On this day…12 November

On 12 November 1913 Joyce made some notes for Exiles.

While working on his play Exiles late in 1913 Joyce made extensive notes with ideas for the play. Two of these notes are dated: one 12 November, the other 13 November 1913.

It seems that by the time Joyce made these notes he had already drafted the first act of his play, and was preparing material for the revision of the first act and for the drafting of the later acts. The dated notes in particular demonstrate the complex way in which Joyce brings together elements of his personal life in fashioning his fiction.

The notes dated 12 November include several references to Nora Barnacle’s life, both before and with Joyce. For instance, Joyce links the word ‘garter’ with the words ‘precious,’ ‘Prezioso,’ and ‘Bodkin.’ In Exiles, Richard reminds Beatrice of the garter she had given to Robert when they were younger. This ‘precious’ token of an early love is then linked to ‘Prezioso’ and ‘Bodkin.’

Prezioso is the Italian for precious but also refers to Roberto Prezioso, a Venetian who had been hired to edit the Triestine newspaper Il Piccolo della Sera, in which Joyce published several articles. (Early in the play, when Brigid checks the letterbox, there are no letters ‘Only them Italian newspapers.’)

Prezioso was a pupil of Joyce’s and the two became friendly, not least because Prezioso was intelligent and very interested in music and literature. Prezioso was a frequent visitor at the Joyce’s and Joyce allowed Prezioso to flirt with Nora, but then berated him publicly one day in the Piazza Dante, reducing Prezioso to tears.

The name ‘Bodkin’ refers to Michael ‘Sonny’ Bodkin who had known Nora in Galway and who was the model for the character Michael Furey in ‘The Dead.’ Bodkin had given Nora a bracelet (a word that also appears in these notes), and the notes dated 13 November 1913 refer to Bodkin’s grave in Rahoon.

These notes also include the phrase ‘She weeps over Rahoon,’ and Nora’s grief for Bodkin is the theme of the poem entitled ‘She weeps over Rahoon’ which Joyce wrote around this time, and which was later published in Pomes Penyeach. This poem, however, may also be linked with Amalia Popper, with whom Joyce was infatuated, and with Giacomo Joyce which Joyce wrote sometime in mid-1914.

Other notes dated 12 November include references to ‘cream sweets’ and ‘convent garden (Galway).’ Michael Bodkin’s father Patrick ran a sweet shop on Prospect Hill where Nora and her friend Mary O’Holleran used to buy sweets, and Nora had gone to school at the Sisters of Mercy Convent and later worked at the Presentation Convent in Galway.


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Igoe, Vivien: James Joyce’s Dublin Houses & Nora Barnacle’s Galway, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2007.

Joyce, James: Poems and Exiles, edited with an Introduction and Notes by JCC Mays, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1992.

MacNicholas, John: “Joyce’s Exiles: The Argument for Doubt,” in James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 1, (Fall 1973), pp. 33-40.

– -: “The Stage History of Exiles,” in James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 19, no. 1 (Fall 1981), pp. 9-26.