On this day…17 December

On 17 December 1884 Stanislaus Joyce was born.

Three years younger that Joyce, Stanislaus was an important companion and confidante, a biographical recorder, a keeper of manuscripts, and a commentator on Joyce’s reading and writing for many years.

Christened John Stanislaus after his father, he went by the name Stanislaus or the familiar Stannie all his life. He attended Belvedere College along with Joyce and their brother George, and later worked as an office clerk. From the age of eighteen Stanislaus started recording his impressions in a diary which Joyce often read and from which he took ideas used in his writing. While Joyce was in Paris in 1902-3, Stanislaus faithfully maintained Joyce’s manuscripts, adding and rearranging the material according to Joyce’s instructions.

After Joyce left Dublin in 1904, Stanislaus continued to act as his representative in Dublin, corresponding with Joyce about his writing and ideas, and supplying information about what was going on in Dublin. Joyce found the distance from his brother frustrating and eventually persuaded Stanislaus to come to Trieste, securing a position for him at the Berlitz School. Stanislaus disliked his brother’s heavy drinking, and resented having to supplement his impecunious brother’s income.

While Joyce and his family were in Rome in 1906-7, the exchange and discussion of ideas continued with Stanislaus by post, and Stanislaus still provided money whenever Joyce needed it. As if to reflect the importance of Stanislaus to Dubliners, Joyce promised to dedicate the book to him, and in the novel Stephen Hero, the character of Stephen’s younger brother Maurice was based on Stanislaus. In the end there was no dedication in Dubliners, and Maurice Daedalus was written out of what became A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, small things in themselves but certainly sources of resentment.

Stanislaus became increasingly involved with the Italian irredentist movement in Trieste and in January 1915 he was arrested and sent to a concentration camp in Austria where he remained for the duration of the war. Returning to Trieste after the war, Stanislaus was given an appointment at the University, but his feelings of resentment towards his brother were added to by his dislike of Ulysses. After Joyce left Trieste for Paris in 1920, he and Stanislaus only met on three occasions.

Stanislaus married a former student, Nelly Lichtensteiger, in August 1928 and they had one son, James, born in 1943. Stanislaus came under pressure from the Italian Fascist regime and was dismissed from his post at the University, though he was later reinstated. When Finnegans Wake was published, Stanislaus thought so little of it that he refused to accept a copy from Joyce. By the time Joyce reached Zurich in 1940, Stanislaus was again in trouble with the Fascists and moved to Florence in 1941.

Shocked by his brother’s early death, Stanislaus started writing a book of recollections, based on his memory and the diary he had always kept, but it was only about half finished by the time of his death on 16 June 1955.

The correspondence between the Joyce brothers, along with Stanislaus’ diaries and memoirs, and the assistance given by Stanislaus to scholars like Richard Ellmann, have provided invaluable information about Joyce’s early life and writings.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

Joyce, Stanislaus: The Complete Dublin Diary of Stanislaus Joyce, edited by George H Healey, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1971.

– -: My Brother’s Keeper, edited with an Introduction by Richard Ellmann, Preface by TS Eliot, London: Faber & Faber, 1958.