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Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks: James Joyce, Ulysses

21 April 2015

Published in 1922 in Paris, Ulysses showed that universal experiences were to be found, not with gods or heroes, but in mundane urban lives.

In this week’s 100 Artworks Fintan O’Toole looks at how James Joyce showed that universal experiences were to be found, not with gods or heroes, but in mundane urban lives.

Catch up on the 100 Artworks series here.

Learn more about the Art and Architecture of Ireland project and have a look at our introductory video.

In this week’s 100 Artworks Fintan O’Toole looks at how James Joyce showed that universal experiences were to be found, not with gods or heroes, but in mundane urban lives.

Learn more about James Joyce from his biography in the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Here’s a sneak peak at this week’s 100 Artworks entry:

‘In December 1922 Dublin formally became the capital of the new Irish Free State. Ten months earlier, when James Joyce’s Ulysses was published in Paris, Dublin had already become the capital of the universe. Joyce told Arthur Power, “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.”

Implied in this was something much more radical than a parochial defiance of the great imperial cities. Joyce was showing in Ulysses that, in the modern world, universal experiences were to be found not with gods or heroes but in the particulars of everyday urban lives. His book is a dazzling compendium of the mundane, from the graveyard to the maternity hospital, from bodily fluids to global trade, from dirty minds to elevated thoughts, from newspapers to popular song, from mockery and infidelity to kindness and love.’

Read the article in full here.

James Joyce, by Bruce Bradley

Joyce, James (Augustine Aloysius)) (1882–1941), writer, was born 2 February 1882 in 41 Brighton Square, Rathgar, Dublin, eldest surviving child among four sons and six daughters of John Stanislaus Joyce (qv), from Cork, and May Joyce (née Murray), from Dublin. His mother also had several miscarriages, the first before James was born. John Stanislaus, an only child, had inherited properties in Cork. At the time of his marriage in 1880, he was described in the certificate as a ‘gentleman’ and, apart from a position in the Collector of Rates office, acquired at this time, he never had any other settled employment. After the death of his political hero Charles Stewart Parnell (qv) in October 1891, he lost the position and was pensioned off on a modest allowance at the age of only 42. By then there were eight children and the family's increasingly rapid decline into poverty, marked by frequent changes of address, began soon after. Parnell would loom large in James Joyce's imagination as a writer, a noble, mythic figure, standing firm and aloof before the priestly and other powers which betrayed him. In the image of Parnell, Joyce saw his own reflection.

Education and early development While the family was still prosperous and living at 1 Martello Terrace, Bray, Co. Wicklow, in the autumn of 1888, Joyce was sent to Clongowes Wood College, the Jesuit boarding school in Co. Kildare. He was so young – ‘half-past six’ on arrival, as he would inform his companions – that he remained in the same class for three years and had just moved up a grade when the disruption in his father's financial situation led to his removal at Christmas 1891. Despite his precocious intelligence, his passage through the school was less blameless and self-absorbed than that of Stephen Dedalus, his high-minded fictional counterpart in his first novel, A portrait of the artist as a young man. On one occasion, he was punished for ‘vulgar language’, an offence which he would continue to commit in his writings all his life.

For about a year, when the Joyces were living in ‘Leoville’, 23 Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, he was permitted to study by himself, while his younger siblings went to the local convent school. About the beginning of 1893, as mortgage followed mortgage on the Cork properties and the family continued to expand, they crossed to the north side of the Liffey, at first to lodgings and then to their last ‘good’ address, 14 Fitzgibbon St., off Mountjoy Square. From here James and his younger brother Stanislaus (qv) briefly attended O'Connell Schools, run by the Irish Christian Brothers, an episode he chose to mask in his fiction. In April a chance meeting between his father and Fr John Conmee (qv), who had known him in Clongowes, led to the transfer without fees of both Joyce boys (followed in due course by their younger brothers Charles and George) to the Jesuits’ less fashionable day school Belvedere College nearby.

Joyce spent five years and a term there, from 1893 until 1898, and soon established himself as an unusually gifted student, winning prizes and exhibitions in all four grades of the intermediate examination system. In Mr George Dempsey's class in preparatory grade (1893–4), he read Lamb's Adventures of Ulysses and wrote an essay on Homer's protagonist as his ‘favourite hero’. The family moved again – in March 1894 to 2 Millbourne Avenue, in the suburb of Drumcondra, not far away, and then, in the autumn, back into the city, to 17 North Richmond St., round the corner from Fitzgibbon St., where they remained until Joyce finished school. By the following year, in junior grade, he had begun to write poetry and, later, a series of short sketches, which he entitled ‘Silhouettes’.

Joyce's active sexual life began precociously early, probably around the age of 14. The school retreat in December 1896 focused a harsh light on his morally ambiguous situation, since, in the previous September, he had been elected prefect of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which made him virtual captain of the school. The rector of the college, Fr William Henry, who had some inkling of his star pupil's extra-curricular pursuits but was also aware of his religious leanings, invited him to consider a Jesuit vocation, probably in the winter of 1897. But by then, more amenable to the influence of his father's anticlericalism than his mother's gentle piety and feeling unable to obey the catholic church's precepts concerning sexual behaviour, Joyce had begun to distance himself from religious practice and to cast off what he later characterised as nets restraining his true nature. He would later claim that, by the summer of 1898, when he finished school with disappointing senior grade results apart from English, he had left the church.

From 1898 to 1902 he attended University College, the Jesuit-run institution on St Stephen's Green, which prepared a small but intellectually lively community of students for the examinations of the RUI. His contemporaries, many of whom had been with him at Clongowes and Belvedere, included John Francis Byrne (qv), George Clancy (qv), Vincent Cosgrave, Oliver St John Gogarty (qv), and Francis Skeffington (qv), all of whom appear under pseudonyms in his novels, as well as others who would later enjoy some eminence, such as Arthur Clery (qv), Felix Hackett (qv), Hugh Kennedy (qv), Thomas Kettle (qv) and P. H. Pearse (qv). Pearse gave Irish classes which Joyce briefly attended. Constantine Curran (qv), a staunch friend throughout his life, and Eugene Sheehy (qv), whose father's hospitable house he often visited in these years and whose family (including his sister Mary, to whom Joyce was attracted at the time) are also depicted in his novels, matriculated shortly after him. This was a considerably more distinguished group than his fiction would acknowledge. He himself took easily to the demands of the modern languages curriculum in English, French, and Italian which he was officially studying. He read widely outside his course, as he had already begun to do while still at school, and fell increasingly under the spell of such great modernists as Henrik Ibsen, Gabriele d'Annunzio and Gerhart Hauptmann. His deepening familiarity with European literature and his growing confidence in his own vocation as literary artist date from these years.

His paper ‘Drama and life’, delivered to the Literary and Historical Society in January 1900, included an eloquent apologia for Ibsen and first brought him to public prominence in the university. In April, when he was barely 18, his review of Ibsen's most recent play, ‘When we dead awaken’ (1899), was published in the Fortnightly Review. Ibsen himself saw Joyce's piece and thanked him, through the good offices of his translator, William Archer. Joyce responded to the master in tones of rapt fervour in a letter which he drafted in English and then translated into Dano-Norwegian himself. In Ibsen he found encouragement to express in his writings the raw truth of experience with a candour which would increasingly distance him from the conventions of nineteenth-century literary propriety and the social and cultural orthodoxies by which he felt himself hedged in.

