On this day…6 November

On 6 November 1906 Joyce wrote to his brother Stanislaus from Rome.

While living in Rome in 1906 and 1907, Joyce wrote frequently to his brother Stanislaus back in Trieste. The letters updated Stanislaus on Joyce’s reading and writing, on his personal and family affairs, and on topics of the day. The letter to Stanislaus on 6 November 1906 is typical of this correspondence.

Joyce started with domestic economy: he had given Nora 50 lira which he expected would last her a fortnight. After only four days, she had spent half of it, though she had bought some things that would last them for a while. The money, however, didn’t last and a week later Joyce had to ask Stanislaus to help out. Despite an advance from a pupil, Joyce was broke again by the time the funds from Stanislaus arrived on 20 November.

As to progress with his work, he had sent his poems to Elkin Mathews, and a barrister, St Lo Malet, had advised him against trying to sue Grant Richards who, in October, had finally decided not to publish Dubliners.

Joyce had read George Gissing’s Demos and found it boring, and though he felt he had little to learn from English novelists he also planned to read Arthur Morrison, Thomas Hardy, and William Thackeray. Of Irish authors, Joyce hoped to read Seumas O’Kelly, Charles Kickham, Gerald Griffin, William Carleton, John Banim, and HJ Smyth, and wondered if he should then go on to read Russian or Danish writers next.

He had news from Dublin of Francis Sheehy Skeffington and his father-in-law David Sheehy protesting against ‘God Save the King,’ and, anxious for reminders of Dublin life, he had asked Aunt Josephine to send him any tram tickets, adverts, handbills, posters, papers, and programmes she could find. He also wanted a map of Dublin for his wall.

Turning to Irish politics Joyce claimed that Sinn Féin’s policies would prove more effective than parliamentary agitation, but added that ‘either Sinn Féin or Imperialism will conquer the present.’ He said he would consider himself a nationalist if the nationalist programme didn’t insist on the Irish language, but he also felt content to see himself as an exile. On Gogarty’s involvement with Sinn Féin, Joyce told Stanislaus he expected Gogarty to take on the traditional role of the betrayer.

Shifting to a discussion of socialism, Joyce brought up the work of Italian criminologist Enrico Ferri and Italian Marxist Antonio Labriola, and gave his opinion of military spending in England, Italy and Japan. From this he skipped to the family in Dublin: Joyce wanted some errands run and wondered if his brother Charlie could manage them. In any case, Joyce seemed unsure where the family were living now, and for that matter he’s not even sure of Aunt Josephine’s address.

He then detailed 16-month-old Giorgio’s progress, told Stanislaus he regretted having no one to talk to about Dublin, and added that ‘After the Race’ and ‘A Painful Case’ were the worst stories. By way of a PS he informed Stanislaus he had had to spend another lira on a purgative to remedy his constipation!


Sources & Further Reading:
Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. II edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.