKernan’s son – but nothing more is known about the story.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

Igoe, Vivien: James Joyce’s Dublin Houses & Nora Barnacle’s Galway, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2007.

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. II, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.

Joyce, Stanislaus: The Complete Dublin Diary of Stanislaus Joyce, edited by George H Healey, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1971.

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

O’Neill, Michael J: ‘The Joyces in the Holloway Diaries,’ in A James Joyce Miscellany, second series, edited by Marvin Magalaner, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1959, pp. 103-110.