On this day…26 February

On 26 February 1917 Constantine Curran wrote to Joyce, thanking him for sending a copy of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Constantine Curran was one of the only friends from Joyce’s university days who didn’t appear as a character in Portrait. Nonetheless, Joyce had reason to be grateful to Curran, and sent him copies of his books as they were published.

In his letter of 26 February 1917, Curran thanked Joyce for the copy of Portrait that he had received. Though he praised some parts of it, he was critical of others. In particular, he thought the representation of the Dean of Studies was unkind, and he found Joyce’s writing on aesthetics dull. Curran was curious to find out what Joyce was working on now, and hoped that his future books would be less dependent on autobiographical observation and based more on his imagination.

Joyce replied to Curran’s letter on 1 March 1917. He told him of his latest eye problems, and that he was writing Ulysses, which he claimed he had started in Rome six or seven years before, and which he hoped to finish in 1918.

Curran and Joyce met for the first time as students at University College Dublin in 1899 and they remained friends until Joyce’s death. Curran trained as a barrister and later became Registrar of the High Court in Dublin. He was the author of books on Dublin architecture, and two volumes of reminiscences, one of which is about Joyce.

While Joyce was living in Dublin, Curran regularly helped him out with money. The famous photograph taken of Joyce during the summer of 1904 in flat cap with his hands in his pockets was taken by Curran in the garden of his home at Cumberland Place. After Joyce left Dublin, they continued to meet during Curran’s occasional visits to Paris, and kept in touch by post.

At the time of Joyce’s father’s illness and death in 1931, Curran looked after all of the arrangements in Dublin on Joyce’s behalf. When Lucia was in Dublin in 1935, Curran reported on her to Joyce, and organised for her to stay in a home in Finglas at Joyce’s request. Curran had several books belonging to Joyce – including works by D’Annunzio, Ibsen, Maeterlinck, and Hauptmann that Joyce was reading while in university – which Curran later gave to UCD along with letters and photographs.


Sources & Further Information:

Costello, Peter: James Joyce – The years of growth 1882-1915, Schull: Roberts Rinehart Publishers, 1992.

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, 1965.


Books by Constantine Curran:

The Rotunda Hospital – Its architects and craftsmen, Dublin: Three Candles, 1945.

Newman House and University Church, Dublin: University College Dublin, 1953.

Dublin Decorative Plasterwork of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, London: Tiranti, 1967.

James Joyce Remembered, London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

Under the Receding Wave, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1970.