On this day…27 February

On 27 February 1918 Joyce was told an anonymous patron wished to give him 12,000 francs.

The letter of 27 February 1918 came from the Eidgenössische Bank in Zurich, where Joyce was living, inviting him to a meeting about money. When Joyce arrived there (in a borrowed black suit) the director told him that one of the bank’s clients, who had an interest in Joyce’s writing, had placed 12,000 francs on deposit to be given to Joyce in 1,000 franc instalments on the first of each month starting in March.

Joyce, delighted with the gift, tried to persuade the director to tell him who his patron was, without success. He then went to opera singer Charlotte Sauermann, who had recently, mysteriously, hinted to Joyce that he might need a black suit, and she revealed that the woman behind the gift was Mrs Edith Rockefeller McCormick.

Edith Rockefeller, a daughter of John D Rockefeller, was born in 1872 and married Harold McCormick in 1895. She moved to Zurich in 1913 to be treated for depression by Carl Jung. During her time in Zurich, she also patronised writers and musicians.

When Joyce was trying to put on a production of Exiles, his friend Jules Martin suggested that Edith McCormick should play Bertha, but the scheme came to nothing, so Joyce was quite surprised with her gift in 1918. He visited her to thank her and she told him he was a great artist. When a production of Exiles finally went ahead in Munich, she also offered to pay Joyce’s travel expenses, but Joyce couldn’t get a travel visa.

Mrs McCormick was convinced of the importance of Jung’s work but, despitJules e her offer to pay the costs, Joyce refused to allow himself to be analysed by Jung, and when he went to collect the money at the bank on 1 October 1919, he was told the credit had been cut off. As he was preparing to return to Trieste, Joyce wrote to her asking for a meeting, but she refused. Perhaps to encourage her to reinstate the gift, he sent her part of the manuscript of Ulysses. She replied on 3 October, thanking him for the manuscript but saying that he could have it back at any time. Joyce did later request the return of the manuscript which was then sent to John Quinn and became part of what is now the Rosenbach Manuscript of Ulysses.

Mrs McCormick returned to America in 1921 where she divorced her husband. She died of cancer in 1932.


Sources & Further Information:

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