On this day…18 October

On 18 October 1909 Joyce left Trieste to set up the Volta cinema in Dublin.

Shortly after arriving in Trieste in September 1909, Eva Joyce suggested to her brother that Dublin needed a cinema like those she saw in Trieste. Joyce managed to persuade some Triestine businessmen with connections to local cinemas to put up the necessary money, and on 18 October 1909 he set out from Trieste to establish the first dedicated cinema in Dublin.

Joyce travelled from Trieste to Paris where he arrived on 20 October. He claimed that he had to kick himself out of the city as he would otherwise have stayed a week, attracted in part by a performance of Meyerbeer’s La Prophète in which Albert Alvarez and Mary Garden were singing.

While in Paris he also heard a recording of Enrico Caruso singing a duet from the end of Act I of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, and in subsequent letters to Nora from Dublin he calls her ‘Butterfly’ and encourages her to go see Madame Butterfly. He even tells his brother Stanislaus to make sure she goes to see it.

Joyce left Paris for London on the evening of 20 October and wrote to Stanislaus from London the following day complaining of being sick on a bad crossing from Dieppe, and saying that he would never travel via Dieppe again despite getting an upgrade to first class for his train journey. That evening he suffered another bad crossing on the last stage of his journey to Dublin.

Immediately after his arrival in Dublin, Joyce threw himself into the job of setting up the cinema. He started looking for premises to house the proposed cinema, and arranged an appointment with Dublin Corporation’s theatre inspector about getting a licence. He found a suitable venue at 45 Mary Street where the Volta cinema opened on 20 December 1909.


Sources & Further Reading:

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

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