Although Joyce's early contemporaries remembered his capacity for uproarious laughter and his sense of the comic, which was to be so prominent in his later novels, he was influenced by D'Annunzio in the cultivation of the solitary, detached, intellectually superior air he chose to assume among his fellow-students at this period. This also helped to insulate him from the humiliating squalor of life at home. Most of his university years were spent at different addresses in the less fashionable northside suburb of Fairview: 29 Windsor Avenue for some eight months, until the summer of 1899; Convent Avenue and 13 Richmond Avenue for six months apiece, both shared with another family in a similar position to the Joyces themselves; and 8 Royal Terrace from May 1900 until towards the end of 1901.

In May 1899, following the premiere of ‘The Countess Cathleen’ by W. B. Yeats (qv), first production of the newly-founded Irish Literary Theatre, a letter of protest was sent to the Freeman's Journal in the name of ‘Dublin catholic students of Royal University’, some of whom had already made their feelings known during the performance itself. Joyce, who had been present, was one of those who refused to sign, rejecting what he regarded as the bigoted religious nationalism which lay behind the protest. In October 1901, disappointed by the theatre's unadventurous repertoire, he wrote a strong denunciation for the university magazine St Stephen's, ‘The day of the rabblement’. A reference to d'Annunzio's Il fuoco, at that time on the Vatican index, led to its rejection, an early experience of the censorship with which he would battle for much of his life, so Joyce had it printed privately a week later, along with a tract on women's rights by Skeffington.

His highly sympathetic presentation of James Clarence Mangan (qv) to the Literary and Historical Society in February 1902 confirmed his own status as a literary figure of unchallengeable authority among his fellow-students, and this time it was published by St Stephen's. But tragedy now struck his family. They had moved from Fairview to 32 Glengariff Parade, off the North Circular Road, in late 1901. There, on 9 March 1902, Joyce's gifted youngest brother George died of peritonitis at the age of only 14. Joyce had sat with him, singing his musical setting for Yeats's poem ‘Who will go drive with Fergus now?’, as the young boy lay in his last illness. This was one of several such settings, of his own poems as well as those of others, which he was composing at the time. Deeply affected by George's death, he would call his own son Giorgio after him.

In June 1902 he sat his BA examinations, emerging with an undistinguished pass. Between the time of his graduation and his final departure for the continent of Europe in October 1904, Joyce's life moved uncertainly in several directions, as he tried medicine, literature, and music in turn. His brief flirtation with medical studies began in Dublin and then continued, improbably, in Paris, where he went, on impulse, in December 1902. Lady Gregory (qv) – to whom, like Yeats, George Russell (qv) and George Moore (qv), eminences of the Anglo-Irish revival, he had managed to make himself known – persuaded the editor of the Dublin Daily Express to give him books for review. This, combined with his first tentative efforts at language teaching, barely enabled him to live. The idea of medicine was soon abandoned and he spent much of his time in the great Paris libraries, reading Ben Jonson, along with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, and developing the aesthetic theories he would expound in his early novels. He also put his theories to work and wrote some of what he called ‘epiphanies’, descriptions of those glancing moments in which the inner life beneath the most ordinary experience is revealed. Many of these, too, he later worked into his novels. The Paris adventure ended abruptly in April 1903 with a telegram from his father to say that May Joyce was dying and to call him home to 7 St Peter's Terrace, the small house a short distance from Glengariff Parade to which the family had moved the previous October. Aware of the pain he had caused her by rejecting the religion in which she had tried to raise him, his mother's death in August left him with feelings of guilt and remorse which would surface later in his writing.

He did not return to Paris but began a bout of drinking in the company of medical students of his acquaintance, including Oliver St John Gogarty, whom he first met around this time at the National Library. His work as reviewer, suspended after a gracelessly hostile piece on a book by his benefactor Lady Gregory and then resumed for a few months more, finally came to an end in November, following a show of impertinence to the editor, E. V. Longworth. An offer of tutorial work from Skeffington, now registrar in University College, was declined on the fanciful basis that it was some kind of bribe from the Jesuit authorities.

Turning points: music, Nora Barnacle, the Continent The composition of an autobiographical essay entitled ‘A portrait of the artist’ on 7 January 1904 marked a turning point in his writing career. Although quickly rejected for publication in the first issue of Dana by W. K. Magee (qv), it became the spur to begin writing an expanded, novel-length version, which – at the suggestion of Stanislaus – he called ‘Stephen Hero’. His drinking abated and, although continuing to work at his novel, he now turned his attention to music. Gifted with a fine tenor voice, like his father, from whom he also inherited a lifelong interest in opera, he entered the Feis Ceoil in May. Unable to sight-read, he gained only third place but, retaining slightly vague ambitions to make a career out of singing, he continued lessons and shared the platform with John McCormack (qv) in the Antient Concert Rooms during Horse Show week in August. This was to be the high water mark of his musical achievements. By then his interests were moving elsewhere.

Joyce's first formal meeting with Nora Barnacle (qv) from Galway seems to have taken place on the never-to-be-forgotten date of 16 June, later used to set the events recounted in Ulysses. Nora, two years his junior, was the daughter of Thomas Barnacle, a baker, and Annie Healy, a seamstress and dressmaker. She was working as a maid in Finn's Hotel on Nassau St. when they met. Although Nora was poorly educated and uncultured by comparison with himself, he was strongly attracted by her natural manner, strong-minded directness, and quick wit, and they continued to meet, with growing affection, throughout the summer and early autumn. A request from George Russell, who had had sight of some of Joyce's early efforts in prose and verse, including ‘Stephen Hero’, to write a story for the Irish Homestead gave his literary career new impetus. ‘The sisters’, the first story of what he planned as a series of ten, for which he had already chosen the title ‘Dubliners’, appeared in August under the pseudonym ‘Stephen Daedalus’. As he put it to Curran at the time, the book was to ‘betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city’ (Selected letters, 22). ‘Eveline’ was published a month later. To enable him to complete ‘Stephen Hero’, left in abeyance since the spring, Gogarty offered him accommodation in his recently leased Martello tower in Sandymount in September. But the arrangement ended acrimoniously with Joyce's ejection after a week. This reinforced resentment he already felt towards Gogarty, and he would take his revenge in the depiction of ‘stately plump Buck Mulligan’ in Ulysses.

Now convinced that his future as a writer lay outside the narrow confines of Ireland, Joyce eloped with Nora Barnacle on 8 October to continental Europe. Having failed to find the language teaching positions he thought he had been promised, first in Zurich and then in Trieste, he was sent at the end of the month by the Berlitz director Almidano Artifoni to his new foundation at Pola. In this naval port of the Austro-Hungarian empire, where he lived first at Via Giulia 2, near the school, and then, from early in the new year, shared a bigger apartment at Via Medolino 7 with his colleague Alessandro Francini Bruni and his family, he taught English to naval officers while continuing work on his novel and short stories. ‘After the race’ was published in December, still signed pseudonymously, but ‘Clay’, the fourth story, completed in Pola, was turned down and Russell would accept no more of Joyce's strange, plotless, faintly subversive compositions. In the spring of 1905 he was transferred to the Berlitz school in Trieste. Joyce always wrote about Dublin and would wonder later whether he had, in any real sense, ever left his native city. Alone among the places of exile in which he spent his adult life, the bustling, almost oriental, cosmopolitanism of Trieste and its busy commercial port would leave its mark on his imagination, in Ulysses above all, the great novel of his maturity begun there.

