On this day…4 August

On 4 August 1909 Joyce wrote about how he had been received at the start of his visit to Dublin.

Joyce arrived back in Dublin on 29 July 1909, bringing his four-year-old son Giorgio with him. It was his first visit to Dublin since leaving in October 1904, and Joyce was anxious that his old friends and acquaintances, some of whom had predicted he would come to no good, should see what a success he had made of himself. On 4 August, he wrote to his brother Stanislaus to let him know what their friends thought of him.

The very first sight to greet Joyce when he arrived on the pier at Kingstown was Oliver St John Gogarty’s fat back, but Joyce managed to avoid him. They met a few days later, however, though their accounts of the meeting differ. Joyce claimed he passed Gogarty on Merrion Square and Gogarty ran after him and started making a long and confused speech. Gogarty thought Joyce was ‘in phthisis,’ as he put it, meaning that he looked like he was wasting away.

Joyce went back to Gogarty’s house with him where Gogarty continued his ranting speech. Eventually Joyce told him that the people they had been years before were now dead and gone, and he assured him that he bore him no ill will. That said, he insisted that he would write what he pleased. Gogarty answered that he didn’t care what Joyce wrote about him as long as it was literature, and on this they shook hands and parted. They never met again.

While he was in Dublin, Joyce stayed with his family at 44 Fontenoy Street. His sister Eileen thought he was very foreign looking, and his Aunt Josephine thought he had lost all his boyishness.

Of his university friends, Joyce met Francis Sheehy Skeffington and his wife Hanna on the street. They invited him to their home but Joyce declined. Hanna thought he hadn’t changed at all, but Sheehy Skeffington thought he was somewhat blasé. Joyce visited Constantine Curran but found him unfriendly. Vincent Cosgrave thought Joyce looked in splendid health, while another University friend, Daniel Sheehan, thought Joyce had grown very thin. Tom Kettle was in the country and, though Joyce had written asking to see him, they hadn’t met yet. Nor had Joyce met up with John Francis Byrne.

He met George Russell and William Magee (John Eglinton), both of whom were friendly to him. Eglinton thought Joyce looked very ecclesiastical, while Russell thought he looked like a man of business.


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.