On this day…27 March

On 27 March 1928 Joyce left Dieppe for Rouen.

Joyce left Paris around 21 March to holiday in Dieppe, but neither he nor Nora felt well there and they started back to Paris, visiting Rouen on the way.

The main reason for the holiday was the poor state of Joyce’s health in January 1928. At the end of 1927 Harriet Weaver had announced to him that she thought he was wasting his time on Work in Progress. This brought on an attack of colitis and Joyce even stopped writing for a period, which was enough to bring Harriet Weaver to Paris at the end of January 1928. She tried to reassure Joyce that his work was significant and that he should continue it. For his part, Joyce took the opportunity to explain his ideas about the book.

After she left, Joyce felt assured of her continued support and he could face back into writing again. During the early months of 1928 Joyce was working on different parts of Work in Progress. He was working on parts of ‘Shaun’ (later book III, chapters 1-3 of Finnegans Wake), which were due to be published in transition no. 12 in March 1928, and he was revising the ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ section, which was to be published in transition no. 13 in June 1928, and by Crosby Gaige in New York in October 1928.

Perhaps the most significant piece of work was on the fable of ‘The Ondt and the Gracehoper,’ which now forms part of book III, chapter 1 of Finnegans Wake. He probably only started work on the fable after Harriet Weaver had returned to England, and he sent it on to her straight away. She wrote to say she was pleased with the fable and had made out some of its references to Wyndham Lewis.

Joyce replied on 28 March to say that he had exhausted himself working on the chapters of ‘Shaun’ which he had been revising frantically for transition. He told her he didn’t think it was a good idea to work so hard for so long and that he had lost six kilos as a result. He also told her that he hadn’t quite recovered from his attack of colitis but, knowing that she supported his work, the pain was now purely physical. That said, neither he nor Nora had felt well in Dieppe and so had decided to move on to Rouen. He mentioned a prospectus he had seen for Wyndham Lewis’ latest book (The Childermass), and he finished by telling her that he would need another holiday to recover from this one!

Though Joyce did take another holiday in April and May, his earlier exertions may have contributed to problems with his eyes that left him unable to write for much of the later part of 1928.


Sources & Further Information:

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

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

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