On this day…23 December

On 23 December 1902 Joyce met Yeats in London en route back to Dublin for Christmas.

After just over two weeks in Paris, Joyce returned to Dublin for Christmas. He met Yeats between trains in London and told him that he was giving up medicine and taking up literature instead.

Though his attempt to study medicine in Paris had been unsuccessful, Joyce had managed to write some book reviews and had found himself a couple of students. In a letter to his mother on 15 December he announced that he had ‘at his disposal’ a position at the Berlitz School which would give him 150 francs a month. The only drawback, he said, was that he would be at the School all day.

He also asked her to write and let him know if he should come home for Christmas, and offered to buy her a new set of teeth with his earnings. Mrs Joyce had been alarmed by Joyce’s accounts of his hand-to-mouth existence in Paris, and she spoke to her husband about it. There was no possibility of Joyce paying his fare to come home, and so on 18 December John Joyce took out a second mortgage on the family home at St Peter’s Terrace for, as Mrs Joyce wrote to her son, ‘home you must come if only for a week.’

On Sunday 21 December the money arrived from Dublin and Joyce sent his father a postcard to let him know when he would be home. He said he planned to see Yeats in London en route but that there was no point in spending the whole day in London as the editor of the Speaker, with whom he wanted to meet, would be away until after Christmas. He also wrote to Lady Gregory, telling her that he would be home for Christmas and that he was going to give up medicine.

Joyce left Paris on the evening of Monday 22 December, and the following morning met with Yeats between trains in London. Yeats wrote that day to Lady Gregory to tell her that Joyce had been with him all morning and that they had got on well together even though Joyce had said ‘some rather absurd things.’ Joyce told him, as he was telling everyone else at that stage, that he was giving up medicine in favour of literature.

Joyce arrived back in Dublin on the evening of 23 December and stayed until mid-January 1903 when he returned to Paris.


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.

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