On this day…17 July

On 17 July 1879 James Sullivan Starkey was born.

Starkey was a poet and essayist, and founder and editor of the Dublin Magazine, who wrote under the name Seumas O’Sullivan. Joyce knew him while he was in Dublin, but didn’t think much of his verse.

Starkey’s father ran a pharmacy at 30 Rathmines Road where Starkey also worked for some time. He published several books of verse, including The Twilight People (1905), Verses, Sacred and Profane (1908), The Earth-Lover and other verses (1909), Poems (1912), Requiem and other poems (1917), The Lamplighter and other poems (1929), Twenty-five Lyrics, with a preface by George Russell (1933), and a collection of essays, The Rose and the Bottle (1946). In 1929 he married the artist Estella Solomons.

When Joyce left the Martello Tower at Sandycove on 15 September 1904, he wrote to Starkey asking him to go to the Tower and pack his trunk for collection the following day. He directs Starkey to pack it with two pairs of boots, two caps and a hat, a raincoat, the manuscript of his verses, and to make sure that the twelfth chapter of his novel hasn’t been taken from the trunk by Gogarty. He asks Starkey to ensure any post is forwarded to him, and to rope the trunk closed as it has no lock!

On 8 October 1904, the day Joyce was leaving Dublin with Nora Barnacle, Joyce left a note for Starkey (possibly at the Starkey pharmacy) asking if he could make up a parcel for him with a toothbrush, tooth powder and a nail brush. He also asks him to give him a pair of black boots, and any coat or vest he can spare. He says he will call again in 20 minutes and if Starkey isn’t there then, he asks him to meet him at Davy Byrne’s at 7.10pm.

Joyce was curious enough about Starkey’s poetry to ask his brother Stanislaus if he had read The Twilight People, Starkey’s first collection of verse, published in 1905. Joyce also read poems by Starkey that were published in the Sinn Féin newspaper, but he was rather disparaging about them.


Sources & Further Information:

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

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vols. II & III, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.