On 23 July 1904 ‘The Sisters’ was accepted for publication by Irish Homestead.
Harry Norman (1868-1947), editor of the Irish Homestead, wrote to Joyce on 23 July 1904 to say that Joyce’s story ‘The Sisters’ would be published in the Homestead, and enclosing a sovereign (£1) as payment.
Norman’s letter seems to have come in response to an inquiry from Joyce. In addition to asking whether the story had been accepted or not, Joyce may also have been concerned about whether it would be edited in any way since Norman told him that the only thing he would change was the name of the parish.
Presumably, Norman is referring to the name of the church in which Fr Flynn had formerly served. In the Irish Homestead it is given as St Ita’s Church which seems to be entirely fictional. Joyce later changed this to St Catherine’s Church, Meath Street, a very real church in a real Dublin parish. One way or another, Norman’s concern to change the name of the church/parish seems to have been the beginning of Joyce’s troubles with using the real names of actually existing people and places in his fiction.
The evolution of Joyce’s idea of writing short stories is not clear. Sometime in June or July 1904, he received a letter from George Russell who worked for the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society which published the Irish Homestead. Russell offered Joyce £1 each for stories of 1800 words suitable for the Homestead’s readership.
Also during the summer of 1904 Joyce wrote to his friends Constantine Curran to say that he was writing a series of ‘epicleti’ called Dubliners, and that so far he had finished one of them, presumably referring to ‘The Sisters.’ Whether it was the first story written or not, it was the first story published, appearing in the Irish Homestead on 13 August 1904.
Sources & Further Reading:
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Joyce, James: Dubliners – Text, Criticism, Notes, edited by Robert Scholes & A Walton Litz, Viking Critical Library, London: Penguin Books, 1996.
– – : Letters of James Joyce, vol. I, edited by Stuart Gilbert, London: Faber & Faber, 1957.