Giorgio Joyce was born on 27 July 1905, while his parents were living at Via San Nicolò 30, beside the Berlitz school. They had been thrown out of their tiny apartment around the corner in Piazza Ponterosso 3 in late April, on account of Nora's pregnancy. To help support his family, Joyce taught as many as ten classes a day and tried to continue his writing, working more or less simultaneously on ‘Dubliners’ and ‘Stephen Hero’. Stanislaus, the only member of his family to whom he was ever close, came to Trieste at his urging at the end of October, to offer assistance to the household and to make his own way in the world, away from the stifling constrictions of Dublin. But financial problems in the language school, where Stanislaus had also found work, and frustration at having to try to write and support his family at the same time, made Joyce restless. In February 1906 he agreed to share a flat once more with the Francini Bruni family, now in Trieste, at Via Giovanni Boccacio 1, beside the railway station, and Stanislaus joined them. At the end of July 1906, when Artifoni indicated that he was unable to go on paying two English teachers, Joyce applied for a clerical job in the Austrian Nast, Kolb & Schumacher Bank and moved his family to Rome, leaving Stanislaus behind. Still poverty-ridden, despite frequent recourse to his younger brother's long-suffering generosity, out of sympathy with his surroundings, and, for the most part, unable to write anything at all, he returned to Trieste in early March 1907.

He now had a minor breakthrough when a collection of his poems, ‘Chamber music’, was accepted for publication. Several of these slight, delicately crafted lyrics, with an almost Elizabethan flavour, and essentially uninfluenced by the Celtic movement then in the ascendant, had appeared in various magazines in the summer and autumn before he and Nora had left Dublin. Through the good offices of Arthur Symons, to whom Yeats had introduced Joyce, Elkin Mathews agreed to accept the poems and, despite the author's last-minute scruples, which the dutiful Stanislaus had to argue him out of, they were published in May 1907. Having spent a week sharing an apartment with Stanislaus and the Francini Brunis at Via San Nicolò 32, the Joyces and their son were now living nearby in Via Nuova 45, intended as temporary lodgings but where they stayed until towards the end of the year.

Dubliners; A portrait of the artist as a young man Joyce's commitment to his verses waned steadily as his absorption and sureness of touch in fiction grew. In the summer of 1905 he completed what he called the ‘University episode’ and then set his novel aside. Between the end of June and the beginning of December 1905 he added eight more stories to the four written earlier and sent off all twelve to Grant Richards, promising another two to follow. The effort to publish ‘Dubliners’ was to become a deeply frustrating saga, lasting almost as long as Joyce's sojourn in Trieste. Richards quickly signed a contract in February 1906 but then began to have second thoughts, owing to the sexual candour and vulgarity of some of Joyce's language. Finally, having failed to persuade the author to modify certain passages, he retracted his agreement in October. In April 1909 Joyce sent the manuscript to George Roberts (qv) of Maunsel & Co. in Dublin, with the addition of his greatest story, ‘The dead’, the idea for which had come to him in Rome. Despite initial misgivings, Roberts signed a contract in August but then began to raise difficulties in his turn, in particular because of Joyce's use of proper names, and references to local landmarks and the British royal family, and to demand changes and omissions, most of which Joyce was unwilling to make

On 26 July 1907 Nora bore the couple's second child, Lucia. For some months Joyce combined part-time hours in the Berlitz with private tuition, numbering among his pupils some of Trieste's leading personalities. Increasingly sought-after in this role, despite his eccentric methods, he resigned from the school itself in September to concentrate on his private students. In the spring of 1907 he wrote a series of articles on Irish politics for Il Piccolo della Sera, at the request of the editor Roberto Prezioso, one of his pupils. The anti-imperial position he espoused harmonised with the paper's own irredentist views, as Prezioso intended, while clearly opposing the tradition of physical force, something always deeply repugnant to Joyce. In his early years abroad, he saw himself as a socialist and followed political events in Ireland with some interest, even though he always claimed to have been driven into exile by his countrymen. The son of an ardent Parnellite, he was opinionated and knowledgeable about Irish history and literature and drew on this background for his Piccolo articles and a lecture he gave at Università Popolare Triestina in April on ‘Ireland: island of saints and sages’. In later life he came increasingly to regard politics as something destructive, a distraction from the great matters about which he himself was writing, and he would not engage in political discussion.


Late in 1907 Joyce moved the family into a larger apartment in Via Santa Caterina 1 and persuaded Stanislaus to join them. Despite continuing financial difficulties and the requirement of a large deposit, he moved again in March 1909, east to Via Vincenzo Scussa 8. From here, in the summer, he paid his first return visit to Ireland with Giorgio, hoping to make progress with the publication of ‘Dubliners’ while there. He met several of his former acquaintances, some of whom, remembering the circumstances of his departure and his reputation, kept their distance. Vincent Cosgrave took the opportunity to imply that Nora had not been faithful to Joyce in the months of courtship, a deeply hurtful suggestion which precipitated a series of anguished, jealously accusatory letters to Trieste, until John F. Byrne convinced him that he was the victim of a malevolent deception. But his deep-laid propensity to suspect disloyalty had been reinforced, and the theme of cuckoldry and betrayal would re-echo in his writings.

He persuaded his sister Eva, not yet 18, to come back with him to Trieste in September to help Nora, now minding two small children. A chance remark of Eva's led him to go back to Dublin five weeks later to open its first cinema, the Volta in Mary St., having persuaded some wealthy Triestines to back him. Despite his not inconsiderable entrepreneurial skills, the venture – from which he had hoped to improve his own financial situation – failed in the spring, a few months after his own return to Trieste in January 1910. This time he brought 21-year-old Eileen Joyce with him. She was destined to stay and marry but Eva eventually went home in July 1911, after the death from typhoid fever in June of the youngest Joyce sibling, Mabel, at the age of only 17. The previous August, Joyce had moved to a new apartment, Via della Barriera Vecchia 32 (later Alfredo Oriani 2), nearer the centre of Trieste, and stayed there until September 1912.

In mid July 1912 he went to Ireland for the last time, still in pursuit of the publication of ‘Dubliners’ and too lonely to remain in Trieste with Giorgio, once Nora, from whom he could not bear to be separated, had taken a trip home with Lucia. He spent a month with them in Galway, during which he and Nora went to the Galway races and the Aran Islands, and Joyce cycled to Oughterard to visit the graveyard where Michael Furey in ‘The dead’ is buried. A series of acrimonious meetings with George Roberts in Dublin followed, culminating in the publisher's final refusal to proceed further with the book. His treatment of Joyce and the behaviour of the printer, John Falconer, who had destroyed the sheets rather than hand them over – although not before Joyce was able to retrieve one set – provoked the angry broadside ‘Gas from a burner’. This was composed in September on Joyce's forlorn journey back to Trieste, where he had fifty copies printed and sent to his brother Charles in Dublin for distribution to appropriate recipients.

In September 1907, shortly after writing his masterpiece ‘The dead’, he had begun to recast completely the by now far too diffuse ‘Stephen Hero’ in the much more tightly-constructed form of ‘A portrait of the artist as a young man’. In the new version of his Bildungsroman, the episodic progression of ‘Stephen Hero’ was replaced by a series of carefully arranged, symbolically weighted movements within each of the book's five chapters and within the book as a whole. He had already decided in September 1905 to arrange his ‘Dubliners’ stories in a progression from childhood, through adolescence to mature, public life. Now, in ‘A portrait’, the viewpoint and style themselves develop as his fictional counterpart Stephen Dedalus grows from the baby talk of infancy, through early schooldays and adolescence, to his years at university and the climactic decision, confided (with grand undergraduate earnestness) to his diary, to go into exile. But Joyce's narrative voice in the new form of the novel conveys a subtler critical distance between Stephen and himself. Anticipating his use of classical motif in Ulysses, his protagonist's family name, already used in ‘Stephen Hero’, was taken from Ovid's ‘Metamorphoses’, book VIII, which Joyce had read in senior grade at school. The theme of the artist who escapes by means of his craft from the grasp of forces which threaten to destroy him, like Dedalus fleeing from the king of Crete, was clearly signalled in the book's epigraph. By the time Joyce visited Dublin for the last time in 1912, ‘A portrait’ was nearing completion.

