On this day…31 July

On 31 July 1906 Joyce and his family arrived in Rome.

Joyce had left Trieste and his work at the Berlitz School to take up a job in the correspondence department of the Nast-Kolb Schumacher Bank in Rome. Joyce’s early favourable impressions of Rome soon changed, but his seven-month stay in Rome marked an important phase in his writing career.

Joyce and Nora and their one-year-old son Giorgio left Trieste for Fiume (now Rijeka in Croatia), then crossed by boat to Ancona on the Italian coast, sleeping outside on the deck of the ship. From Ancona at 9.30 in the morning Joyce sent his brother a postcard, but his impression of Ancona was not good. He reckoned he’d been swindled three times between the pier and the railway station, by a money-changer, a cabman and a railway official. He felt there was something Irish about the ugliness of the town.

The Joyces continued their journey by train from Ancona to Rome, and twelve hours later he sent another postcard, to announce their safe arrival in Rome and his new address, lodging at Signora Dufour’s at via Frattina 52. Having settled himself and his family, Joyce set out for the Nast-Kolb Schumacher Bank, on corner of via S. Claudio near Piazza Colonna. Unsure of his way, he was probably pleased to find himself passing the house in which Shelley had written Prometheus Unbound and The Cenci.

When he arrived at the bank, he was interviewed by the elder Schumacher partner (who was also the consul for Austria-Hungary) who wanted to know his age, if his father was still alive, and whether Dublin Lord Mayor Timothy Harrington, from whom Joyce had a letter of reference, was a family friend. In fact, the letter from Harrington had been written in December 1902, when Joyce was leaving Dublin for Paris for the first time.

The interview over, Joyce was given 65 lire for the journey and another 100 lire for expenses. His hours would be 8.30am to 12pm, and 2 to 7.30pm six days a week with Sundays off. Though Joyce found the streets confusing and got lost at first, he soon made out some of the tourist attractions of the city, including the Forum, the Coliseum, and St Peters, and he started to frequent the Café Greco, a spot popular in its time with Byron, Thackeray, and Ibsen.

Typically, Joyce had left a string of unpaid bills behind him in Trieste, and he issued instructions to Stanislaus on how to deal with the baker, the tailor, and two landlords over money that was owed. The Joyces remained in Rome until early March 1907 when they returned to Trieste.


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.