On this day…13 July

On 13 July 1932 wrote to TS Eliot about Work in Progress.

At the time, Joyce was facing a number of personal problems which were having an impact on his writing. In his letter to TS Eliot on 13 July, he expressed his concern that he might not be able to finish Work in Progress.

Joyce travelled to Zurich early in July 1932 to see Professor Vogt, the eye surgeon. But the visit was overshadowed by his daughter Lucia’s mental illness. At the end of May she had been taken to Dr Maillard’s clinic where she was diagnosed as schizophrenic. As part of her treatment, the doctor wanted to keep her isolated and didn’t want her to have contact with her family. Joyce disagreed with both the diagnosis and the idea of isolation.

At the beginning of July, Joyce had Lucia taken from the hospital with a nurse, and together with Nora they left for Feldkirch in Austria where Maria and Eugene Jolas were staying. From there Joyce travelled with Nora to Zurich to see Vogt. Joyce’s last consultation with Vogt had been in December 1930 when Vogt put off a necessary operation until spring of 1931. Joyce hadn’t returned for that operation. Now, a year and a half later, Vogt told him the condition of his eyes had deteriorated, and he would have to undergo two operations.

Joyce wrote to Eliot the day after seeing Vogt and promised that Eliot would soon have a full report on the poor condition of his eyes. In the meantime, however, Joyce felt he could not write in the present circumstances. He thought he would have to remain in Zurich for between four and six months while Vogt kept him under observation, and he dreaded the cost. At the time he and Nora were staying at the Carlton Elite Hotel which Joyce justified by saying his wife was exhausted and needed rest and comfort.

But it was not just the cost of staying in an expensive city like Zurich that worried Joyce. There was also the cost of the nurse and the hospital bills for Lucia that he was trying to cover, and the prospect that her illness might require her to be hospitalised indefinitely. Joyce was quick to assure Eliot that he would refund the advance Faber & Faber had paid for the book if he had to abandon it, but it’s also clear from other letters at the time that money was becoming a major problem from Joyce, and for his sponsor, Harriet Weaver.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. I, edited by Stuart Gilbert, London: Faber & Faber, 1957.

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