On this day…26 December

On 26 December 1937 Joyce dined with Samuel Beckett and Peggy Guggenheim.

The day after Christmas Day 1937 the Joyces dined at Fouquet’s restaurant in the company of Samuel Beckett and Peggy Guggenheim. The evening was the beginning of a brief but very intense affair between Beckett and Guggenheim.

The American heiress Peggy Guggenheim had worked for a while at the Sunwise Turn bookshop in New York where she met her future husband, Laurence Vail, and Helen Fleischmann, who later married Giorgio Joyce. Guggenheim moved to Paris in 1920 where she became friendly with the Joyce family.

On 26 December 1937 Guggenheim was invited to join Joyce and Nora, and Giorgio and Helen Fleischmann, for dinner at Fouquet’s restaurant. Fouquet’s on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées was one of Joyce’s favourite restaurants in Paris and he dined there frequently – or rather drank there frequently, since he preferred drinking his favourite wine, Fendant de Sion, while others ate.

Also present as a guest of the Joyce’s that evening was Samuel Beckett. Beckett and Guggenheim had met on a couple of occasions before, and after the dinner at Fouquet’s they went for drinks to Giorgio and Helen’s flat. After that Beckett offered to escort Guggenheim home, and the couple ended up spending not just that night but the whole of the following day in bed together, having sex and drinking champagne. The affair continued shortly afterwards when Guggenheim was caretaking a friend’s home in Montparnasse and Beckett stayed with her there for a week.

Beckett dined with Joyce again on 4 January 1938, and just a few days later he was stabbed on a Paris street and taken to hospital unconscious. Joyce was one of the first visitors to the hospital and at his insistence, and expense, Beckett was moved to a private room and received the best medical care. Guggenheim was among the many friends who visited Beckett while he was ill, and she gave Joyce a blackthorn stick for his birthday that year.


Sources & Further Reading:

Knowlson, James: Damned to Fame – The Live of Samuel Beckett, London: Bloomsbury, 1996.

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