On this day…4 October

On 4 October 1904 Joyce offered ‘After the Race’ to the Irish Homestead.

‘After the Race’ was the third story Joyce offered to the Irish Homestead, and was the final story of his published by the Homestead. Joyce later revised the story, but claimed that it was one of the worst stories in Dubliners.

‘After the Race’ was based in part on an interview Joyce did with French racing driver Henri Fournier in Paris early in April 1903. Fournier was expected to take part in the Gordon Bennett Motor Race, which was to be held in Ireland in July. Joyce’s interview was the basis for an article, ‘The Motor Derby,’ which appeared in the Irish Times on 7 April 1903. One of the final questions Joyce asked Fournier was what he intended to do after the race.

Ireland had been chosen for the 1903 Gordon Bennett race to honour Selwyn Edge, the British driver who won the 1902 race. It was the first international motor race held in Ireland and took place on a 370-mile course around Carlow, Athy, Stradbally, Monasterevin, Kildare, and Kilcullen from 2 July 1903. Henri Fournier didn’t compete in the race, and Selwyn Edge was disqualified. The winner was Camille Jenatzy, a Belgian, who drove the German Mercedes car. He completed the course in 6 hours 36 minutes. Jenatzy had been the first man ever to drive at over 100km per hour in April 1899. French cars took second and third place, while a British car came fourth.

Joyce was back in Ireland when the race took place. There’s no evidence that he actually went to see it, but he may have come across members of the teams in Dublin around that time. However, the contrast between the European racers and races, and the Irish, gave him material for his story, at the beginning of which the continent speeds its wealth and industry through Irish poverty and inaction.

When Joyce gave the story ‘After the Race’ to Harry Norman, editor of the Irish Homestead, on 4 October 1904 he was desperate for money. He was preparing to elope with Nora Barnacle to Zurich where he believed a job was waiting for him at a Berlitz School, and he needed money for his own and Nora’s fares. On the same day, he wrote to George Russell, who was also involved with the Irish Homestead, telling him that he hoped Norman would pay for the story the following day, but asking Russell to help him out too.

The story was published in the Irish Homestead on 17 December 1904, and like ‘The Sisters’ and ‘Eveline’ it appeared under the name Stephen Daedalus. Joyce later revised the story before it was published in Dubliners but, even so, he later complained to his brother Stanislaus that ‘After the Race’ and ‘A Painful Case’ were the two worst stories in the book.


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.

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