In mid September 1912, no more successful than his father in securing a permanent abode for his family and, as he had often been, under pressure from an irate landlord looking for unpaid rent, Joyce moved once more, south to Via Donato Bramante 4, his eighth address in Trieste and the nearest he came to having a permanent home there. The family did not move again until they left for Zurich almost three years later. Stanislaus, on whose initiative the move had been made, was becoming increasingly resentful of his brother's heavy presumptions on his patience and resourcefulness, as well as his purse, and began to distance himself and establish his independence in the city where he was destined to spend the rest of his life. By the beginning of 1914 political tensions were developing in Trieste, reflecting the fraught international situation, and rows – some violent – occasionally broke out between Italian and Slav students in the Scuola Commerciale di Perfezionamento ‘Revoltella’, where Joyce had taken up part-time teaching in October 1910. Yet, as the world moved towards war, Joyce's own annus mirabilis was about to dawn.

In December 1913, after contact from Yeats, Ezra Pound, who would be one of Joyce's most resourceful supporters until he tired of the adulation with which the author of Ulysses gradually became surrounded in Paris, wrote to express an interest in his work. Through Pound's influence, in February 1914, The Egoist, with which he was involved in London, began serial publication of ‘A portrait’ in twenty-five fifteen-page instalments. Meanwhile, after a lapse of years, there was renewed contact with Grant Richards about ‘Dubliners’, and its publication was at last agreed. The book, in which Joyce's remarkably acute social and psychological insight and subtle mastery of language, mood, and form were already clearly visible, finally appeared on 14 June 1914, with none of the once-feared public repercussions. Soon afterwards, he put the finishing touches to ‘A portrait’.


Perhaps encouraged by his success with Dubliners and anxious about the troubled political situation in Ireland in the wake of the Curragh mutiny there in the spring, he sent his Piccolo articles, with additions made since 1912, to a publisher of socialist sympathies in Genoa. But there was no reply and the projected book, to be entitled L'Irlanda alla sbarra (Ireland in the dock), never appeared. Grant Richards, who had once expressed interest in his novel, turned down ‘A portrait’, judging the times unpropitious for the launch of such an experimental work. In late 1914 Joyce seems to have written up his notes for ‘Giacomo Joyce’, the brief, impressionistic record of what was at most a flirtation, perhaps largely imagined, with one of his young women students. Reflecting events of the previous three years, it was possibly never intended for publication. But, if profligate with money, he was never given to wasting his own creative material and later mined the novelette for use in some of his other work, including his play ‘Exiles’. His earliest drafts for this were made in 1913 and he now returned to it. ‘Giacomo Joyce’ would be published many years later in 1968, with an introduction and notes by Richard Ellmann (qv).

Ulysses; Zurich In mid 1915, with Dubliners in print, ‘A portrait’ completed, the school closed, and the city emptying as the war spread, Joyce began to write ‘Ulysses’. He had originally envisaged a story for Dubliners on this theme. The idea had first come to him as a short story in Rome but he had never developed it beyond the title. It seems at first to be a continuation of the previous novel, picking up Stephen's story some years later. But the focus widens in the fourth episode as we meet the book's central figure, the Jewish advertisement-canvasser Leopold Bloom. The potential of the stream of consciousness technique, or monologue intérieur, as the French critic Valéry Larbaud would call it, which Joyce had already made limited use of in ‘A portrait’, is now brought to full realisation as Bloom moves through an ordinary day in Dublin. Joyce claimed to have derived the technique from Édouard Dujardin's 1888 novel Les lauriers sont coupés, which he had originally read on his first visit to Paris in 1903. A huge cast of characters, some taken from Dubliners as well as from ‘A portrait’, share the day and the city with Bloom. Joyce took the device of using classical myth as a kind of subterranean commentary on the main action much further than in ‘A portrait’. The density with which he conveys the inner life of Bloom, mock-heroic in his tawdry littleness by contrast with his Homeric counterpart and at the same time a kind of Everyman in his doggedly decent humanity, as well as the daring experiment with different styles through successive episodes of ‘Ulysses’, foreshadowed the even more ambitious project Joyce would later undertake in ‘Finnegans Wake’.

But before he could bring ‘Ulysses’ beyond the beginning of the third chapter, or put the finishing touches to ‘Exiles’, as the war closed round them, he and his family were forced to become exiles themselves from what Joyce was by then able to call la nostra bella Trieste (Selected letters, 170). Stanislaus, indiscreet in his profession of irredentist views, had already been interned and Eileen had married a Czech banker, Frantisek Schaurek, in April (with Joyce standing as best man in the religious wedding ceremony), and gone to Prague. With crucial assistance from influential Triestines who were both his students and his friends, Joyce was able to leave the city on 27 June 1915 and take his family to Zurich in neutral Switzerland for the duration of the war.

Their first stop was the guesthouse at 16 Reitergasse in which they had stayed briefly on their way to Trieste in 1904. After a couple of weeks they found a small two-room flat at Reinhardstrasse 7, from which they moved on in October to Kreuzstrasse 10. In accordance with an all-too-familiar pattern, there would be four more addresses in Zurich: two in Seefeldstrasse (numbers 54 and 73), between March 1916 and January 1918, and two in Universitätsstrasse (38 and 29), during the remaining twenty months spent in the city. Meanwhile, undaunted by the sharp change of climate and environment, as well as the new financial anxieties occasioned by having no job and, at first, no students, Joyce resumed work on ‘Ulysses’. His capacity to persevere with his writing, irrespective of the hardship of his situation, was a lifelong characteristic. Some years later, in Paris, he wondered whether it was attributable to the ‘influence of ad maiorem dei gloriam, perhaps’ (Letters of James Joyce, iii, 84), alluding to the Jesuit motto and the moral – if not religious – training he had received as a schoolboy.

By mid July 1915 he had finished ‘Exiles’, his intense, slow-moving, Ibsenesque, slightly wooden drama, in what he called ‘three cat-and-mouse acts’ (Poems and Exiles, ed. J. C. C. Mays (1992), 351), exploring the theme of faithfulness and infidelity, with strong undertones of his own relationship with Nora. Joyce had been anxious to have ‘A portrait’, serialisation of which in the Egoist had ended in September, finally published in book form, so that he could concentrate on ‘Ulysses’. Despite misgivings about its possibly narrow appeal, the New York publisher B. W. Huebsch brought it out in the US on 29 December 1916. (Its prototype, ‘Stephen Hero’, was eventually published three years after Joyce's death, in 1944, edited by Theodore Spencer; a new edition by John J. Slocum and Herbert Cahoon, with additional material, appeared in 1955.) The response, although muffled by wartime conditions, was positive. Using sheets imported from Richards, Huebsch also published an American edition of Dubliners in the same month. Harriet Shaw Weaver, who had become principal editor of the Egoist in June 1914, took 750 copies of Huebsch's edition of A portrait and published the book in England under the imprint of the Egoist Press in February 1917. It quickly sold out. ‘Exiles’ was less successful. Grant Richards finally agreed to publish it and it appeared on 25 May 1918, Huebsch producing an American edition at the same time. But when the play was given its première, in German in Munich, on 7 August, it lasted only one night before being taken off. It did better in New York in February 1925, running for forty-one performances, and has been produced occasionally since.

