On this day…30 April

On 30 April 1918 Henry Carr complained to Sykes about Joyce.

The day after the successful first performance by the English Players, Henry Carr, who had played Algernon Moncrieff, complained to Claud Sykes about the payment Joyce had given him. Joyce was angered by this and the row with Carr escalated into two court cases.

When Sykes told Joyce of Carr’s complaint, Joyce went to the British Consulate where Carr worked. Joyce reminded Carr, in front of the other staff, that he owed money for tickets he had sold. Carr handed over part of the money due, and told Joyce he wanted a share of the profits from the performance and compensation for the trousers, hat and gloves he had bought to wear as a costume. When Joyce answered that these were not a costume but could be worn as everyday clothing, Carr lost his temper: he called Joyce a cad and a swindler and threatened to wring his neck if he met him on the street.

In a fit of indignation, Joyce wrote to the Consul-General, Percy Bennett, to complain about Carr’s behaviour, and wrote to the Zurich police asking to be protected from Carr. On 3 May Joyce went to the lawyer Konrad Bloch to file two suits against Carr: one for the 25 francs Carr owed for the tickets, and the other for libel. Carr countersued for 450 francs which he claimed was his share of the profits or, failing that, for 300 francs as his acting fee and the cost of his clothes.

A preliminary hearing was held in June but the trial, set for 8 July, had to be postponed as Joyce suffered a severe attack of iritis. When it went ahead on 15 October Joyce won easily and Carr was ordered to pay 60 francs to Joyce for his trouble and court costs of 39 francs. The court also rejected Carr’s countersuit.

At the beginning of December, Joyce’s second suit against Carr – for alleged libel – came to court. By this time, Carr had left the country and the other witnesses could not confirm what Joyce claimed Carr had said. Bloch advised Joyce to drop the case, which he eventually did, but in February 1919 the court insisted that Joyce pay court costs of 59 francs and a further 120 francs in damages to Carr.

Joyce refused to pay up and in April the court ordered that his goods be seized. When an officer of the court arrived at Joyce’s apartment, Joyce pointed out that all the furniture was rented, that he needed his books for his work as a writer, and that the typewriter he had was necessary because of his poor eyesight. The officer asked to see Joyce’s wallet, and took 50 of the 100 francs Joyce had in it. This finally brought the Carr saga to an end.

Joyce was not about to forgive or forget, and took his revenge by giving the name Harry Carr to the British soldier who assaults Stephen Dedalus in the ‘Circe’ episode of Ulysses. He also puts some abusive words about Bennett into Carr’s mouth.

Tom Stoppard’s play Travesties centres around Henry Carr and his experiences of Joyce and the English Players’ production of The Importance of Being Earnest.


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

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

Stoppard, Tom: Travesties, London: Faber & Faber, 1974.