On this day…25 June

On 25 June 1932 Joyce wrote to Harriet Weaver about his concerns over his daughter’s health.

Dr Maillard had diagnosed Lucia Joyce as suffering from schizophrenia at the end of May 1932, and during June Joyce’s concern for his daughter increased. Joyce expressed his concern in letters to a number of friends, but particularly to Harriet Weaver. In part, Joyce’s worries focused on the cost of Lucia’s treatment, and Weaver was the only one who could help with that.

At the end of May 1932, after diagnosing that Lucia was suffering from hebephrenic psychosis, Dr Maillard advised that Lucia should remain at his clinic where she would be kept isolated for a time. Joyce could not accept this and early in July 1932 he had Lucia and her nurse smuggled out of Maillard’s clinic. He travelled with them to Feldkirch in Austria, where his friends the Jolases were staying for the summer, and Lucia and her nurse remained at Feldkirch with the Jolases for the time being.

Joyce’s concerns were now multiple. He felt that Lucia’s condition could be improved by engaging her artistic talents, and he set about trying to find outlets for the initial capitals (or ‘lettrines’) that she designed. He encouraged her to work on designs for a complete alphabet and sought out a suitable work for her to illustrate with these ‘lettrines.’ He hoped that seeing her work published would give her confidence in herself and belie the diagnosis of schizophrenia.

At the same time, Joyce was also concerned about his own eyesight. Visiting Dr Vogt in Zurich after leaving Lucia at Feldkirch, the poor state of Joyce’s eyes was confirmed, and Vogt told him that two operations would be necessary. Not only were they necessary but they would be costly, and an even more immediate concern was to find the money to pay his bill at the Carlton Elite in Zurich where he was staying.

Weaver’s reaction to Joyce’s request for money was that he was throwing his money away, and Joyce countered by claiming that in addition to money for Lucia and his eye operations and his hotel, he also needed money for new false teeth and for a tombstone for his father. Weaver capitulated, and Joyce got the money he wanted. Nonetheless, the situation with Lucia remained a major concern for Joyce.


Sources & Further Reading:

Lidderdale, Jane & Mary Nicholson: Dear Miss Weaver – Harriet Shaw Weaver 1876-1961, London: Faber & Faber, 1970.

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