On this day…8 December

On 8 December 1908 Joyce wrote to his sister Margaret.

Joyce’s letter to his sister in December 1908 was aimed at a reconciliation with his father who was still unhappy about Joyce’s elopement in 1904. To make up, Joyce proposed sending his son Giorgio to Dublin for six weeks in the summer of 1909.

Margaret Joyce had taken over running the Joyce household after her mother’s death in 1903, and had found it difficult to manage her hard-drinking father. John Joyce had been disappointed not only to find that his son had eloped with a chambermaid in October 1904, but also that Joyce hadn’t wanted to tell him what he was doing. Perhaps out of annoyance, John Joyce didn’t send Joyce the usual birthday greetings in February 1905.

Even the birth of a grandson in 1905 didn’t reconcile Joyce and his father, though John Joyce certainly seemed proud of his new status as a grandfather. Margaret continued to urge Joyce to become reconciled with his father, and in this letter of 8 December 1908 Joyce decided to use his son as a means of reconciliation by sending him to Dublin in the summer of 1909.

Joyce suggested to Margaret that Georgie, as he called him, would go to Dublin for six weeks accompanied by Stanislaus, if Margaret thought that would make a difference to John Joyce. In case there was any fear that Giorgio and Stannie would be a burden on the impoverished Dublin household, Joyce assured her that all the costs of travel and board in Dublin would be covered.

Joyce’s hope was that Giorgio would have a good influence on John Joyce, and he fancied that all the other Joyces would be glad to make Giorgio’s acquaintance too. The plan was that Giorgio would go in July or August and be back in Trieste for the beginning of September. If Margaret thought it would be a good idea, and that it would effect a reconciliation with John Joyce, then Joyce would write directly to his father to tell him about it.

Giorgio, who was only three-and-a-half years old at the time, had already been told that he was being sent to Dublin, and apparently had gone around looking for a case in which to put his clothes for the journey to what he called ‘Dubirino.’ Joyce also told his brother Stanislaus of his plan, but Stanislaus was shrewd enough to realise that he would not be the one to accompany Giorgio when the time came, but that Joyce himself would make the trip.

In 1909, Joyce sent some photographs of Giorgio to the family in Dublin and, in response, received a letter from his father in which John Joyce said that, thanks to the photographs they had received, his feelings about Joyce and his elopement had undergone a change.


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.