On this day…9 June

On 9 June 1936 Joyce wrote to Harriet Weaver about his family problems.

Joyce’s letters to Harriet Weaver often became litanies of personal problems that he was suffering, and this letter is no exception. In it, he instances problems concerning his brother Stanislaus, his son George, and his daughter Lucia.

In the middle of April 1936, Stanislaus Joyce, now a professor of English at the University of Trieste, was told that he was being suspended from his position and that he would have to leave Italy. Stanislaus was no friend of fascism but he was surprised at being asked to leave Italy. He had contacted Joyce, intending that if his expulsion went ahead he and his wife (and their bulldog, according to Joyce who had no love of dogs) would come and stay in Paris. Joyce told Weaver he was expecting Stanislaus to arrive in a week, but as it turned out the order was lifted and Stanislaus was allowed to resume his position at the University.

George Joyce had an operation on his throat at the end of May 1936, as a result of which, Joyce told Weaver, he had been told to rest in bed or on a couch for four or five months. George had an unstabilised bass voice and, after a singing engagement in America in 1934, he developed a throat condition which led to the operation in May 1936. The operation was a success but one of the consequences was a shift in his voice from bass to baritone.

As for Lucia, she had been staying with the Jolases until mid-March 1936 when she was moved to Dr Delmas’ clinic at Ivry where she remained for the next three years. Lucia’s twenty-ninth birthday was approaching and with it the promised publication of her Chaucer ABC. Joyce was determined to see the publication through not because he wanted to convince Lucia she was a Cézanne but so that she would see that her past had not been a failure. This, he told Weaver, might also help Lucia to see that her future was not blank and this might help her mental condition.

Lucia’s incarceration obviously had a bad effect on Joyce. From May right through the summer of 1936 he remained in seclusion, and often complained of depression. This in turn often impacted on his writing, making it impossible for him to work on Finnegans Wake.

Curiously, Joyce claimed that his children were suffering from some strange illness which, he said, the doctors had traced back to their time in Zurich during the First World War. He told Weaver that, if neither of his children had been able to make anything of their lives, this mystery illness was to blame, not them.


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. III, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.


One thought on “On this day…9 June

  1. There was a photograph taken outside Davy Byrnes Pub, on Duke Street, opposite The Bailey Pub, for Time Life Magazine for Dominic Behan who was covering the event for them, on a freelance contract for the day of the official opening of the James Joyce Tower when Sylvia Beech was the Guest of Honour out at Michael Scott’s house , in his front garden at The Tower in question.
    I am trying to get a copy of that Photograph: showing: Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh, Louis McNeice,(Poer Laureat UK), Myself and my then girlfriend, with an American actor friend , getting into the Guinness jarvey outside of Davy Byrnes ! In which we spent travelled and spent many raucous hours making our way out via sandymount, pass IMCo, through Blackrock village , along the coastline at Seapoint and out finally to attend the official celebration in the large, erected Tent in Michael Scott’s residence :late ! The Chief executive Officer of TimeLife ( Isolde )told me some years back they no longer keep files (in TimeLife magazine) going back that far. So I am looking to find out where, if at all, that photograph (overseen and taken for or by Dominic Behan) could be ?
    Any help ,from any quarter ,would be great;as a notable birthday tookfopr me last Monbday 9th 2014.
    Thanking you, one and all… Most of us, of that period who frequented The Bailey, Neary’s, Davy Byrnes, The Coffee Inn and environs are reduced to a handful of persons alive today.
    But still delighting in life and, of life, of the exuberant joy it was of discovering a new author or new breed of writing in poem ,prose or theatre.

    Thankling you,
    B K *
    dublin june 11 2014.
    at 14;33 hrs and sending

Comments are closed.