On 22 June 1904 Joyce was involved in a fracas at St Stephen’s Green.
Only a couple of days after he had collapsed drunk at a rehearsal of the National Theatre Society, Joyce was involved in a fracas at St Stephen’s Green that left him with a few superficial injuries.
According to Ellmann, Joyce was out that evening with his friend from university Vincent Cosgrave. Joyce started chatting with a young woman at St Stephen’s Green not realising that she was accompanied. When the man who was accompanying her appeared, he roughed Joyce up. Cosgrave stood by, watching, without intervening to help his friend. In a letter to Constantine Curran on 23 June, signed ‘Stephen Daedalus,’ Joyce described his injuries as a black eye, sprained wrist and ankle, and cuts on his chin and hand.
The incident seems to be the basis for the roughing up that Stephen Dedalus receives from Private Carr at the end of the ‘Circe’ episode of Ulysses, after which Dedalus is rescued by Bloom and returns with Bloom to the house at 7 Eccles Street. Richard Ellmann states that “if Dublin report is to be believed” Joyce was dusted off and taken home by Alfred Hunter after the fracas in June 1904. When Joyce conceived the idea for a story called ‘Ulysses,’ the story was to be about Alfred Hunter who is presumed to be an early model for Leopold Bloom.
The “Dublin report” that Ellmann refers to is a letter of March 1960 from WP D’Arcy, who claimed that he had heard the story of Hunter’s Samaritan act from his friend John Joyce. In his notes, Ellmann qualifies this still further by noting that “Other confirmation is lacking,” apparently indicating that Ellmann didn’t trust his source.
The Alfred Hunter that Joyce mentions in his letters in connection with his story ‘Ulysses’ remains an elusive figure about whom little is known, and no further evidence has been found to connect him with the fracas on St Stephen’s Green in June 1904.
Sources & Further Reading:
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Killeen, Terence: ‘Marion Hunter Revisited – Further Light on a Dublin Enigma,’ in Dublin James Joyce Journal, no. 3, 2010, pp. 144-51.