Joyce, like Stephen Dedalus near-sighted from early youth, had had occasional troubles with his eyes during the early years in Trieste, but an acute attack of glaucoma in January 1917 was the first serious sign of the troubles to come. A further attack in August led to an operation on his right eye, leaving some lasting impairment. His eye troubles coincided with exacerbation of his financial problems. He had acquired some language students through his contacts in Trieste, a number of whom, as there, were to become his personal friends. But with no income yet accruing from his writing and no money from any other source, he was dependent on help wherever he could find it. The Royal Literary Fund, at the instigation of Yeats (urged on by Pound), made him a grant in 1915, the first time his still mostly unpublished work had been officially recognised. The following year, thanks to the same intercessors, he was given an allowance from the civil list and Harriet Weaver sent him £50 on foot of his serialised novel in the Egoist.

Weaver, daughter of a country doctor from Cheshire, who herself had private means and radical sympathies in politics and literature, began to send Joyce regular sums of money in March 1917, at first anonymously, through her London solicitors. Over succeeding years she gave him thousands of pounds and maintained a supportive interest in his work, his well-being, and his family, even in the face of coolness and rebuffs, for the rest of his life. From the spring of 1918 he also received a monthly allowance of 1,000 Swiss francs from money deposited in a local bank by another initially anonymous benefactor, who turned out to be the American heiress Mrs Harold Rockefeller McCormick. Although this dried up in 1919, it helped him through a difficult time. Thanks, above all, to Miss Weaver, despite his inveterate capacity for extravagance, he and the family would never be completely without resources again and he was able to give himself more completely to the composition of ‘Ulysses’, now making rapid progress.

By June 1917 he had written six episodes and was working on a seventh. By the end of the year he had sent off the first part of the book, the ‘Telemachiad’, for typing. Early in 1918 these episodes were sent through Pound to the avant-garde American Little Review, edited by Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, who quickly agreed to serial publication, beginning in March. By the spring of 1919 Joyce had dispatched the tenth episode, ‘Wandering rocks’, to Pound. But legal problems now arose. In January 1919 the US post office seized and destroyed copies of the Little Review, containing the first part of ‘Lestrygonians’, and acted against the magazine again when the April issue contained the second half of ‘Scylla and Charybdis’. Undeterred, Joyce completed the twelfth episode, ‘Cyclops’, and was also working on the fourteenth, ‘Oxen of the sun’, before leaving Zurich in October. By then, he had found an intellectual soulmate in the person of the English artist, Frank Budgen, whom he encountered for the first time in the spring of 1918. Budgen's sociability, self-taught erudition, and capacity to listen enabled Joyce to talk through his ever more complex enterprise, and helped him to keep going. In April he had legal problems of a more farcical nature through his involvement with the English Players, a theatrical group he and an English friend, Claud Sykes, had founded. A row about payment became personal between him and one of the actors, Henry Carr, and ended up in court. The matter dragged on until February 1919, when it was finally settled to Joyce's disadvantage. He had his revenge, as was his wont, by unflattering mention of Carr and his supporters in his new novel.


Ulysses; Trieste, Paris, and publication The family returned to Trieste in October 1919. As a temporary expedient, which lasted until they departed for Paris, they shared the apartment at Via della Sanità 2 (later Armando Diaz) in which Stanislaus, free again, and the Schaureks, back from Prague, had already established themselves. Despite the overcrowded conditions and strained relations with Stanislaus, Joyce began work on the thirteenth episode of ‘Ulysses’, ‘Nausicaa’. The figure of Gerty McDowell in this bore some resemblance to two young women he had encountered in Switzerland. He had met Gertrude Kaempffer, a young doctor, in November 1917 in Locarno, where he was escaping Zurich's muggy climate and she was recovering from tuberculosis. His overtures were not reciprocated, though he did meet her again afterwards in Zurich. He was a little more successful with Marthe Fleischmann, his neighbour in Universitätstrasse, a year later and they maintained contact over some months, until her guardian intervened. She also supplied elements in the character of Martha Clifford, Bloom's penfriend in ‘Ulysses’.

Trieste, now part of Italy, had become much more of a cultural backwater. Stanislaus was distant and Joyce missed the stimulation of Budgen's company. Post-war inflation had driven up the cost of living and he was forced to resume his old teaching job at the ‘Revoltella’ on a part-time basis. He took no private students, too preoccupied with the task of completing ‘Ulysses’. This was becoming more daunting, both because of his weak eyes and the ever greater intricacy of what he was attempting. He marked his thirty-eighth birthday by completing ‘Nausicaa’ and then moved on to ‘Oxen of the sun’, the episode set in Holles St. maternity hospital, in which the prose style develops in imitation of the child's nine-month gestation. By mid May 1920 he had completed what he regarded as the most difficult episode in the book. Preparing to embark on ‘Circe’, which turned out to be by far the longest episode of all, and unable to find a flat he could afford in Trieste in which to have the necessary peace of mind for composition, he thought briefly of going to Ireland for three months to complete his novel. But, at Pound's suggestion, he took his family to Paris instead, arriving on 8 July 1920. Intending to stay a few months, he remained there for almost the rest of his life. The intellectual climate was more stimulating and more sympathetic to his work than anything he had previously experienced and he was soon being introduced, initially through Pound, not only to other English-speaking expatriate writers but to prominent members of the French literary and artistic establishment as well. Valéry Larbaud, the leading French exponent of English literature, saw ‘Circe’, which Joyce finished by December despite the lack of materials left behind in Trieste, and told him that this chapter alone would have been sufficient to make the reputation of a French writer for life.

Pound directed the Joyces to a private hotel at 9 rue de l'Université (7e), where T. S. Eliot and other writers had stayed in the past. After a week they managed to borrow a small flat in Passy, 5 rue de l'Assomption (16e), from the future French translator of ‘A portrait’, Ludmila Bloch-Savitsky and her husband, until the end of October. When this was reclaimed, the family moved back to the hotel, but by December they were driven by the cold and damp to take an expensive flat at 5 Boulevard Raspail (7e) for six months, paying rent they could ill afford with help from friends. Larbaud lent them his luxurious apartment at 71 rue Cardinal Lemoine (5e) in June 1921, while he was away. On his return in October, they went back to the hotel once more until October 1922. So much impermanence was repugnant to Nora and her desire to give her continually uprooted children a more stable environment, but Joyce's own focus was directed solely to his work.

The US post office made their fourth seizure of the Little Review, this time the July–August 1920 issue containing the second part of ‘Nausicaa’, and, soon after, the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice lodged a formal complaint based on this. In February 1921 the magazine's editors were found guilty of publishing obscenity, fined, and effectively barred from continuing serialisation of the novel. Huebsch consequently abandoned his plans to publish it in the US. Harriet Weaver had already encountered insuperable obstacles to her proposal to have the book printed in England and publish it from the Egoist Press. Prompted by Joyce himself, however, Sylvia Beach, the American proprietor of a recently opened literary bookshop on the Left Bank called ‘Shakespeare and Company’, whom he had met shortly after his arrival in the city, offered to publish the book in a limited edition of 1,000 copies, to be printed by Maurice Darantière in Dijon. On 7 December, to promote interest in ‘Ulysses’, Beach and her friend Adrienne Monnier, who also ran a bookshop, La Maison des Amis des Livres, on the rue de l'Odéon, where Beach soon moved hers, organised a lecture on the book by Larbaud, illustrated by some extracts translated into French. More than 200 people attended, while Joyce sat hidden behind a screen, emerging only at the end to acknowledge the applause.

