On this day…28 December

On 28 December 1904 Joyce wrote to his brother Stanislaus from Pola.

At the end of 1904, three months into his exile with Nora Barnacle, Joyce wrote an end-of-year letter to his brother Stanislaus to bring him up-to-date with the latest developments in Pola where Joyce and Nora were living at the time.

Joyce wrote his letter in the Caffé Miramar and told Stanislaus he was now doing most of his writing in cafés. He was facing a long, cold walk home when he finished, he said, and home, too, was bitterly cold as they had no stove. Joyce said he was looking to move into healthier quarters because he believed Nora was pregnant. He also announced that, as a matter of course, the child, if he had one, would not be baptised.

Not everything in their relationship was plain sailing. Joyce said that he and Nora were having quarrels, but that Nora called these lovers’ quarrels and accused Joyce of being very childish. Nora also told him that he had a saint’s face and a beautiful character, but she also called him ‘Simple-minded Jim.’

His relationship with Nora, he said, meant that he drank little or nothing, smoked a great deal, rarely sang, and had become very excitable. His voice, he said, had disimproved from lack of use, smoking, and the chronic cold. His sight, too, was bad and he was planning to visit an oculist in the new year to get new glasses. He claimed not to have changed much in appearance, apart from being a little stouter and sporting a slight moustache. He dressed in new brown clothes and a loose scarlet tie.

Joyce was beginning to feel squeezed between his teaching at the Berlitz School and his domestic life with Nora. ‘I desire more money and liberty than I have at present,’ he told Stanislaus, ‘and for this reason I am working at the novel and at the translation.’ The novel was Stephen Hero and Joyce was planning to send chapters XII, XIII and XIV to Stanislaus at the end of the week, telling him that he could circulate them to Constantine Curran and Vincent Cosgrave, and read them to Aunt Josephine, but no one else was to see them. He also wanted Stanislaus’ comments on these chapters as soon as possible.

The translation was of Celibates, a book of three short stories by George Moore, which Joyce was working on with Alessandro Francini Bruni and which he hoped to sell to a big publisher in Florence. He also asked Stanislaus to look through the English review magazines for the year and see if anyone had written an article on D’Annunzio’s La Figlia di Iorio: if not, Joyce would write one himself. He also asked Stanislaus to send him a copy of the Irish Homestead containing his story ‘After the Race,’ and a copy of the Christmas edition.


Sources & Further Reading:

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