On this day…31 January

On 31 January 1940 Joyce met with Paul Léon at the end of his last stay in Paris.

Joyce arrived in Paris around 22 January 1940 and returned to Saint-Gérand-le-Puy on 1 February. As it turned out, this was Joyce’s last stay in Paris. Instead of staying at the family’s apartment at 34 rue des Vignes, Joyce stayed at the Hôtel Lutétia at 43 Boulevard Raspail, where he and Nora had stayed from mid-October to late December 1939.

The meeting with Léon was significant. Having been friends from early 1928, Joyce and Léon had fallen out in November 1939 over the worsening relations between Giorgio Joyce and his wife Helen. Léon had sided with Helen and Joyce had sided with Giorgio, and Joyce had asked Léon to return his publishing contracts to him. Their meeting during Joyce’s brief last stay in Paris seems to have effected at least some reconciliation between them.

By the following day, as Joyce was making his way back to Saint-Gérand-le-Puy, Léon was once again corresponding on Joyce’s behalf. He wrote to Monro Saw & Co. in London asking for funds for Joyce as a matter of urgency, and also wrote letters to the tax collector and to America and Britain. Sending copies of these letters to Joyce on 5 February, Léon added that he would be glad to do anything he could for Joyce.

In June 1940, the Léons arrived in Saint-Gérand-le-Puy where Léon and Joyce, now reconciled, worked on corrections to Finnegans Wake. When Léon returned to Paris, he managed to salvage some of the Joyces’ belongings from the apartment at rue des Vignes. Not only had Joyce not stayed at the apartment during his last two visits to Paris, he also hadn’t bothered to pay the rent. The landlord tried to recoup the rent by auctioning some of the Joyces’ personal belongings but Léon and his friends bought up most of goods, and all the material was returned to the Joyce family after the war.

Joyce first visited Paris in December 1902 for three weeks, and lived there again from January to April 1903. When Joyce travelled from Trieste to Paris in 1920, his intention was to stay for just a week, but he remained for most of the rest of his life. Now, leaving the city after meeting his friend Paul Léon, Joyce could hardly have suspected that he would never return to Paris again.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

Fahy, Catherine: The James Joyce-Paul Léon Papers in the National Library of Ireland – A Catalogue, Dublin: National Library of Ireland, 1992.

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.