On this day…2 December

On 2 December 1902 Joyce met WB Yeats in London.

Joyce passed through London en route to Paris on 2 December 1902. He was met by WB Yeats who fed him and introduced him to contacts in London before seeing him off on the train to continue his journey to Paris.

After Joyce’s letter to Lady Gregory at the end of November, in which he announced his intention of going to Paris to pursue his medical studies, Lady Gregory had written to friends she thought might be able to help. She contacted Synge who had spent some time in Paris and who she thought might be able to offer help with cheap accommodation. She also contacted EV Longworth, editor of the Daily Express, to suggest Joyce as a possible book reviewer.

She also wrote to Yeats who was in London at the time, and suggested that, if he could get up early enough, he should meet Joyce off the boat-train and feed and look after him during his day in London. Yeats then wrote to Joyce, promising to set his alarm clock so that he’d get up in time to meet Joyce from the train, and offering him breakfast and the use of his sofa to sleep off the journey.

More importantly, Yeats offered to introduce him to some literary friends who might offer an outlet for book reviews or poems Joyce might write. Yeats claimed this kind of work never did anyone any harm and might be a better source of income than the English lessons Joyce planned to give in Paris. He also felt that Joyce would have no difficulty getting his poems published in the Speaker and that they might offer him book reviews as well.

When Joyce arrived in London on Tuesday 2 December 1902, Yeats met him and took him for breakfast. When they arrived at the offices of the Speaker, it turned out the editor was out sick that day, but Yeats promised to ask him to write to Joyce in Paris. Yeats also gave Joyce a letter of introduction to Maud Gonne, then living in Paris, and Joyce promised to call on her.

Perhaps most important of all, Yeats introduced Joyce to Arthur Symons, the poet and Francophile, and even suggested that Joyce review Symons’ translation of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Francesca di Rimini for the Speaker. Symons was later to be instrumental in getting Joyce’s first book of poetry, Chamber Music, published, and was very helpful in promoting Joyce’s work with his contacts in London.

Shortly after arriving in Paris, Joyce wrote to his family and told them what Yeats had done for him in London. Not only had he given him breakfast but they lunched and dined together, and Yeats had paid for all the hansom cab and bus rides!


Sources & Further Reading:

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

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