Despite his deteriorating eyesight and his frustrating penchant for using proof-correction as the opportunity for considerably expanding what he had already written, the first copies of Ulysses appeared on his fortieth birthday, 2 February 1922. The book was quickly a sensation. A long list of subscribers included Winston Churchill, Desmond FitzGerald (qv), André Gide, Hemingway, and Yeats, and its critical success was assured by reviews which recognised the sheer scale of its author's accomplishment, even where the reviewers could not yet fully understand or appreciate his methods and intentions. Helped by Larbaud's advocacy, French translations of his earlier work began to appear in the course of 1922. In October an edition of 2,000 copies was published in Paris for the Egoist Press, with plates made from Darantière's type. An attempt to export 500 copies of this edition to the US, where it had been effectively banned by the Little Review judgment, was foiled when they were seized by the New York postal authority. In January 1923 499 copies printed to replace these were confiscated by customs in Folkestone. But the book sold well, and by January 1924 Sylvia Beach was able to bring out an unlimited edition, and seven more editions followed until May 1930.


In April 1922 Nora fulfilled a longstanding ambition to visit Ireland and see her family, taking the children with her. Joyce passionately opposed the project and felt himself justified when they hurried home, frightened by the civil war. Their train from Galway was shot at and Joyce ludicrously chose to regard this as a personal attack on himself. Despite his obsession with Dublin, his attitude towards his native country grew increasingly bitter in the years that followed. In August 1922, ‘acts of kindness in the past’ notwithstanding, he angrily refused Lady Gregory permission to use a letter of his, or even his name, in a forthcoming book on the Irish literary movement, on the grounds that, over twenty years, ‘no mention of me or of my struggles or of my writings’ had ever been made publicly by anyone connected with that movement (Selected letters, 290). In the same churlish spirit, in October 1932 he declined an invitation to join the Academy of Irish Letters which Yeats and G. B. Shaw (qv) were founding. Ireland had driven him into exile, failing to recognise his genius. It could not claim him back now, when he had become famous.

‘Work in progress’ Joyce said that the idea for Finnegans Wake came to him while on holidays in Nice in October 1922. After their return Nora found new and better lodgings at 26 avenue Charles Floquet (7e), and over the next few months he sorted out old notes and gathered other materials. He began the new work on 10 March 1923, when he wrote the King Roderick O'Conor fragment which later found its place in part II.3. The punning title of the book would remain a closely guarded secret until publication sixteen years later. In Ulysses, principally through the agency of Bloom's conscious or subconscious mind, Joyce had conveyed the experience of living in a single city for a single day, and the final episode had been the soliloquy of Molly on the verge of sleep. In his new work the reader is invited to enter the dreaming mind of a Chapelizod innkeeper, H. C. Earwicker, who relives during the night the whole of human history in its recurrent cycles. Bloom is Everyman and yet retains his own highly distinct individuality. Earwicker is ‘everybody’, and metamorphoses into all of them, as distinctions of time, place, and individual identity dissolve.

Parallel to the function of Homer's ‘Odyssey’ in Ulysses, Joyce used Giambatista Vico's La scienza nuova – even more loosely – as a structural framework for his latest novel. Vico propounded the theory that history was not linear but cyclic, moving through successive phases, terminating in chaos, followed by a gradual return to the beginning. This fourfold structure and the cyclic pattern of rise-fall-rise within it is threaded through Joyce's book, in which he depicts a vast panorama of legendary and historical events as they pass through Earwicker's dream. He and his family – his wife Anna Livia Plurabelle, their twin sons Shem and Shaun, and Issy their daughter – play a multiplicity of parts in the drama. Shem, ‘the Penman’, ‘self exiled in upon his ego’ (FW 184.6–7), ‘dejected into day and night with jesuit bark and bitter bite’ (182.35–6), is recognisably Joyce himself, a sardonic self-portrait of the artist, contrasted with his more stolid brother, ‘dear dogmestic Shaun’ (411.14), the postman, the critic, in part Joyce's alter ego, in part Stanislaus, who had at some time fulfilled all of these roles in James's life, and in part – like all the main characters in the book – other figures drawn from real life, literature, and legend. Perhaps the most memorable and most beautifully realised image in the book, embodying its cyclic patterns, is the course of the River Liffey, the river of life, also identified with the twins’ mother and the dreamer's wife, Anna Livia Plurabelle, whose final soliloquy as the river flows back into the sea brings the book to its end, which turns out to be no end but, as the punning title makes clear, is also a beginning again, a reawakening.

The book was more daunting for its readers than anything Joyce had written before, lacking not only recognisable characters and readily discernible plot but even immediately intelligible language. ‘Are we speachin d'anglas landadge or are you sprakin sea Djoytsch’, one character asks another (FW, 485.12–13) – and so might Joyce's readers. His mastery of the rhythm, vocabulary, and styles of English was now so complete that he could speak of having exhausted its possibilities, and he was setting out to compose his new book in the surreal language of dreams and to represent ‘a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wideawake language, cutanddry grammar and goahead plot’ (Selected letters, 318), ‘my experiment in interpreting “the dark night of the soul”’, as he called it (ibid., 327). It was ‘a nightpiece’, he told Curran, ‘and the language of night is not the language of day’ (James Joyce remembered, 87). Multilingual puns convey the confusions and repressions and merged identities of the dream world. Not only words but sentences dissolve and mutate. The book begins and ends in the middle of a sentence. As Joyce famously told Samuel Beckett (qv), he had ‘put the language to sleep’ (Ellmann, James Joyce, 546). Form and meaning were becoming indistinguishable. He insisted on the priority of sound over sense and spoke of his composition as a ‘design’. Beckett himself would say of Joyce's writing that it was ‘not about something; it is that something itself’ (Our exagmination round his factification for incamination of work in progress, 14).

The condition of his eyesight, already deteriorating for a number of years, became acute soon after his arrival in Paris and impeded his work on ‘Finnegans Wake’ from the beginning. In April 1923 Dr Louis Borsch performed three operations on his left eye, which gave temporary relief. But problems continued. At times he had to suspend all work and lie inert in a darkened room, and there would be seven more operations on this eye over the following three years, which Joyce bore with striking fortitude. He went on seeing Borsch regularly until the doctor's death in 1929. The family moved once more, to the Victoria Palace Hotel, 6 rue Blaise Desgoffe (5e) in August 1923, after two months in England. There was still another move, back to 8 avenue Charles Floquet, in late September 1924. At last, in mid June 1925, they found their first real home since leaving Trieste, at 2 Square Robiac (7e), and stayed almost six years until April 1931, longer than anywhere else.

