On this day…17 November

On 17 November 1909 Joyce wired money urgently to his brother in Trieste.

Joyce had arrived in Dublin at the end of October 1909 to set up the Volta Cinema, but had neglected to pay the rent on his flat at the Via Vincenzo Scussa in Trieste where they’d been living since March 1909. Joyce’s brother Stanislaus wrote to say that the landlord had issued notice to evict them, and Joyce immediately wired some money to pay off the landlord.

Joyce’s landlord, Scholz, was owed about 113 crowns in rent for October and November, and Joyce was annoyed that it hadn’t been paid. He pointed out that, when he had left Trieste, he had handed over eight of his pupils to Stanislaus for English and he wondered why none of the money from those lessons had gone towards paying the rent.

Joyce promised to wire 20 crowns the following morning and also to send a receipt for his expenses in connection with the cinema. Stanislaus was to take the receipt to Nicolò Vidacovich, one of the Triestine sponsors of the cinema, and get payment from him. The £1 7s for expenses would yield approximately 32 crowns, leaving Stanislaus to find just five crowns to make up the almost 57 crowns owed for one month’s rent.

Though Joyce owed rent for two months, he figured that one month’s rent would keep Scholz happy for the time being but, just in case it didn’t, he told Stanislaus to promise the landlord double the rent for December. It was essential, he told him, to prevent Nora and the children ending up on the street, and Stanislaus was to sell every stick of furniture in the flat if necessary to ensure that they didn’t get evicted.

Joyce admitted that he didn’t know the terms of his agreement with Scholz and he told Stanislaus to consult with his friend Giulio Paulina, the solicitor, to find out how the Austrian law stood in relation to notice to quit. He promised to wire more money once Machnich, another of the Volta’s sponsors, arrived in Dublin, but he still didn’t know when that would be.

Apart from the 20 crowns he promised to wire, Joyce couldn’t send more because he needed some money for the solicitor Charlie Murray who would have to pay the stamp duty on the lease for the cinema’s premises on Mary Street. He would also have to pay a licence fee and he had no idea how much that amount to.

Apart from that, he was also supporting the Joyce household in Dublin. John Joyce was in Jervis Street Hospital suffering from conjunctivitis and iritis and, with the rent on the house at Fontenoy Street unpaid, an eviction notice had been issued there too, and Joyce feared they would all end up on the street by 1 December. He had bought a new overcoat and boots for his sister Eileen, and the condition in which he found her living was so impoverished that Joyce resolved to bring her back to Trieste with him.

Scholz seems to have been placated by the payment of one month’s rent, and the Joyces continued living at Via Vincenzo Scussa until August 1910.


Sources & Further Reading:

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