On this day…14 November

On 14 November 1902 Joyce visited Lady Gregory.

Joyce had met Lady Gregory for dinner with WB Yeats and John B Yeats on 4 November, and he visited her again on 14 November. Joyce was thinking of leaving Dublin and perhaps wanted to sound out Lady Gregory for any help she might offer.

Having started his medical studies at University College’s Medical School on Cecilia Street, Joyce found himself stuck for money to cover the costs. His father had taken out a number of mortgages on the family’s home at St Peter’s Terrace, so it was unlikely Joyce would receive help there. His friend John Francis Byrne, who was also studying there, had been given some tutoring but Joyce, perhaps because he hadn’t performed well in his final exams, was denied such work.

Joyce now considered the possibility of giving up his medical studies in Dublin and going abroad to study, perhaps earning money as a teacher of English while he studied. It was with this plan in mind that he visited Lady Gregory again on the evening of 14 November to tell her that he was going to leave Dublin.

In her diary entry for 15 November 1902 Lady Gregory recorded Joyce’s visit of the previous evening. She wrote that he had made up his mind to go to Paris and that though she thought his plan was wild she also felt that with ‘boys’ like Joyce there were always other considerations. She acknowledged that he had genius of a kind, and she claimed to admire ‘his pride and waywardness.’

Though they had only met on a couple of occasions, Gregory wrote that she liked him better the more she got to know him, and she wished that he could stay in Ireland. Finally, she added that she would like to see him prosper, and that she felt sure he would make a name for himself somewhere, if not in Ireland.

These sentiments, expressed in her diary the day after she spoke to Joyce, were repeated by Gregory to Joyce himself in a later letter where she again regrets his leaving and tells him that she had no doubt of his future success, though she feels it will only come after a hard fight.


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, vol. II edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1957, 1966.

Saddlemyer, Ann: ‘James Joyce and the Irish Dramatic Movement,’ in James Joyce: A Joyce International Perspective, ed. Suheil Bushrui and Bernard Benstock, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1982.