From April 1924 onwards Joyce began to publish extracts from his new book in various experimental literary magazines. The need to meet editorial deadlines kept him at work, despite the problems with his eyes and the intrinsic difficulty of what he was doing. The first extract appeared in Ford Madox Ford's transatlantic review under the general rubric ‘Work in progress’, and Joyce liked the description so much that he happily adopted it until the real title, confided in advance only to Nora, could finally be revealed in 1939. The process of serial publication became more systematic when Eugene Jolas undertook to include sections of ‘Work in progress’ regularly in his newly founded transition, and thirteen instalments appeared between April 1927 and the end of 1929. The struggle to realise his enormously complex project was made more arduous by the lack of critical appreciation, which Joyce craved from those around him. From very early on, neither Miss Weaver nor Ezra Pound could hide their misgivings, in which Stanislaus concurred when he paid a rare visit to Paris in the spring of 1926. Against this discouraging background, Joyce continued to develop the book, while also engaging in extensive revision of material due for publication and the demanding task of correcting often badly botched printer's proofs of his almost incomprehensible text.

Joyce's reputation in France grew steadily after the publication of Ulysses, and in July 1924 a young Breton, Auguste Morel, was retained to translate it into French, with help from Larbaud and, later, Stuart Gilbert. In May 1927 Gilbert, who had spent nineteen years as a judge in Burma and recently retired with his French wife to Paris, offered his services and quickly became part of Joyce's circle of helpers and friends. His James Joyce's Ulysses, one of the earliest authoritative commentaries on the novel, appeared in 1930. Ulysses was ready for publication by Monnier in March 1929. Eighteen months earlier the German translation had already appeared. In the continuing unavailability of Ulysses in the US, Samuel Roth had begun to pirate Joyce's novel in bowdlerised form in July 1926, having earlier reprinted extracts of ‘Work in progress’ without permission. In February 1927, much to Joyce's satisfaction, 167 ‘eminent persons’, including Albert Einstein, Eliot, André Gide, Lady Gregory, D. H. Lawrence, Sean O'Casey (qv), Paul Valéry, and Yeats, in a dazzling reflection of the eminence he now enjoyed, signed a letter of protest against the piracy. By the time Joyce secured an injunction against Roth at the end of 1928, fourteen episodes had appeared. It took another five years for the book to be legalised in America, so that an authorised version could be published there.

But Joyce's major preoccupation throughout the 1920s and 1930s, except when the state of his eyesight forced him to stop for a time – or, later on, when his daughter Lucia's disintegrating mental health made such competing demands that even his writing had to take second place – was ‘Work in progress’. He was sufficiently discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm among his friends to conceive the extraordinary idea in May 1926 of asking his younger Irish contemporary, James Stephens (qv), to take over the project if he failed to complete it himself. His decision, made with some reluctance, to publish Pomes penyeach in July 1927, a slim volume of the verses he had written since Chamber music, eleven of which had previously appeared, may have been motivated by the wish to show the doubters that he had not lost his capacity to write conventional English, if he chose. With the entrepreneurial zeal of which he was always capable when it came to promoting his work, he encouraged a group of his friends, including Samuel Beckett, recently arrived in Paris, Budgen, Jolas, and Gilbert, to produce a volume of sympathetic essays to introduce his still unpublished work. Our exagmination round his factification for incamination of work in progress – the title, like the project itself, his idea – was published by Shakespeare and Company in May 1929, as Pomes penyeach had been. It attracted disappointingly little notice.

At the end of November, when publication of the first and third parts of ‘Work in progress’ in transition was complete and there were no more immediate deadlines to meet, he took up the cause of an Irish tenor, John Sullivan, then singing with the Paris Opera, whom he saw as a kind of alter ego, someone who had chosen the musical career he might once have chosen himself. His efforts produced no significant results for Sullivan but the campaign created a considerable diversion for Joyce, exhausted by the efforts to write his difficult book with failing eyesight. Adrienne Monnier suspected that it was also a device for keeping himself in the limelight at a time when he was struggling to put ‘Work in progress’ across to his public. She herself had helped by arranging a seance on 26 March 1931, where she read a French version of ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ (I.8), on which she had worked with Beckett, Jolas, and Joyce's latest unofficial secretary, Paul Léon. Léon had been introduced to Joyce through Helen Fleischman, the wealthy American divorcée whom his son George (as he was now more commonly known) had married, somewhat against his mother's wishes, at the end of 1930.

Finnegans Wake The book was by now more than two-thirds complete, but it took Joyce almost another eight years to finish it. In April 1931 he gave up Square Robiac and, after a few weeks in hotels in Paris and London, in early May leased a flat at 28b Campden Grove, Kensington, as a preliminary step towards possibly moving there for good. On his father's eighty-second birthday, 4 July, he married Nora in the local registry office, in accordance with her long-standing wishes but, for his part, with inheritance issues primarily in mind. They left England at the end of September, intending to return, and resumed their nomadic existence in Paris once more: a few weeks at 4 avenue Pierre Ier de Serbie (8e), and then six months in Passy at 2 avenue Saint Philibert (16e), until April 1932. It was at this address that the news reached him of his father's death on 29 December 1931 in Dublin, after a short illness. Joyce was distraught, his grief overlaid by guilt that he had not responded to John Stanislaus's repeated entreaties to visit him once more before he died – they had not met since 1912. The birth of a son, Stephen James, to George and Helen on 15 February 1932 gave him some relief and inspired the moving poem ‘Ecce puer’, written the same day, expressing his mixture of joy and grief-stricken remorse.

This event, however, could not for long allay his anxieties about Lucia. Her ambitions to become a dancer had been frustrated, despite promising beginnings, and her mental health had been a cause of concern for some years. There had been a disturbing scene at the celebration of Joyce's fiftieth birthday two weeks before Stephen's birth, when she threw a chair at her mother and had to be taken to hospital for a few days by George. This turned out to be only the first in a series of such scenes, and by May Lucia had been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. The idea of returning to London was now ruled out. Having given up their flat in Passy, the Joyces took up residence in a hotel on rue de Bassano (8e), off the Champs-Élysées, until June 1932. They spent the rest of the summer in Switzerland and Austria, where the Jolases were taking care of Lucia, and returned to Paris, after a month in Nice, towards the end of October. Then it was back to another hotel on the Champs-Élysées for several weeks, before leasing a flat in 42 rue Galilée (8e) nearby in mid November. Joyce, on whom Lucia was more and more emotionally dependent, for long resisted his daughter's diagnosis, insisting that she was sane and her behaviour owing to misunderstood, clairvoyant genius. But as she became increasingly erratic and even dangerous and was seen by a succession of consultants in France and Switzerland, including Carl Jung, the diagnosis was confirmed. There were extended stays in various institutions, from which Joyce on several occasions contrived to remove her. His sister Eileen, a widow since her husband's suicide in November 1926, as well as Joyce's Dublin friend Curran and Miss Weaver, all tried to help. But the crisis was reached in the spring of 1936 when Lucia had to be taken in a straitjacket from the home of Maria Jolas in Neuilly. In April she became a patient in the mental hospital at Ivry, west of Paris, run by Dr Achille Delmas, and remained in his care for the rest of Joyce's life.

Lucia's illness, which deeply troubled her father, absorbed his energies and made it difficult to advance his work during these years. One of his stratagems to please her was the production of A Chaucer ABC, with her lettering and a preface by the French Academician Louis Gillet, published to mark her twenty-ninth birthday in 1936. Friends were asked to subscribe, and those who failed to do so found themselves dropped. The heavy cost of Lucia's medical care was augmented by his own expenses, although Dr Vogt never charged for his services. Joyce was also helping George, who had had to undergo an operation on his throat in May 1936. This followed an extended stay in the US with Helen, where he had tried unsuccessfully to advance his singing career.

