On 10 September 1904 ‘Eveline’ was published in the Irish Homestead.
‘Eveline’ was the second story written by Joyce in the summer of 1904, and was published for the first time in the Irish Homestead on 10 September 1904. The story was revised before publication as part of Dubliners in 1914.
Earlier in 1904 George Russell had offered Joyce £1 each for stories of about 1800 words that he might write for the Irish Homestead, and the first story, ‘The Sisters,’ had been published there in August 1904. Though ‘Eveline’ differs from ‘The Sisters’ in being written in the third person, scholars have pointed out autobiographical elements in ‘Eveline’: the death of the mother and the consequent difficulties of domestic life with a drunken and abusive father, are certainly drawn from Joyce’s own experiences.
The story as we read it now differs from the one that appeared in the Irish Homestead in 1904, and one of the biggest differences is the inclusion of reference to the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque. This resonates with the promise Eveline has made to her mother in the story, but also to the promise made by Margaret Joyce to her dying mother.
Margaret wanted to join a convent but promised her mother she would look after her younger siblings. She put off her own plans and dutifully took over running the household despite her father’s continued heavy drinking and spendthrift ways. Margaret Joyce was known to the family as Poppie, which is not unlike Poppens, the name Frank uses for Eveline. It was not until 1909, when Mabel, the youngest of the Joyces, was sixteen, that Margaret felt she had fulfilled her promise to her mother, and in November she left Ireland for New Zealand and a new life as a Sister of Mercy.
The description of Frank in the story also resembles Joyce himself, sounding not unlike his appearance in a famous photograph taken in the summer of 1904 by his friend Constantine Curran. Joyce was dressed in a yachting cap when he met Nora Barnacle for the first time on 10 June 1904, and she mistook him for a Swedish sailor, so this might also have given Joyce an idea for the character Frank and for Frank’s encounter with Eveline. And by the time the story was published Joyce already seemed to be planning to leave Ireland, and almost certainly planning to take Nora Barnacle with him, so perhaps Nora’s attitudes and his observations of his sister’s reluctant sacrifice combined to provide material for ‘Eveline,’ the first work in which Joyce views the world from a woman’s perspective.
Sources & Further Reading:
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.
– -: James Joyce’s Dubliners – an illustrated edition with annotations, John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley (eds), London: Sinclair Stevenson, 1995.
Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.