On this day…6 March


On 6 March 1903 Synge arrived in Paris.

Synge had come to Paris in March 1903 to quit the apartment he had been keeping at 90 rue d’Assass. He stayed for only a week, but he and Joyce met frequently during that week.

Before Joyce left Dublin for Paris in December 1902, Lady Gregory had written to Synge who, she hoped, might be able to advise Joyce about cheap accommodation in Paris. In a letter to her on the day he left Dublin, Joyce claimed he had met Synge, and on his arrival in Paris he stayed at the Hôtel Corneille where Synge had also stayed on previous visits to Paris.

When Joyce passed through London en route to Paris in January 1903 he canvassed several newspaper and magazine editors for work as a reviewer. Synge was in London at the same time and was looking for the same work but, as he wrote to his mother, he decided to hold back on visiting the editors as he thought one Irishman looking for work at a time was enough!

While Synge was in Paris in March 1903, he gave Joyce Riders to the Sea to read. Yeats had told Joyce that Riders was a tragedy in the Greek style but Joyce dismissed it as being non-Aristotelian and pointed out its flaws to Synge. Nonetheless, Joyce already knew by heart some of the speeches from the play. Joyce showed Synge a notebook, possibly containing some of Joyce’s poems, which Synge dismissed as being unimportant.

Synge left Paris on 13 March, and on 26 March (the same day that Joyce’s review of Lady Gregory’s book was published in the Dublin Daily Express) Synge wrote to Lady Gregory about his encounter with Joyce in Paris. He describes Joyce as poor, untidy, lazy, and spending his time at the Bibliothèque Nationale reading Ben Jonson in preference to French literature. He claims that Joyce intended to return to Dublin by the summer where he hoped to live on reviewing while he did his writing.

Synge went to Paris for the first time in 1895 to study at the Sorbonne. He returned in 1896 when met Yeats there. Like Joyce, Synge lived in poverty and told Joyce that fasting for long periods had resulted in him having an expensive operation. The operation is more likely to have been for Hodgkin’s disease which led to Synge’s death in 1909.


Sources & Further Information:

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, 1966.

Joyce, Stanislaus: My Brother’s Keeper, London: Faber & Faber, 1958.

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