Such outlay, in a time of economic depression when the value of Joyce's own income was reduced, led to embarrassingly frequent raids on his capital, against the advice of his and Miss Weaver's solicitors, who made direct and indirect efforts to restrain him. Her role in such efforts, her concern that he was neglecting his eyes by failing to visit his doctor as often as he should, and also drinking too much, her evident reserve about ‘Work in progress’ and, above all, perhaps, his quite unjustified perception that she lacked sympathy for Lucia, led to a gradual cooling in his attitude towards a woman who had done more than anyone else to ensure his financial security and given him the freedom to fulfil his genius. Ever forbearing, Harriet Weaver offered to share the cost of caring for Lucia and would ultimately become her guardian. Her last meeting with Joyce was in Paris at the end of 1936, and they corresponded only occasionally thereafter.

Joyce had also by then grown distant from two other women who had given him unstinting support since his arrival in Paris, Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach, ‘the rue de l'Odéon’, as he called them. In the spring of 1932 he had persuaded Beach to give up her rights to Ulysses, so that he could renegotiate contracts on more lucrative terms, now that the American market was likely to open up. Publication in continental Europe was taken over by the Odyssey Press in Hamburg, who issued the book at the end of 1932, and Joyce signed a contract with Bennett Cerf of Random House, who were finally able to publish it in the US in January 1934. This was just a month after Judge John M. Woolsey's landmark judgment in its favour in the US district court in New York, which was upheld by a majority verdict of the circuit court of appeals in August 1934. Ulysses was published in England for the first time by John Lane (The Bodley Head) in October 1936. By then, Beach and Monnier, its original publishers in English and French respectively, had for the most part faded from Joyce's circle.

Although able to do little work on his book in the early 1930s, he gradually began to make progress again after Lucia was finally settled in Ivry. He and Nora moved into 7 rue Edmond Valentin (7e) at the end of January 1935, their second most stable home in Paris, where they stayed until April 1939, thus affording Joyce the appropriate conditions to finish his book. On a visit to Copenhagen in August 1936, he was able to tell a Danish journalist that, with three-quarters of it written, he was near the end. By the summer of 1937, he was working on the proofs of parts I and II, using a variety of coloured inks and pencils as he had done with Ulysses, because the work was so involved. The following May, he agreed to be photographed by Gisèle Freund with his family and – paying a rare visit to the rue de l'Odéon for the purpose – with Beach and Monnier to promote his book, now nearing completion. By November, with the end of part IV (Anna Livia's soliloquy) written, it was finished.

Friends were recruited to help in the onerous task of correcting final proofs to meet Joyce's superstitious desire for publication on his birthday. All that Faber & Faber could manage to send from London was a set of unbound page-proofs, but this was enough to justify a celebration in George's and Helen's flat, at which father and son sang a duet and Helen read the final pages of the book, the real title of which could at last be revealed. It was formally published, simultaneously in London and New York, on 4 May 1939. Joyce was to be dismayed by the response of critics, who were baffled by the book's complexity and preoccupied by the growing threat of war.

Last years In the autumn of 1938, as he was finishing it, he had also been busy putting his connections to work in aid of Jewish friends and acquaintances, in flight from the spreading Nazi persecution. Now, as people they knew began to leave Paris and life there became more difficult, the Joyces moved into the Hotel Lutétia on the Boulevard Raspail in mid October 1939, because Nora could no longer manage their latest flat at 34 rue des Vignes (16e), taken the previous April. They were by then looking after their grandson Stephen, while he attended Maria Jolas's school in Neuilly. His mother Helen had become mentally ill and George, unable to cope, was living apart. The tensions in this marriage produced a breach in Joyce's own relationship with Paul Léon, who was presumed to be taking Helen's side. Maria Jolas, who had moved her school to Saint-Gérand-le-Puy, a small village 18 km (11.2 miles) north-east of Vichy, invited James and Nora to join her for Christmas. They travelled with George on Christmas Eve. Afterwards, when he went back to Paris, they decided to stay on.

It was a deeply dispiriting time for Joyce. Lucia had been evacuated with Dr Delmas's other patients to La Baule on the west coast, which, by summer 1940, lay behind German lines. George was out of contact in Paris and Helen, who would soon be brought back to America for good, was in hospital, suffering from a severe nervous breakdown. The indifference of the villagers to Joyce's latest literary achievement was an image of its wider, bitterly disappointing, neglect across Europe. After the fall of Paris in June 1940, George joined his parents again, accompanied by Léon, with whom Joyce managed a kind of reconciliation. By the end of the summer, Joyce was making plans to evacuate the family to Switzerland. Tortuous bureaucratic negotiations stalled at one point when the Swiss authorities rejected his application on the grounds that he was a Jew, an irony not lost on the creator of Leopold Bloom. Eventually, he and the family were able to leave on 14 December and reached Zurich three days later.

They spent Christmas with their Swiss friends Sigfried and Carola Giedion, but early in January Joyce, who had complained of stomach pains a year earlier and possibly shown symptoms long before that, was taken ill with severe cramps. A perforated duodenal ulcer was discovered and, despite an apparently successful operation, he died at 2.15 a.m. on 13 January 1941, just twenty days short of his fifty-ninth birthday. He was buried two days later in Fluntern cemetery. Although Nora had for years resumed the practice of her own religion and Joyce had gradually mellowed a little, never having wholly lost his fascination for the faith he had so long ago disowned, she felt it right to exclude any religious ceremony at the graveside. Miss Weaver paid for the funeral.

The legacy With rare precocity, James Joyce had mastered the English literary tradition and then daringly set out to transform it. Few writers have possessed such a magisterial command of language and technique or deployed these gifts across such a vast range of material, with that capacity ‘to arrange things in such a way that they become easy to survey and to judge’ which he said he had learned from his Jesuit masters (Ellmann, James Joyce, 27). By his infinitely subtle attention to the subjectivity of an insignificant Dubliner called Bloom, he created one of the greatest figures of twentieth-century fiction, and the novel has been permanently altered by what he did.

Portraits of Joyce include paintings by Frank Budgen (two: in the University of Texas and the Lockwood Memorial Library, State University of New York); by Pavel Tchelitchew (in the NGI); paintings by Jacques-Émile Blanche (two: in the NGI and the National Portrait Gallery, London); and by Tullio Silvestri (Lockwood Memorial Library). Wyndham Lewis's pen and ink drawing is in the NGI and Augustus John's pencil drawing is in the University of Texas, as are two pen-and-ink drawings by Desmond Harmsworth and a pastel drawing by Harry Kernoff (qv). A chalk drawing by Seán O'Sullivan (qv) is in the NGI, and Jo Davidson's bronze sculpture of Joyce's head is in the University of Texas. Berenice Abbott's photographic print is in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Joyce's papers are held, for the most part, in American university libraries at Harvard, Yale, the State University of New York at Buffalo, Cornell University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Southern Illinois University. In addition, the Rosenbach Library and Museum in Philadelphia possesses an important manuscript of Ulysses. Other significant materials are held in the NLI and the BL. Published writings by Joyce, other than the works mentioned above, are The critical writings of James Joyce, ed. Ellsworth Mason and Richard Ellmann (1989); Poems and shorter writings, ed. Richard Ellmann, A. Walton Litz, and John Whittier-Ferguson (1991); Occasional, critical and political writing, ed. Kevin Barry (2000); Letters of James Joyce, i, ed. Stuart Gilbert (1957; reissued with corrections, 1966); Letters of James Joyce, ii–iii, ed. Richard Ellmann (1966); and Selected letters of James Joyce, ed. Richard Ellmann (1975)

Photo courtest of Getty Images.

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